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Anti-salmon activist Don Staniford preparing to use a long pole and a Go-Pro camera to film salmon inside a pen at Scottish Sea Farms' Loch Spelve site on the evening of May 7, after staff had  gone home. Photo: Don Staniford.
Anti-salmon activist Don Staniford preparing to use a long pole and a Go-Pro camera to film salmon inside a pen at Scottish Sea Farms' Loch Spelve site on the evening of May 7, after staff had gone home. Photo: Don Staniford.

Salmon farmer Scottish Sea Farms (SSF) has had RSPCA Assured certification of its Loch Spelve farm on Mull reinstated just days after it was suspended following a welfare complaint from anti-salmon farming activist Don Staniford.

A one-minute video made from footage shot in two pens by Staniford on May 7 showed a handful of salmon with wounds swimming with otherwise healthy populations of fish.

The activist blamed the wounds on disease and lice infestation, but Scottish Sea Farms’ head of fish health and welfare, Ralph Bickerdike, said the injuries were clearly caused by seals.

No evidence to support allegations

RSPCA Assured suspended the farm’s welfare assurance accreditation last Thursday pending its own visit to the farm the following day. It said it had been very concerned by some of Staniford’s footage but found no evidence to support his allegations.

In a statement today, SSF said that RSPCA Assured informed the company yesterday that it was reinstating the certification for the site with immediate effect.

SSF managing director Jim Gallagher said: “As farmers, we do everything in our power to protect our livestock, including from the threat of natural predators such as seals and sea birds, but no approach or measure is 100% failsafe all of the time.

“Seeing even a small number of our fish succumb to a predator attack or ill-health is hugely distressing for all involved but doubly so when it is misrepresented as neglect or abuse.”

Rigorous inspection

In a press statement, RSPCA Assured said: “We were very concerned by some of the footage and allegations of poor welfare and immediately suspended the farm whilst we urgently investigated.

“Following our detailed investigation, which included a rigorous in-person inspection by a specially-trained RSPCA farm livestock officer, we found no evidence to support the allegations made.

“Unfortunately, it’s a reality of farming any animal - and also pet ownership - that from time to time there can be disease outbreaks and other welfare challenges. What’s most important is that the person responsible acts swiftly to address them.

“We are fully satisfied that the issues identified in the video were being swiftly and responsibly addressed by the farm at the time, in accordance with the RSPCA’s welfare standards. Therefore, we have today lifted their suspension.

“Any allegations of animal welfare issues, or breaches of the RSPCA Assured membership agreement, are taken very seriously and always thoroughly investigated. But, thankfully, welfare concerns on RSPCA Assured certified farms are extremely rare, and many millions more farm animals are having a better life thanks to the work of the charity.”