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Credit: Corin Smith

Damning footage of parasite-ridden salmon on a Scottish fish farm is some of the most shocking I have seen and has prompted Compassion to renew its call for urgent action to stop the suffering and halt the expansion of intensive fish farming in Scotland.

The film, taken by photographer Corin Smith in late August, shows salmon riddled with lice, red-raw around the gills, crown and face as the parasites effectively eat the fish alive. Taken at a site believed to be supplying major British supermarkets, these harrowing scenes have again brought to the surface the appalling cruelty of these factory farms in the sea.

These latest revelations were posted on investigative website, The Ferret, where I found it hugely moving to read Corin Smith’s own account of what he saw:

“I am forty years old, twenty years born and raised on a working hill sheep farm. I am still an active member of the agricultural community. I am not squeamish or hysterical about the rearing of animals for food,” Smith told The Ferret.

“But I have never in my life witnessed such extensive animal suffering, and over such a long period. At least 40 per cent of stock need [to be] euthanised immediately on the grounds of compassion. Any responsible farmer would do that.”

Fish farming is a serious animal welfare issue that has barely moved in decades.  I cannot thank the photographer enough for bringing this appalling situation to light again. If anything, things appear to be getting worse, with Scottish industry plans to double fish farm production by 2030.

In the light of these latest revelations, Compassion has renewed its call on the Scottish Government to halt any further expansion and to take action to de-intensify salmon farming, reducing the size of the industry in order to start making real progress on these serious animal welfare issues.

Like other factory farms, fish farms involve animals kept in intense confinement – up to 50,000 salmon in a single sea cage. They often suffer blinding cataracts, fin and tail injuries, body deformities, and – as the investigative footage shows so well – infestations with parasites.

Seals are shot as ‘pests’ around salmon farms – credit: Louise Cunningham

These waterborne industrial units throw up other worrying concerns, not least for native wildlife. Huge numbers of fish in one place present an irresistible temptation to seals, as well as to birds, otters and other wildlife.

Some farms consider shooting seals and other wildlife as a legitimate way to protect their stock, a stance that Compassion rejects as being utterly unacceptable.

The true cost of cheap farmed salmon continues to include the killing of seals and tremendous suffering on the part of countless fish.