One of the largest farmed salmon producers in Scotland, The Scottish Salmon Company (SSC), have been accused of serious welfare breaches. Waitrose and the Co-op said they will suspend trading with SSC until they have conducted their own investigations.
An undercover video, supplied to The Scotsman’s sister paper The Stornoway Gazette by animal protection organisation, Animal Equality, said the footage from a slaughter facility in Arnish, on the Isle of Lewis, showed fish which seemed to be conscious after attempts to stun them failed, some fish being clubbed up to seven times and some falling to the floor and being allowed to suffocate.
Farmed salmon are usually killed using a stunning device, which takes less than a second.
The company said that the video dated back over two years and insisted that the incident was “a one-off” and “isolated”. It is conducting its own investigation.
A spokesman for The Scottish Salmon Company said: “We are investigating an incident following receipt of an historic edited film, that shows isolated activity at our Northern harvest station. This activity does not align with our stringent welfare code of practice, and does not in any way represent the operations of the company.
“We take this matter extremely seriously and are conducting a thorough investigation into this historic incident. To assist our investigation we have requested full unedited film footage. Given our significant capital investment, training in the proper handling and humane harvesting of salmon, and supervisory and leadership approach, we believe this to be a one-off isolated incident. It is not representative of our strict welfare practice either today nor during 2019.”
It added: “Our harvest processing sites are subject to strict, regular audits from third party accreditation providers which ensure we meet globally-leading animal welfare standards. The harvest station has been subject to numerous audits which identified no welfare concerns.”
A spokeswoman for Waitrose said: “We're investigating this urgently and are conducting a physical audit at the site in the coming days, and have stopped supply from the site while we do."
A spokesperson for the Co-op said: “Fish welfare is a priority for Co-op and we only take salmon from approved suppliers who meet strict welfare standards. We do not tolerate unacceptable welfare practices for animals within our supply chain and in light of the seriousness of the allegations, supply has been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation.”
Abigail Penny, executive director of Animal Equality UK, said: “It’s shocking that animals slaughtered at The Scottish Salmon Company struggle like this, all for their flesh to be stacked and sold on supermarket shelves. Concerned consumers can act today by leaving fish off their plate entirely.”
Selling to major supermarkets, Waitrose and Co-op, alongside high-end retailers and premium hotels and restaurants, The Scottish Salmon Company has customers across the UK. Exporting to 20 countries, the corporation also has a global reach, including the Japanese and the US markets.