*Warning: this article contains images that some may find distressing*
There have been fresh calls for the Scottish government to crack down on salmon farming after investigation footage was shown in an episode of Countryfile.
Animal Equality UK filmed dead and dying fish at farms in Scotland, and the video was shown on the BBC show last month. One fish had a severely damaged eye, and another was laid out flat against some netting. Workers were also seen disposing of huge numbers of dead salmon in bins.
After the footage aired, a number of people took to X (formerly known as Twitter) to express their disgust at salmon farming. Tagging the Scottish government account, one person wrote: “The #ScottishSalmon industry is seeing record deaths on farms. Salmon are suffering from predation, flesh-eating lice infestations, and disease outbreaks. Please, do NOT allow any more fish farms to be built!.” Another added: “This image makes me sick to my stomach. No animal deserves to suffer from flesh-eating lice, deformities, blindness, untreated wounds or infectious diseases. No more salmon for me from now on.”
Scottish salmon farming
The conditions shown on Countryfile are common on farms, where injuries and diseases are rife. Salmon are kept in small, often circular, underwater enclosures in freshwater lochs or other similar bodies of water. Their cages can become infected with lice, which eat the salmon alive. There is mounting evidence that suggests fishes* feel pain, meaning it’s likely they spend their lives in agony. One in four salmon die before reaching slaughter. Last year, 16.7 million died before being taken to the slaughterhouse. The climate crisis is also worsening the situation on farms – as warming waters are leading them to become overrun with jellyfish and algal blooms.
“Salmon farming is wrong on so many levels,” Animal Equality executive director Abigail Penny told Plant Based News. “Atlantic Salmon are naturally migratory animals, yet they are cruelly confined in crowded cages… There is an abundance of evidence to show that the Scottish salmon industry is wildly unprepared for the changing climate and the data shows that it has failed so far to curb these rising on-farm mortalities.”
Scotland urged to act
More than 2,000 people have signed Animal Equality UK’s petition calling for the Scottish government to stop the expansion of the salmon farming industry.
Salmon farming is big business in Scotland, thought to be worth around £760 million to the nation’s economy. After chickens, salmon are the second most intensively farmed animal in the UK, and the vast majority of farms are in Scotland
“Aquatic animals deserve so much more than this life of misery, as do the Scottish communities whose jobs must be future-proofed,” said Penny. “The Scottish Government needs to be bold, transition away from salmon slaughter, and instead support an industry that can stand the test of time. And, as we fight for this brighter future, consumers need to use their purchasing power and boycott fish products.”
*While the English language usually refers to multiple fishes as “fish,” we have chosen to use “fishes” to emphasize their individuality