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RSPCA Assured mortalities

A letter to the RSPCA. 06/02/20

Dear Sir,

I write to complain of the misleading nature and false claims behind “RSPCA Assured” labeling on packs of farmed Scottish Salmon.

I believe Freedom Food Ltd (trading as RSPCA Assured) are owned by the RSPCA. The full title they use is “The RSPCA’s ethical food label, dedicated to farm animal welfare”. This is a commercial scheme that Salmon farmers pay for to display the label. They market the "brand" as an incentive to increase sales, highlighting the strength of the "RSPCA" affiliation. 

However, their "Welfare Standards" are no more stringent than current industry standards and there are serious welfare problems within the industry.

They state: "Unlike other food quality schemes, we are completely independent from the food and farming industries". This is simply not true.

Their salmon farm technical standards advisory board has 21 members, 18 of whom are from the salmon industry and not a single welfare or independent NGO board member.

These “advisors” are from the very companies that pay to display the logo. The salmon farms that have paid RSPCA Assured to display the brand are amongst the worst on record for fish welfare.

The latest Scottish Government figures on fish mortalities on RSPCA Assured salmon farms can be found here. The figures are beyond the realms of acceptability. 5,250,005 in 2019 alone!

Furthermore, the farms involved are killing seals to prevent the loss of fish stocks. It is known that “seal proof” cages are available but at a cost and it is cheaper to hire a marksman to dispatch the seals under the excuse of “humane pest control”. Seals are not considered a pest under Scottish Law.

Indeed, RSPCA Assured even issue a “Seal cull form” to participating brand licencees to return to them. HP 7.1 here:

The independent salmon industry commentator Don Staniford has been campaigning against the RSPCA Assured label tirelessly for years. His page can be found here:

Please see the Bay of Vady packaging and mortality rate from the Scottish Salmon Producing Organisation. (These mort rates are the full Salmon production cycle death rates on farms that harvested in 2018). They were on sale under RSCPA Assured label with nearly 50% mortality. RSPCA permits this because the scheme only requires famers "to try" and improve welfare, not "actually' improve welfare. Consumers cannot be sure that RSPCA Assured label salmon IS higher welfare. The RSCPA Assured standard does not have any mortality thresholds or compliance requirements.

Please also note that:

1. Overall production of farmed salmon in Scotland today is roughly the same as 2002

2. Since 2002 mortality rate has INCREASED 400%

3. In 2002 industry generated 4,500 tonnes of dead fish. In 2017 it was 25,000 tonnes, in 2019 it may be more and the Met Office is predicting another year ahead of unprecedented high temperatures.

4. RSCPA Assured has made no meaningful difference to mortality rates, yet endorses over 70% of production.

Increased mortality is due to disease and increasing sea lice burdens and the treatments thereof. Environmental factors are a consideration. But just as a sheep farmer cannot put sheep in a field where there is no grass, neither should a salmon farmer put fish in water where there is known disease and mortality.

I feel as a potential customer of Scottish farmed salmon that I am being misled by a false labeling scheme. Wherever I see the RSPCA Assured label, it is meant to entice me to be “assured” that the welfare of the Salmon is being cared for. As can be seen from the Scottish Government statistics, the number of mortalities, diseases, viruses, pests, chemical & mechanical treatments, the industry appears to be out of control and we are being misled.

I call for you to step back from this reprehensible industry, withdraw the RSPCA Assured label and cease to mislead the public any further.

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