Publication - FOI/EIR release

Information pertaining to the welfare of farmed fish: EIR release

Published: 14 Oct 2021

Information request and response under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004

Published:
14 Oct 2021
Information pertaining to the welfare of farmed fish: EIR release
FOI reference: FOI/202100241777
Date received: 22 Sep 2021
Date responded: 29 Sep 2021
Information requested

Please provide information on whether the Scottish Government made any formal response to, and what, if any, legislation or guidance were forthcoming, the Farm Animal Welfare Committee’s 2014 "Opinion on the welfare of farmed fish at the time of killing" and 2014 "Opinion on the welfare of farmed fish".

Response

The response to your request is that Scottish Government did not make a formal response to those opinions and there was no legislation introduced as a result of those opinions.

The Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested. Therefore we are refusing your request under the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs.

Under the terms of the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs (information not held), the Scottish Government is not required to provide information which it does not have. The Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested because it appears not to have made a formal response to the Farm Animal Welfare Committee Opinions on the welfare of fish. Nor has the Scottish Government produced legislation or guidance on that topic since the Opinions were published in 2014.

This exception is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. While we recognise that there may be some public interest in the information you have requested, clearly we cannot provide information which we do not hold.

The Scottish Government is aware of the importance of protecting the welfare of fish at the time of slaughter and takes this very seriously. This welfare is assured by the requirement, at Article 3.1 of Council Regulation (EC) 1099/2009, that ‘animals shall be spared any avoidable pain, distress or suffering during their killing and related operations’.

The Scottish Government is also aware of the Farm Animal Welfare Committee recommendation from 2014 that the stunning, slaughter and killing of fish should be included in EU welfare legislation. The Scottish Government has supported that recommendation and had planned to impress that view when the EU held discussions on that subject.

The existing EU regulations have now been retained in UK law following exit from the EU. Technical amendments to both this retained EU law and Scottish animal welfare legislation were made to ensure the continued operation of relevant animal welfare rules post-exit.

With regard to your question on the issuing of guidance, the Animal and Plant Health Agency oversees the welfare of farmed fish on behalf of the Scottish Ministers. That Agency supplies a number of fully trained inspectors to carry out routine welfare visits to fish farms and also to respond to complaints received on the welfare of farmed fish.

There is guidance from the Humane Slaughter Association available to all producers at:

https://www.hsa.org.uk/downloads/related-items/harvesting-of-fish.pdf

In addition, the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation has published Codes of Practice for their sector, which has also been adopted by Quality Trout UK.The current ‘Code of Good Practice Annexes’ note that Veterinary Health Plans and Biosecurity Plans must be prepared by each fish farming company in collaboration with its veterinary surgeon and that a documented training programme must include training on humane slaughter and culling of fish. It is understood that these Codes are currently under review and we have suggested that further information on the welfare of fish at the time of slaughter should be included.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG