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Morrisons, RSPCA Freedom Food labelled salmon. (Photo: RSPCA Freedom Food)

Salmon and Trout Association uncovers salmon certification violations

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Friday, January 18, 2013, 23:20 (GMT + 9)

The Salmon and Trout Association (S&TA) has discovered that Scottish farmed salmon carrying the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' (RSPCA)/Freedom Food certification does not meet the proper requirements. S&TA’s report explains that some of the salmon farms in question have awful pollution and parasite control practices, yet are granted Freedom Food status.

Freedom Food status is meant to mean that the salmon farm that raised the fish carrying the Freedom Food logo operates in an environmentally responsible way. In fact, the logo appears on supermarket packaging for farmed salmon and on salmon farming companies’ websites, allegedly to indicate to consumers that the farms mostly have favourable animal welfare practices and environmental stewardship.

For farmed salmon, Freedom Food certification is overseen by an RSPCA/Freedom Food working group, most of which consists of either fish farmers or companies with a direct commercial interest in aquaculture.

“There can be no doubt that the Freedom Food certification for farmed salmon has set the bar very low in terms of the impact of salmon farming outside the farms themselves,” Guy Linley-Adams, Solicitor to the S&TA Aquaculture Campaign, and author of the report, said. “The standards that claim to take account of the wider environmental impact on wild fish and the impacts on wild fish from parasites and disease spread from fish farms are simply not rigorous enough.” 

He specified that the standards on the control of sea-lice numbers, in particular, are comparable to the industry’s own Code of Good Practice, which is widely considered inadequate to protect migrating juvenile salmon and sea trout from infestation and death via sea lice emanating from the farms.

“In general, it is not possible to identify any environmental standards in the Freedom Food standards that are more stringent than the industry’s own Code of Good Practice or those required by minimum legal requirements,” Linley-Adams continued. “Over two years, we have alerted the RSPCA to this, both face to face and in detailed correspondence, but sadly they have refused to address the matter.”

In addition, Linley-Adams said, despite Freedom Food’s secrecy, it has become known that farms with a bad reputation of seabed pollution and high sea-lice numbers have received Freedom Food certification. These farms include those operated by Wester Ross Fisheries Limited in the Two Brooms area and The Scottish Salmon Company in the Western Isles.

Hughie Campbell-Adamson, chairman of S&TA Scotland, accused the Freedom Food certification of being used to cover up bad environmental practices and harm caused to wild fish. The RSPCA’s credibility is now at stake, he declared, and should thus drop all environmental standards from Freedom Food certification, instead focusing only on animal welfare issues relating to the farmed fish.

Otherwise, according to the report, the RSPCA should dramatically improve and make stricter standards concerning wider environmental impact and impact on wild fish, in consultation with wild fish conservation bodies.

By Natalia Real


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