[Download press release as a PDF online via RSPCA Savaged Over Seal Killing in Scotland - Over 70% of Lethal Scottish Salmon Certified as 'RSPCA Assured']
The Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) is coming under hostile fire for sanctioning the slaughter of seals at salmon farms across Scotland. On Thursday (10 December), a petition calling for a cease-fire on salmon farms certified by the RSPCA will be delivered to the RSPCA's head office in Horsham, West Sussex.
Campaigners are calling for a boycott of all Scottish farmed salmon - over 70% of which is certified via the RSPCA Assured scheme which condones the killing of seals. Supermarkets selling 'seal-unfriendly' salmon will be targeted by protestors dressed as seals - including a demo outside M&S and Selfridges on Oxford/Orchard Street in Central London tomorrow (9 December). A letter addressed to Her Majesty the Queen, as royal patron of the RSPCA, will also be delivered to Buckingham Palace (read more details online here).
"Over 2,700 people have already signed my petition calling for an end to the killing of seals on RSPCA-certified salmon farms," said Katie Nethercoat who launched an online petition - RSPCA: End your support for the killing of Scottish Seals - in October after an expose on ITV News. "Shame on the RSPCA for sanctioning the slaughter of seals in Scotland.
An opinion poll by Metro in October 2015 reported that 87 per cent of people are opposed to the killing of seals on salmon farms."
"Seals are one of the most charismatic creatures that we have in the UK and it is great shame to see our British wildlife suffer at the hands of consumerism," continued Nethercoat. "Rather than change the way in which salmon are farmed or work around issues such as wild animals, they are jumping straight to shooting them. This can't be allowed and it is clear to see that members of the public don't plan on letting it continue."
Another opinion poll conducted in 2009 revealed that the majority of people in the UK believed that supermarkets should refuse to buy farmed salmon from companies which kill seals.
"When you buy Scottish salmon, including salmon carrying the RSPCA logo, you pay for bullets to shoot seals," said John Robins of Animal Concern. "My message to the RSPCA is ‘Just say no - stop your farmers killing seals’. The RSPCA could give seals the perfect Christmas present – they could give them the gift of life by banning seal shooting at RSPCA assured salmon farms. RSPCA chiefs have to decide who they represent; seal-shooting multinationals or the animals they persecute."
"Supermarkets have the power to stop seals being shot simply by telling their suppliers to install predator exclusion nets," continued Robins. "The RSPCA could do the same with RSPCA Assured salmon farms. Until they do so our main weapon is for people to stop buying Scottish salmon. This is especially important at this time of year when salmon sales rise over Christmas and New Year. If you don’t want to pay for bullets to shoot seals don’t buy Scottish salmon. It’s as simple as that."
Animal Concern wrote to the CEO's of supermarkets in the UK yesterday (7 December) - including: "Another myth perpetuated by the Scottish Government, the salmon farming industry, most retailers and even the RSPCA Assured scheme is that seals are only shot as a last resort after all non-lethal alternatives have been exhausted. If only circa 15% of salmon farms are using predator exclusion nets 85% of salmon farms are not shooting seals as a last resort." (Read the letter in full online here).
GAAIA believes that the R$PCA sacrificed protection for profit a long time ago. It is understood that each salmon farm certified under the R$PCA Assured scheme pays several thousand pounds therefore raking in hundreds of thousands of pounds for the R$PCA!
Ker-ching - that's the sounds of the RSPCA's cash register as dozens of Scottish salmon farms have rushed to be certified as 'welfare-friendly' since 2002. In fact, over 70% of Scottish farmed salmon is now certified as "welfare-friendly" via the RSPCA Assured scheme (formerly Freedom Food). Since there were 260 salmon farms in 2014 (the latest government survey available) that could mean over 180 RSPCA Assured salmon farms in Scotland.
The trigger-happy stance of the RSPCA is unsurprising given the make-up of their technical advisory group which includes a who's who of salmon farming's serial seal killers - including Marine Harvest, Scottish Seafarms and the Scottish Salmon Company (the biggest killers in 2015):
"The RSPCA have blood on their hands for certifying seal-killing salmon farms as 'welfare friendly'," said Don Staniford, Director of the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture. "The next time you're in a supermarket and see the 'RSPCA Assured' logo on a packet of salmon please give it the seal of disapproval. Until the RSPCA pledges to stop the slaughter the only sure-fire way of protecting seals is to boycott all Scottish salmon. Consumers have the power this Xmas to force a change in policy at the RSPCA - if nobody buys RSPCA Assured Scottish salmon then the killing of seals would be stopped dead in its tracks. The RSPCA Council should listen to public opinion and introduce a seal cease-fire."
"The public may be shocked to learn that over 70% of Scottish farmed salmon is already certified by RSPCA Assured who earn hundreds of thousands of pounds from certification," continued Staniford. "Help save seals by hitting the RSPCA where it hurts - in the pockets. The message is simple - stop shooting seals for salmon meals!"
GAAIA wrote to the RSPCA on 23 November 2015 re-iterating the question:
Will the RSPCA finally pledge to stop certifying seal-killing salmon farms?
Download the letter in full as a PDF online here
The RSPCA's acting Chief Executive David Canavan initially agreed to meet with GAAIA at the RSPCA head office in Horsham on 10 December but now appears to have backed out.
Yesterday (7 December), GAAIA wrote to Her Majesty the Queen (as Patron of the RSPCA) asking her to personally intervene to stop the slaughter of seals in Scotland. GAAIA also copied the letter to Vice-presidents of the RSPCA - including Brian Blessed, Chris Packham, Brian May, Bill Oddie and Dr. Caroline Lucas MP - asking them to support a seal cease-fire on salmon farms (read the letter in full online here). The letter was also copied to RSPCA supporter and Coronation Street actress Helen Worth (who recently showed her support for seals). GAAIA will be hand-delivering the letter to Her Majesty the Queen tomorrow (9 December) at Buckingham Palace in London (read letter online here).
GAAIA wrote to supermarkets on 30 November 2015 asking for a public pledge to stop sourcing from seal-killing salmon farms. "Will you give seals are early Christmas present by pledging to introduce a cease-fire?" asked the letter (read in full online here).
Here's replies from M&S, Co-op, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Aldi:
"According to the Scottish Government, the number of seals shot by salmon farms had decreased 66 per cent between 2011 and 2014 and is to be used only as a last resort. Our supplier has worked closely with a number of seal protection bodies to develop non-lethal ways of reducing seal attraction to our sites, including investment in acoustic deterrent devices and the addition of extra weights at the bottom of the nets to ensure the side walls are kept rigid." (M&S, 4 December 2015)
"In line with the industry’s code of practice, we expect all of our RSPCA Freedom Food approved salmon farms to use suitable and humane means to deter predators and protect the welfare of our salmon. Farmers have a duty (under the provisions of The Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006) to protect fish from harm and unnecessary suffering. Only in extreme circumstances, and as a last resort, should any other measure be considered to protect fish from predators." (Co-op, 1 December 2015)
"Our salmon farmers work to exclude and deter seals from their farms. This is managed under the Code of Practice on Predator Control and their Environmental Management Systems. If, after adhering to these guidelines they are still failing to keep a seal at bay, shooting a seal may be undertaken only as a last resort, in keeping with the legislative requirement of the Conservation of Seals Act 1970. One rogue seal damaging the pen can cause the loss of several thousand fish in one go. Seals often take a single bite from each fish and attacks can affect many thousands of fish. Even those not directly attacked can become stressed and succumb in the days after." (Tesco, 1 December 2015)
"All of our Atlantic salmon is responsibly sourced and is grown on Freedom Food approved sites located on the west coast and islands of Scotland. Our farms use both well tensioned nets and acoustic deterrent devices to deter predatory seals. We don't use external predator nets on our farms due to issues with reduction of water exchange which could potentially compromise the welfare of the fish. The nets also have the possibility to cause unintentional harm to some animals such as birds and seals which can become entangled in the mesh. Here at Sainsbury’s we're always striving to tackle the issue of seal interaction on salmon farms and we're confident that there are no other retailers who have more commitment to continually improve exclusion and deterrent methods than us. Working with various animal welfare groups including the Seal Protection Action Group, the RSPCA (with their Freedom Food label) and the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews University we've established the Salmon, Aquaculture and Seals Working Group (SASWG). With our supplier also being a member of this group we aim to drive through continuous improvements regarding this issue through both innovation and understanding. We've a long-standing commitment to animal welfare and we share the same concerns as our customers. We'll continue to work hard to protect seals and other animals which come into contact with our farms as well as working with these welfare groups to make sure the farms maintain our high standards." (Sainsbury's, 1 December 2015)
"We source our supplies in line with our animal welfare policy. I have attached a link to our corporate responsibility website for your consideration." (Aldi, 30 November 2015)
As of 7 December 2015, no replies were received from ASDA, Iceland, Lidl, Morrisons, Selfridges or Waitrose.
Read the press release in full online via RSPCA Savaged Over Seal Killing in Scotland - Over 70% of Lethal Scottish Salmon Certified as 'RSPCA Assured'
Read more via:
"Letter to Her Majesty the Queen" (7 December 2015)
"Supermarkets: Stop Killing Seals at Salmon Farms!" (1 December 2015)
"Scottish Salmon Blinded by Seal Killing" (29 November 2015)
"Seal killing slips through the net" (29 November 2015)
"RSPCA Assured Seal Killers!" (23 November 2015)
"M&S Caught in Cross-Fire Over Seal-Killing on Scottish Salmon Farms" (2 November 2015)
"Stop shooting seals for salmon meals - protest outside M&S in Edinburgh" (30 October 2015)
"Stop shooting seals for salmon meals!" (22 October 2015)
"RSPCA upsets people by saying seal shooting is OK" (11 October 2015)
"Did a seal die for your salmon meal?" (9 October 2015)
"RSPCA attacked for its policy on seal shooting" (9 October 2015)
"RSPCA: Seals should be shot as an 'absolute last resort' to protect salmon" (9 October 2015)
"Salmon farmers under fire for shooting seals" (8 October 2015)
"Seals in Shetland are getting into deep water with the salmon industry" (8 October 2015)
"Shetland fish farms top seal shooting list" (3 September 2015)
"Mapped: every Scottish salmon farm that shot seals" (2 September 2015)
"UK retailers may face ‘zombie seal’ protests over farmed salmon" (2 September 2015)
"Anti-fish farm campaigners propose boycott to defend seals" (1 September 2015)
"Seal shooting figures released after campaign by animal rights activists" (30 August 2015)
"Figures reveal salmon farms that shoot seals" (30 August 2015)
"Named and shamed: the Scottish salmon farms shooting seals" (30 August 2015)
"Data reveals third of Scots fish farms have shot seals" (30 August 2015)
"Media Splash for Seal-Killing Salmon Farms!" (8 July 2015)
"D Day for Seal-Killing Salmon Farms" (6 July 2015)
"Mass seal slaughter as RSPCA opts to protect fish farms" (13 April 2015)
For more information please see GAAIA's "The Killing Farms"