SA joins key charities calling for better legislation protecting the welfare of farmed fish
On the 21st March the Soil Association, together with the Humane League, Compassion in World Farming, the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, the RSPCA convened a parliamentary reception, chaired by Crossbench peer Lord Trees, to call on the government to provide better legal protection for farmed fish at the time of slaughter.
Fish have complex neurological and social behaviours. They feel pain and are recognised as sentient both scientifically and legally by the long overdue Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022. The Soil Association believes there is a moral and pragmatic responsibility for the mandatory protection of these animals.
That’s why the Soil Association have championed the protection and welfare of farmed fish for over two decades through its standard setting and certification schemes. As part of an ongoing evidence review, the Soil Association has adopted into standards DEFRA’s own Animal Welfare Committee’s (AWC) 2014 recommendations to protect farmed fish at the time of slaughter. We are calling on the government to provide robust legislation in line with these recommendations, and the expected 2023 recommendations. Legal protection is afforded to all other farmed animals but not to the 55 million fish farmed annually. As is often the case with organic farmers, we are proud that, not only have our organic farmers fully complied with these requirements, but also voluntarily shown leadership in this area, continuously striving to improve standards further.
Why does increasing animal welfare standards matter?
Ensuring a good life for farmed fish throughout their production is not just an animal welfare issue, as important as this is. Fish raised in conditions that promote their health cause less pollution through uneaten feed, faeces and veterinary medicines including antibiotics. To meet the dual needs of reducing the number of animals we farm and providing national dietary requirements it is essential that we farm healthy animals that make it through to the plate. Humane slaughter operations are an inevitable and crucial part of the farming system.
Understanding the impact of the fish you buy is complex and all too often obscured by corporate messaging and unclear labelling. By buying organic fish you ensure that they have been raised and accredited to the highest welfare and environmental standards. The Soil Association is committed to improving the life of farmed fish, as we are with all farmed animals.