In a letter co-ordinated by OneKind and Animal Equality, 30 animal welfare experts called on the Scottish Government not to ‘sideline’ salmon welfare.

Salmon farm in Scotland

The letter to Cabinet Minister, Mairi Gougeon, came following a record 16.5 million salmon died prematurely on Scotland’s salmon farms last year. 

We also requested that the Scottish Government lay out in more detail how it plans to improve the welfare of farmed salmon. While we welcome the fact that the Government stated in its Vision for Sustainable Aquaculture that ‘improving aquaculture health and welfare is an ethical responsibility and priority’, no detail is given in the Vision as to how this will be achieved.  

We are concerned that any changes that may improve health, will negatively affect welfare. For example, while the use of semi and closed containment systems may improve some aspects of health, such as reducing sea lice burdens, they could create further welfare risks, such as negative behavioural reactions due to the probability of increased stocking densities.  

Read the open letter

Five domains model 

We recommend welfare assessment based on the Five Domains model. The five domains are: 

  1. Nutrition
  2. Physical Environment
  3. Health
  4. Behavioural Interactions
  5. Mental State 

There is consensus among animal welfare scientists that the Five Domains model is the most suitable framework to assess the most salient aspects of the welfare of sentient beings. 

Assessing farmed salmon welfare using this widely recognised model would require more focus on behavioural interactions and mental state, and would require achieving positive welfare for salmon, 

Worldwide support 

The letter has been signed by 25 charities and a further 9 academics/animal welfare experts from across the world, including from Brazil, Italy, Ireland and Mexico. Signatories also include experts from the University of Stirling, the University of Colorado, the University of Winchester and the University of Gothenburg.