The Scottish Mail on Sunday
Revealed, the nauseating underbelly of Scotland’s £1 billion salmon farms
Fish eaten alive by lice, cages awash with faeces, dead salmon left to rot. As No1 producer is probed by cops, what are you putting on YOUR plate?
SCOTLAND’s largest salmon producer is being probed by police and animal welfare authorities after undercover cameras captured sickening footage from its fish farms.
Fish infested with lice are seen swimming through filthy water just hours before being harvested and processed for sale in supermarkets up and down the country.
One section of footage – taken at four Mowi fish farm sites on the West Coast last week – shows a dead salmon floating to the top of the water, its flesh coming loose as it decomposed.
Now The Scottish Mail on Sunday can reveal the farms are being probed by the RSPCA.
If investigators find salmon in the same state of distress, Mowi could lose its ‘RSPCA Assured’ labelling, which guarantees consumers the fish is reared in line with the highest welfare standards. The Norwegian company could even face
‘The RSPCA should hang their heads in shame’
prosecution under animal welfare laws, as Police Scotland confirmed it has received a complaint and is carrying out inquiries.
Last night, campaigner Don Staniford, who took the videos and is director of Scottish Salmon Watch, said: ‘The Scottish Government should immediately close down Mowi’s disease-ridden farms and supermarkets should stop selling RSPCA Assured Scottish salmon.
‘In three years of secret filming at over 25 salmon farms I’ve never seen such shocking welfare abuse and unnecessary suffering. The RSPCA should hang their heads in shame for certifying such cruelty.’
There are more than 200 Scottish fish farms, which contribute about £1 billion to the UK economy each year and £885 million to Scotland. Scottish salmon is marketed as a prestige product.
Yet the videos raise fresh questions about the booming salmon farm industry north of the Border, which produces about 150,000 tons of salmon a year. Many of the fish are vaccinated and anti-biotics are sometimes administered with their feed in a desperate attempt to stave off disease.
The fish have to be ‘flushed through’ with chemical baths and warm water before being sent to market.
A report in Science magazine in 2004 found high levels of ‘cancer-causing’ toxins in farmed salmon, with researchers suggesting consumers limit their portions to one fillet every two months.
In 2019, after 20 tons of salmon was stolen in Argyll and Bute, council leaders urged people not to eat it because without thorough ‘processing’ it was not fit for human consumption.
This year a probe by Compassion in World Farming found salmon in Scottish fish farms covered in ‘parasites eating away at their skin, seaweed growing from open wounds, and chunks of their flesh missing’.
A report said animals were ‘held in dirty, deoxygenated water, with the corpses of dead, decomposing fish floating among the living’.
Last night, John Robins of charity Animal Concern said: ‘What is happening on salmon farms is not just cruel, it is a criminal offence.
‘For over ten years I have been asking the RSPCA to stop linking their once good name to these filthy floating factory farms where fish die a cruel slow death from disease and being eaten alive by parasites while swimming in water clouded by their own faeces. It is time to take those responsible for this suffering before a court of law.’
An RSPCA Assured spokeswoman said: ‘We are concerned by some of the images that have been shared with us. We immediately launched an investigation into those farms. These investigations are ongoing.’
Police Scotland said: ‘We received a report of animal welfare concerns and are liaising with SSPCA. Inquiries are at an early stage.’
The Government said its Animal Plant Health Agency felt confident Mowi was not in breach of animal health and welfare laws. It said officials in Marine Scotland’s Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) had ‘discussed’ the sites in question with the owners – although it is not clear if they visited them.
It added: ‘These investigations by FHI have concluded that appropriate measures are in place to control sea lice, remove mortalities and ensure adequate fish health management at the sites in question.’
Ben Hadfield, chief operating officer of Mowi Scotland, said: ‘The way this is presented is very unfair. We care for the welfare of our salmon every day and don’t like to see even one animal suffer.’