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Increased regulations for farmed fish urgently needed

News Section Icon Published 26/01/2024

A school of fish

On Wednesday (24th January), we met in Parliament with other animal welfare NGOs and leading retailers, industry representatives, lawyers, and animal advocates. During the event we discussed the need for the UK Governments to enact species-specific legislation for farmed fish at the time of slaughter.

It is estimated that up to 77 million fish are farmed and slaughtered in the UK annually – primarily trout and Atlantic salmon. Yet, despite the large numbers, there is very little legal protection for the welfare of these sentient animals at the time of slaughter.

A deep dive for solutions

The roundtable discussion, hosted by Professor Lord Trees in the House of Lords, brought together figures from Waitrose, Aquascot, the British Trout Association, Foods Connected and more, to discuss the need for increased legal protections for farmed fish at the time of slaughter.

We organised the event with several other leading NGOs and influential bodies including Animal Equality, Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation (CAWF), The Humane League UK, Soil Association, RSPCA and Scottish SPCA.

It came following the release of the updated Opinion of the Welfare of Farmed Fish at the Time of Killing, in September 2023, by the Government-advisory body, the Animal Welfare Committee (AWC).

Speaking up for farmed fish

Speakers and guests at the event touched on the importance of the recommendations of the Opinion and the need for regulations.

Fish farming expert Mark Borthwick gave praise for the Opinion, saying: “The AWC is clearly trying to give fish the same recognition and protection in law that we afford the animals we farm on dry-land. Fish sentience is finally recognized.” But pushed for an even more ambitious vision: “There is a chance here for all to go beyond meeting the bare-minimum for welfare, and show thought leadership.”

Lord Trees concluded the event by stating: “It’s clear that we need to close this legislative anomaly” and reminded the audience that “enforcement is also key”.

Dr Matt Baron, our Fish Food Business Manager and one of the panellists said: “The roundtable discussion was a positive coming-together of different stakeholders, from lawyers to retailers, all with a shared goal of reducing fish suffering. Fish welfare is of growing concern to food businesses, who are putting more focus on their welfare requirements. But there must be legal requirements in place to protect animals”.

Dr Natasha Boyland, our Senior Research and Policy Advisor: “The lack of detailed provisions for farmed fish in UK animal welfare legislation is of great concern, leaving approximately 77 million sentient beings without sufficient protection each year. However, the UK now has the opportunity to make world-leading legal improvements for farmed fish. The AWC has given strong guidance to Governments, including reaffirming 2014 recommendations that pre-slaughter stunning should be a regulatory requirement. It is vital that the AWC’s expert advice is now acted on as a matter of urgency”.

Find out more about our Rethink Fish campaign.


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