London, 21st March 2023
Today (Tuesday 21st March), The Humane League UK, Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation (CAWF), Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), RSPCA and Soil Association organised a parliamentary reception to highlight a lack of legal protection for farmed fish at the time of their slaughter in the UK.
The reception, hosted by Crossbench Peer Lord Trees, highlighted the 55 million fish farmed annually in the UK – including 12 million trout in England – which do not receive the same legal protections at the time of slaughter as other terrestrial farmed animals. This is despite the scientific and legal recognition that fish are sentient, as set out in the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022.
The event came ahead of the shortly expected publication of the updated ‘Opinion on the Welfare of Farmed Fish’ from the Animal Welfare Committee (formerly Farm Animal Welfare Committee). It is widely anticipated that this will further reaffirm the Committee’s recommendations from their 2014 Opinion on the same, which outlined that regulations were necessary, voluntary industry codes should not be relied on, and all farmed fish should be stunned before slaughter, amongst other recommendations.
Whilst many producers have taken their own welcome measures to provide high animal welfare at the point of slaughter, these voluntary measures are not yet required by law, creating a disparity between the legal protections afforded to fish versus terrestrial farmed animals.
Some of these disparities include:
- The Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing Regulations (England) 2015 which offers requirements for how terrestrial farmed animals are to be treated and stunned at slaughter does not provide provisions for farmed fish.
- Government-provided mandatory codes of practice for terrestrial farmed animals which outline how they are to be treated at the time of slaughter do not include provisions for farmed fish.
The coalition organising today’s reception are calling on the Government as well as devolved administrations to introduce regulations that afford farmed fish equivalent legal protection to terrestrial farmed animals at the time of killing. Lord Trees called for an end to these disparities in a piece in Politics Home today.
Speakers this afternoon included host Lord Trees, Shadow Defra Minister Daniel Zeichner MP, RSPCA Senior Scientific Officer Sean Black and Ronnie Soutar, Head of Veterinary Services at Scottish Sea Farms.
You can view a selection of images from today’s reception here.
Amro Hussain, Senior Public Affairs Lead at The Humane League UK, commented:
“For too long, fish have been forgotten by the law. They feel pain, and they deserve our compassion, respect and protection just like other animals. Excluding fish from key legislation designed to protect animal welfare is simply unfair, and must be addressed urgently – so I’m thrilled that today Parliamentarians from all sides, industry representatives, NGOs, experts, and celebrities have come together to urge the Government to no longer forget fish.”
Lorraine Platt, Co-Founder of Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, commented: “It has been great to see parliamentarians, NGOs, charities, and industry representatives united in calls for equal legal protections to be provided for farmed fish in the UK at the time of slaughter. Indeed, despite their recognition in law as sentient beings, farmed fish remain overlooked in legislation designed to safeguard their welfare at the time of killing. Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation will continue to raise the plight of the millions of fish farmed in the UK, including the 12 million trout slaughtered every year in England, and support calls for stunning regulations to be enshrined in law.”
Sean Black, RSPCA aquaculture expert, said: “With over 50 million salmon and trout killed in the UK every year, we believe that for too long, decision-makers have left a significant gap by relying on welfare standards and voluntary certification schemes like the RSPCA welfare standards and RSPCA Assured respectively for the standard on the slaughter of a sentient creature.
“Since their inception, RSPCA welfare standards for Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout have required the use of humane slaughter methods for fish to be stunned prior to killing, as well as detailing other areas of good practice at the time of killing. The standards are constantly being reviewed and updated and we are always looking to further strengthen them.
“However, our standards only apply to the farms and fish reared under the voluntary RSPCA Assured scheme. We, alongside other charities and NGOs, are therefore calling on decision-makers to take urgent action to significantly improve animal welfare across the UK and, at the very least, give farmed fish the same legal protection as land animals at the time of slaughter.”
Natasha Boyland, Fish Policy and Research Manager at Compassion in World Farming, commented: “Fish are intelligent, sentient animals capable of suffering and feeling pain, yet UK farmed animal welfare legislation is failing them. This must change.
“Humane slaughter methods are available and are already being used by many producers in the UK aquaculture industry. However, without adequate legislation in place vast numbers of fish are still at risk of severe suffering during slaughter.
“All farmed animals deserve to experience a humane death. We call on the UK Government to step up and protect millions of animals each year, by introducing welfare regulations for farmed fish at the time of killing as a priority.”
Arthur Fuest, Standards Innovation Manager, at The Soil Association, commented:
“I am delighted that representatives from NGOs, the UK’s aquaculture industry and standards setters have joined with parliamentarians from across the house to call for detailed legislation protecting farmed fish at the time of slaughter. Legal recognition of sentience in farmed fish must be followed by robust legislation in line with the protection offered to other farmed animals.
The aquaculture industry and certification schemes, such as organic, have been at the forefront of developing humane slaughter standards. This must be extended to all farmed fish. The Soil Association is proud to be standing with this coalition calling on the government to take urgent action on this matter.”
Ronnie Soutar, Head of Veterinary Services at Scottish Sea Farms, commented: “Scottish salmon growers and the vets who work with them have led the way when it comes to humane slaughter of farmed fish, proactively putting in place standards that compare favourably with the legal protections for other livestock. To see these proportionate, fish-specific standards become enshrined in law can only be a good thing in welfare terms, not just for the species of fish currently farmed in the UK but also in setting a new benchmark for fish slaughter generally.”
About Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation (CAWF)
The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation was established in 2016 to raise awareness on the lives of billions of animals reared on intensive farms around the world and how this impacts upon animal welfare, the environment and people’s health. We want to highlight the action people can take to help advance farm animal welfare.
Animal welfare is an increasing concern amongst the public, who frequently look to Government to take the lead in both maintaining and improving standards.
The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation believes it is highly important that the welfare of farm animals is placed at the forefront of the Government’s plan for food and farming along with its focus on productivity, competitiveness, and technology.
Media contact: Sophia Stileman (email@example.com)
Compassion in World Farming was founded in 1967 by a British dairy farmer who became horrified at the development of intensive factory farming. Today Compassion is the leading farm animal welfare organisation dedicated to ending factory farming and achieving humane and sustainable food. With headquarters in the UK, we have offices across Europe, in the US, China and South Africa. To find out more about Compassion in World Farming visit: www.ciwf.org
About The Humane League UK
The Humane League is a registered charity ending the abuse of animals raised for food by influencing the policies of the world’s biggest companies, demanding legislation, and empowering others to take action and leave animals off their plates. Since the organisation began operating in the UK in 2016, it has secured hundreds of commitments to improve the lives of animals raised for food. Find out more at www.thehumaneleague.org.uk.
Media contact: Matthew Chalmers firstname.lastname@example.org
About The Soil Association
The Soil Association was founded in 1946 and is the UK’s leading organic organisation. As an educational charity it aims to increase awareness of organic food and farming. The charity campaigns to improve animal welfare and our environment, envisioning a world with good health, in balance with nature and with a safe climate. Animal welfare is a central organic principle, the organisation drives improvement through education, advice, project involvement and its pioneering organic standards, which are enforced by its certification subsidiary Soil Association Certification.