John Robins: “Salmon farming is cruel, plain and simple.”
STORNOWAY, Scotland––The Danish-owned Scottish Salmon Company, just three weeks after complaining to media about seal attacks “stressing” farmed Atlantic salmon near Portree on Skye, has been exposed in undercover video obtained by Animal Equality U.K. for allegedly allowing routine cruelty in processing on a scale making “stress” almost the least of the issue.
The Scottish Salmon Company, on the eve of a Scottish law prohibiting shooting seals taking effect, complained that seals had torn open net pens on December 21, 2020, allowing more than 52,000 “stressed” juvenile Atlantic salmon to escape.
Those salmon who evaded the hungry seals scattered beyond any possibility of mass recapture.
“Coshing fish to kill them”
That was three weeks before Animal Equality U.K. shared with Stornoway Gazette reporter John A. MacInnes video of Scottish Salmon Company workers “leaving fish to suffocate on the floor, repeatedly coshing [clubbing] fish to kill them, and causing unnecessary pain and suffering by cutting live fish through the gills leaving them to bleed to death,” MacInnes wrote.
“As result of the shocking footage,” MacInnes added, “supermarket chains Waitrose and the Co-op, both of whom are supplied by the Scottish Salmon Company, have confirmed to the Stornoway Gazette that they have stopped supplies with immediate effect.”
The Animal Equality U.K. video originated, an organization spokesperson told MacInnes, at “a slaughter facility in Arnish, on the Isle of Lewis.”
“Concerned consumers can leave fish off their plates”
Continued MacInnes, “The footage is said to be the first of its kind to be released in the U.K. The undercover video documents what are said to be numerous animals displaying consciousness after failure to stun, evidenced by flapping, wriggling and gasping motions; salmon gills cut without prior stunning, causing pain, and /or salmon being re-stunned with a club after their gills were cut, causing blood to spray from their gills (and defeating the purpose of pre-bleed stunning); salmon being clubbed multiple times, in some instances as many as seven times per animal; salmon gills torn with workers’ fingers, rather than a scalpel; and, on occasion, a large number of animals falling to the floor and being left to suffocate.”
Suggested Animal Equality U.K. executive director Abigail Penny, “Concerned consumers can act today by leaving fish off their plates entirely.”
Alleging that the Animal Equality U.K. video was “historic” and “edited,” showing “isolated activity,” the Scottish Salmon Company acknowledged that what was shown “does not align with our stringent welfare code of practice.”
“Now they can see the cruelty”
Commented John F. Robins of Animal Concern Scotland, to ANIMALS 24-7, “The evidence obtained by Animal Equality U.K. proves what I have known and the authorities have failed to investigate for many years: salmon farming is cruel, plain and simple.
“I helped to have the sentience of fish recognized in the Animal Health & Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006,” Robins recalled, “and I have tried unsuccessfully several times to have that law enforced at salmon farms. I hope Animal Equality U.K., with their horrific video proof of cruelty, will succeed where I have failed.
“Now that they can see the cruelty with their own eyes and, more importantly, now that the public can see that cruelty, Scottish government ministers and the government departments which have been woefully inadequate in controlling salmon farms and ensuring the welfare of the fish, must finally get off their backsides and take action immediately,” Robins declared.
“Police, Scottish SPCA, Royal SPCA all implicated”
“Police Scotland, the Scottish SPCA, the Royal SPCA Assured scheme and retailers who sell salmon from the many floating factory farms in Scottish waters are all implicated in allowing this cruelty to go on, perhaps for the last forty years,” Robins charged.
“They must investigate the whole industry with a view to bringing criminal charges,” Robins said, “not just issuing new codes of conduct which are not worth the paper they are printed on.”
Catfish Corner workers used pliers
The Animal Equality U.K. video was shared with the Stornoway Gazette just over ten years after Mercy for Animals on January 19, 2011 released undercover video of similar practices at Catfish Corner, in eastern Dallas County.
Mercy for Animals contended unsuccessfully that the Catfish Corner killing methods could be prosecuting as cruelty under existing Texas law.
Mercy For Animals exposed, “Workers using pliers to pull the skin off of live fish, dozens of fish crammed into buckets and baskets, gasping for oxygen, skinned fish still moving and gasping on the cutting table, fish flailing and struggling to escape the workers knives, live fish sliced and split in half, and workers tearing the heads off of live fish,” summarized the media release sent out with the video clips.
But no prosecution was initiated.
“A place where families bring their kids”
Founded in 1968, Catfish Corner is among the oldest active fish farms in the U.S.––“a place where families bring their kids, often to fish for the first time. Others stop by and pick a catfish out of a tank for dinner. They can have their fish cleaned and take them home to eat,” described Dallas Morning News staff writer Melissa Repko.
In other words, Catfish Corner teaches––and has taught––generations of customers to treat fish the same way.
“They kill the fish nationwide the same way. I don’t know what the deal is,” Catfish Corner owner Bill Benson told Repko.
Agreed Texas Parks & Wildlife warden Garry Collins, “99.9% of the commercial places do that.”
But that was Mercy for Animals’ point: the Catfish Corner practices, like those of the Scottish Salmon Company, are routine and rarely questioned.
Those practices have not withstood previous humane scrutiny because there has rarely been any.