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RSPCA welfare standards for farmed Atlantic salmon (iii) September 2015

Introduction

The RSPCA welfare standards for farmed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) are used to provide the only

RSPCA-approved scheme for the rearing, handling, transport and slaughter/killing of farmed Atlantic

salmon. The standards cover the two distinct phases of farming (freshwater and marine farming).

They take account of legislation, official codes of practice, scientific research, veterinary advice,

recommendations of the Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) and the practical experience of the

aquaculture industry. However, difficulties arise in specifying details in relation to several issues (for

example, acceptable maximum stocking densities) due to the lack of scientific research examining fish

welfare under different commercial systems. It is important to recognise therefore that the following

requirements are made pending the relevant scientific research. To this end, the farmer is expected to

maintain higher welfare standards at all times and demonstrate commitment to continual improvement

as advances in knowledge and technology allow.

Scientific evidence from behavioural, physiological and anatomical studies shows that it is highly likely

that fish feel pain. Fish also have a similar stress response system to mammals. It is essential that staff

managing farmed fish are aware of the importance of welfare as an integral part of production.

The standards are based upon the 'Five Freedoms' as defined by FAWC (hence the name 'Freedom Food'

- see page v). Although these 'freedoms' define ideal states, they provide a comprehensive framework for

the assessment of animal welfare on-farm, in transit and at the place of slaughter/killing, as well as

representing an important element of farm assurance requirements. These 'Five Freedoms' are relevant to

fish welfare and should be considered in relation to husbandry practice. These 'Freedoms' are shown in

bold below, and the wording has been adapted with supporting text to reflect how they relate to fish welfare.

 Freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition

by access to an appropriate high quality diet and an environment in which fluid and

electrolyte balance can be maintained.

 Freedom from discomfort

by maintaining the water and environment at an appropriate temperature, flow

rate and chemical composition and providing well designed enclosures and tanks

with shading if necessary.

 Freedom from pain, injury or disease

by avoiding situations which are likely to cause pain, injury or disease, by rapid

diagnosis and treatment of disease and humane transport and killing.

 Freedom to express normal behaviour

by providing the appropriate space and environment for the species.

 Freedom from fear and distress

by minimising stressful situations such as poor handling or predator attack as far

as possible, by making gradual changes to husbandry and water quality, and by

humane transport and slaughter.

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