Fish health inspection at Mowi Scotland's BDNC farm, one of four cleared of welfare abuse by the RSPCA. Photo: Mowi.

RSPCA clears Mowi Scotland after activist’s welfare abuse claim

The RSPCA has cleared Mowi Scotland of a welfare abuse allegation made by anti-salmon farming campaigner Don Staniford.

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Staniford filmed individual moribund fish during out-of-hours visits to four Mowi salmon farms on July 16/17 and compiled a short video which he alleged was evidence of abuse at the sites, which have RSPCA Assured certification.

He sent a complaint to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), Police Scotland’s wildlife crime unit, Marine Scotland, Scottish government ministers, the RSPCA and the Scottish SPCA.

The RSPCA launched an investigation but did not suspend use of the RSPCA Assured logo for fish from the four facilities.

“We were concerned by some of the images that were shared with us. As soon as they were brought to our attention, we immediately launched an investigation into those farms we understand are featured in the footage,” the RSPCA said in a statement today.

“Animal welfare is our absolute priority and the focus of our assurance scheme, therefore any complaints are always taken very seriously and thoroughly looked into as standard practice.

“These farms have now been visited by a specially trained RSPCA Farm Livestock Officer and an RSPCA Assured Assessor. During their visit they did not find any of the problems highlighted in the images taken earlier this month and were satisfied that the fish they saw were being properly managed and cared for.

‘Thoroughly investigated’

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

Marine Scotland’s Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) and APHA have also decided that no action is required.

Marine Scotland stated: “These investigations by FHI, which include considering sea lice information collected weekly from all sites, have concluded that there are no obvious sea lice or mortality issues at a population level at any of the sites involved in the allegation and that appropriate measures are in place to control sea lice, remove mortalities and ensure adequate fish health management at the sites in question. The Scottish Government takes fish health and welfare seriously and the complaint has been discussed with the Animal Plant Health Agency (APHA) who are responsible for investigating allegations of poor animal welfare on farms.”

APHA has concluded its investigations and found no evidence to support the allegations made.

98.8% superior salmon

Mowi has already said Staniford’s allegation does not represent the health of the fish populations raised at its farms and highlighted the harvest results at one of the farms - Bagh Dail nan Ceann (BDNC), in Loch Shuna – on July 19 as proof.  

“A total of 8,940 salmon weighing 5.71 kilograms (average) were harvested from Mowi’s BDNC salmon farm. The quality of these salmon from the farm yielded excellent results – over 98.8% graded by experts for scale quality and general condition as top “superior” grade,” the company stated.