A new Salmon and Trout Association (S&TA) report into the RSPCA / Freedom Food certification of Scottish farmed salmon details major concerns over the failure of Freedom Food to take proper account of the wider environmental impact of the accredited farms. Worryingly the report exposes the fact that some farms with a dismal record on pollution and parasite control are still granted Freedom Food status.
The Freedom Food logo is used extensively on supermarket packaging for farmed salmon and on salmon farming companies’ websites as an indication predominantly of good animal welfare practice, but also of good environmental stewardship. Freedom Food certification of farmed Atlantic salmon is overseen by an RSPCA/Freedom Food farmed salmon working group of 19 members, 15 of which are either fish farmers or from companies with a direct commercial interest in fish-farming.
It is estimated that Freedom Food charges between £800,000 and £1 million per annum for farmed salmon certification (made up of a licence fee and ‘per kg’ charge), but as there is no published list of certified farms, this figure can only be an estimate.
Guy Linley-Adams, Solicitor to the S&TA Aquaculture Campaign, and author of the report, said:
“There can be no doubt that the Freedom Food certification for farmed salmon has set the bar very low in terms of the impact of salmon farming outside the farms themselves. The standards that claim to take account of the wider environmental impact on wild fish and the impacts on wild fish from parasites and disease spread from fish farms are simply not rigorous enough. In particular, the standards on the control of sea-lice numbers are no more stringent than the industry’s own Code of Good Practice, which is widely recognised by eminent scientists (including those of Marine Scotland Science) as not necessarily adequate to protect migrating juvenile salmon and sea trout from deadly infestation by huge numbers of juvenile sea lice emanating from the farms”.
Mr Linley-Adams continued:
“In general, it is not possible to identify any environmental standards in the Freedom Food standards that are more stringent than the industry’s own Code of Good Practice or those required by minimum legal requirements. Over two years, we have alerted the RSPCA to this, both face to face and in detailed correspondence, but sadly they have refused to address the matter”.
Mr Linley-Adams added:
“Freedom Food has declined, on the basis of commercial confidentiality, to say which salmon farms they certify. However, some information has come to light, confirming that some farms operated by Wester Ross Fisheries Limited in the Two Brooms area and The Scottish Salmon Company in the Western Isles are Freedom Food certified – despite a catalogue of seabed pollution and high sea-lice numbers, as established by S&TA using data obtained under freedom of information from the public and statutory authorities. Freedom Food seems to be blind to the dismal environmental record of some of the farms certified”.
Hughie Campbell-Adamson, Chairman of S&TA (Scotland), said:
“It appears that all too often Freedom Food certification provides a convenient ‘fig leaf’ for salmon farming companies to deflect legitimate criticism of their wider environmental performance and the damage being caused to wild fish. By certifying farms that fail to meet basic environmental standards, the credibility of the RSPCA is at stake and it runs the risk of being charged with hoodwinking supermarkets and their customers. It should drop all environmental standards from Freedom Food certification, concentrating solely on animal welfare issues relating to the farmed fish. We urge the big supermarkets to examine the environmental claims associated with Freedom Food certification. Otherwise they in turn will be open to the charge that they are misleading consumers”.
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Click here for downloadable pdf of the full report: S&TA Freedom Food Report