No routine checks on fish welfare at slaughter, officials admit | Fish

The government admitted that there were no routine checks on the welfare of fish at slaughter, after an investigation found that no department would bear responsibility.

Campaigners said this means fish face cruelty without repercussions for those who do not meet their welfare needs, and called for fish to be given the same scrutiny as other animals. breeding.

A secret Animal Equality investigation into a Scottish salmon slaughterhouse this year found fish had gills cut off despite being conscious and being repeatedly and painfully clubbed, with up to seven strokes to stun the animals.

Activists said the fish faced “vicious and imprecise clubbing,” and many fell to the ground to suffocate. Unlike farmed land animals, which have legislation to ensure they are slaughtered as humanely as possible, the fish industry sets its own standards for humane slaughter.

A government spokesperson admitted that in England and Wales there was no routine animal welfare inspection program at farmed fish processing premises.

While they claim the Animal and Plant Health Agency (Apha) has carried out checks in Scotland, Freedom of Information requests submitted by the Humane League to the Scottish government reveal that there are no established process for regular welfare inspections at fish processing sites. The Humane League did not include Northern Ireland in the scope of its investigation.

Apha confirmed that she did not have “a routine program of official inspections at fish processing sites”.

Scotland is the world’s third largest producer of farmed salmon. The largest, Norway, has a law making stunning before slaughter of farmed fish mandatory. Scotland, England and Wales do not. The most recent estimate, from 2017, was that 22-52 million farmed salmon are raised and slaughtered in the UK each year.

The same problem applies to trout farming in England. The trout industry has its own certification program, Quality Trout UK (QTUK), which includes standards for pre-slaughter stunning, but these are not enforced by the government and there are no controls. routine.

Responses to access to information requests show that no government body has a clear understanding of the regime in place, the Food Standards Agency, the Fish Health Inspectorate, the Environmental Health Services of the local governments and Apha all confirming that they do not carry out checks on fish farms. In England. This means that no government official is monitoring the welfare of the fish at the time of their killing.

Cordelia Britton, Campaigns Manager at Humane League UK, said: “It is alarming that apparently no government official is inspecting the welfare of fish at slaughter. From our correspondence, it seems clear that no relevant agency knows what is going on, with each institution shifting responsibility to another. Without proper oversight, cruelty goes unnoticed. It is time for the government to take responsibility for how farmed fish are slaughtered, as it does other farm animals.

Campaigners are calling for farmed fish to be granted similar rights to other farmed animals. In recent years, there has been a debate among scientists about the extent to which fish can experience pain, which is a growing area of ​​research. In 2018, science writer Ferris Jabr found this “The collective evidence is now strong enough that biologists and veterinarians increasingly accept fish pain as a reality.”

Dr Vicky Bond, Managing Director of Humane League UK, said: “Fish are often overlooked in discussions and decisions about animal welfare, and this is totally unwarranted. The scientific and public consensus is that they feel pain, so denying farmed fish the same protections given to land animals is completely irrational. The government animal welfare committee suggested that the law be updated with detailed stunning requirements in 1996, and 25 years later farmed fish still enjoy the same inadequate safeguards. This must change.

A Defra spokesperson said: “The UK has some of the highest animal welfare protections in the world, including when animals are slaughtered or killed. We carefully consider the issues raised when considering animal welfare at the time of killing (England), including detailed protections for the welfare of farmed fish. “


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