Today Animal Equality has released undercover investigative footage of salmon suffering at a slaughterhouse. The salmon are repeatedly clubbed, left to suffocate on the floor, and had their gills cut, or torn, by workers, while still conscious.
Animal Equality obtained the footage at a Scottish Salmon Company farm in Arnish, Isle of Lewis. The Scottish Salmon Company supplies major UK supermarkets, including Waitrose and Co-op.
The footage is included below, but note that is graphic and may not be appropriate for younger viewers.
While this investigation reveals that fish suffer considerably at the time of slaughter, salmon are forced to endure a whole live of suffering before reaching the slaughterhouse. Scotland’s salmon farms are an animal welfare crisis.
Farmed salmon can suffer from a wide range of diseases, given that they are kept in such crowded conditions. High levels of stress in the salmon, caused from sea lice infestations (and its treatment), handling and crowding, mean that they are also increasingly susceptible to infection.
There have been countless incidences of diseases causing havoc on Scottish fish farms. In 2019, the £3 billion fish farming firm, Mowi, reported the deaths of around 700,000 salmon on its farms in just a three month period. Diseases and sea lice infestations were among the top reasons cited for the huge numbers of deaths.
Sea lice infestations
Sea lice infestations are rife on Scotland’s salmon farms. Sea lice feed on the skin, scales, tissues and mucous layer of salmon, causing the development of lesions and loss of scales and ultimately even death. So – called “death crowns” can also be created by sea lice, whereby the flesh on the head of the fish is exposed.
Heavy infestation of sea lice also can lead to increased levels of stress in farmed salmon. This chronic stress compromises the welfare of fish by increasing the likelihood of further Infection.
Treatment for disease and sea lice infestations
Treatments for sea lice and disease, such as cleaner fish and the Thermolicer, often do more harm than good, exposing salmon to harsh chemicals or harsh mechanical treatments, causing stress, physical injury and death.
Lumpfish, known as “cleaner fish”, are used to pick off and eat sea lice from salmon. As noted by the Farm Animal Welfare Committee (2014a), cleaner fish experience the same welfare issues that farmed fish face. The two species of fish can also be aggressive to one another, and salmon may consume the cleaner fish.
The Thermolicer is a mechanical treatment that uses a sudden rise in water temperature to kill sea lice. Salmon are crowded into one area, which is a stressful process and can cause injury to the fish. The high temperatures also inflict stress upon the salmon, as well as the rapid temperature changes.
In 2020, 74,000 farmed salmon escaped from just ONE salmon farm, situated off Colonsay. Mowi, the company responsible for the disaster, was also responsible for the escape of 48,000 fish in October 2017 and November 2018.
Escaped salmon have compromised welfare. They are not well-adapted to the wild, which means that they likely suffer. Despite this, there is evidence that they can interbreed with wild individuals, which compromises the welfare of wild salmon, as it produces offspring that have reduced fitness.