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UK Government expert group recommend fish welfare legislation

News Section Icon Published 29/09/2023

Wild salmon jumping in river

Earlier this week (27th September), we welcomed the publication by the Scottish Government of an expert Opinion, that makes clear recommendations to improve the welfare of farmed fish at the time of killing.

The Opinion, written by the Animal Welfare Committee (AWC), reiterates its core recommendations outlined almost 10 years ago.

Farmed fish are sentient too

The AWC recommends that as farmed fish are sentient creatures, they should receive the same legal protections at the time of slaughter as other land farmed animals. We are therefore urging Governments to include farmed fish in animal welfare legislation, without delay. As stated by the AWC, fish should be killed with humane methods, involving effective stunning before slaughter. Recommendations are also made for rules to reduce stress and suffering in the moments leading up to slaughter.

The Opinion suggests legislation should extend to mandatory inspections, and suggests the use of CCTV monitoring, enforcing powers and penalties, and regular reviews and updates of voluntary code standards.

It also recommends that the welfare of the millions of ‘cleaner fish’ used to remove lice from farmed salmon, and killed in the farming process, should also be covered.

Vast numbers of fish - simply forgotten

About 72 million fish are farmed each year in the UK. However, despite fish being recognised as sentient beings by the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act, their protection is lagging behind. Experts have been recommending welfare improvements for many years, and the industry is largely supportive, but we are still waiting for action.

Our Fish Policy and Research Manager, Dr Natasha Boyland, said: “With insufficient protection in law, each year millions of farmed fish in the UK are at risk of significant suffering at the time of slaughter – this must change.

“The AWC have reconfirmed their recommendation that pre-stunning at slaughter is necessary to prevent fear, pain and distress, and have also given clear recommendations for reducing prior handling stress. It is vital that the Government acts on this expert advice and introduces legislation to protect farmed fish as a matter of urgency.“

Find out more about our Rethink Fish campaign.


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