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RSPCA Assured have cleared fish farmer MOWI following an investigation into welfare complaints by an Argyll activist that included secret footage of ‘lice-infested and dead salmon’.
The complaint had been filed by Scottish Salmon Watch. Anti-fish farm campaigner, Don Staniford, a director of SSW, said the photographs and videos were secretly filmed at four Mowi-run farms across Argyll and Bute – two in Shuna Sound and two in the Sound of Jura – over the weekend of July 16-17.
RSPCA Assured told The Oban Times: ‘We were concerned by some of the images that were shared with us. As soon as they were brought to our attention, we immediately launched an investigation into those farms we understand are featured in the footage.
‘These farms have now been visited by a specially trained RSPCA farm livestock officer and an RSPCA Assured assessor. During their visit they did not find any of the problems highlighted in the images and were satisfied that the fish they saw were being properly managed and cared for.
‘Any allegations of animal welfare issues or breaches of the RSPCA Assured membership agreement are taken very seriously and always thoroughly investigated. Thankfully, welfare concerns on RSPCA Assured certified farms are extremely rare and many millions of farm animals are having a better life thanks to the work of the charity.’
A Mowi spokesperson told The Oban Times this week: ‘Every day, all farmers work tirelessly to put the wellbeing of their animals first. No farmer wants to see their animals doing poorly.
‘Our company, and the entire Scottish salmon sector, welcomes auditors, regulators and professional health and welfare experts to our sites daily to ensure we are meeting or exceeding our own values.
‘So, we were pleased to once again be given assurance by third-party and professional organisations that we are meeting the high expectations for animal welfare.
‘What we don’t appreciate is individuals that choose to purposely misrepresent what actually occurs on a farm. This year alone, one activist has logged 10 separate complaints of numerous salmon companies, with each follow up investigation finding no evidence of wrong doing, but rather concluding that the fish under our care are “properly managed and cared for”.’
Marine Scotland’s Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) commented, following its investigation: ‘These investigations by FHI, which include considering sea lice information collected weekly from all sites, have concluded that there are no obvious sea lice or mortality issues at a population level at any of the sites involved in the allegation and that appropriate measures are in place to control sea lice, remove mortalities and ensure adequate fish health management at the sites in question.
‘The Scottish Government takes fish health and welfare seriously and the complaint has been discussed with the Animal Plant Health Agency (APHA) who are responsible for investigating allegations of poor animal welfare on farms.’