Almost 100% of Scottish salmon is RSPCA certified; So why is the charity’s president calling to end salmon farming?

Matthew Wilcox

The RSPCA’s certification of almost all Scottish farmed salmon implies endorsement of the industry as it currently operates. Its president, Chris Packham, a vocal opponent of salmon farming, should consider his position.

Chris Packham, the president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), has become increasingly vocal in his calls for an end to the expansion of the Scottish salmon farming industry.

In a recent newsletter to supporters of Animal Equality (AE), Packham urged them to donate to the charity to halt the expansion of the Scottish salmon farming industry.

Packham described the growing industry as “catastrophic” for fish welfare and Scotland’s environment, citing figures that suggest salmon mortality in the country’s farms hit record levels this year.

He has also accused the SNP and Greens coalition government in Scotland of “riding roughshod” over welfare and environmental issues.

In a recent interview with the Daily Record he said, “If we want fishing communities to thrive, they need investment – but that shouldn’t be in environmentally destructive, inhumane and uneconomic practices.”

Conflicted position

This stance raises eyebrows, given that almost 100% of Scottish salmon is certified by the RSPCA. How can Packham’s position be viable when it seemingly conflicts with the practices of the organization he represents?

“Our detailed RSPCA welfare standards have been developed to represent good practice in the care and welfare of commercially farmed Atlantic salmon at all stages of their lives,” writes the RSPCA on its website.

The charity received £700,000 in membership and licence fees in 2022 from salmon farmers and producers as part of its RSPCA Assured scheme, according to figures given in a recent Guardian article.

Surely the RSPCA’s acceptance of this money indicates a level of endorsement of the industry’s practices.

The head of technical at Salmon Scotland Dr Iain Berrill has responded to the criticism:

“Chris Packham has a significant platform,” Berril told the Guardian. “So it is disappointing that he has included several misconceptions used by anti-salmon activists in this letter.”

An RSPCA spokesperson said that Packham’s letter to AE supporters was written in a personal capacity, adding that his role at the charity was “non governance”.

In a statement, the RSPCA said: “We are proud to have Chris Packham, a passionate campaigner for animals, as our president and we share his desire to create a better world for all animals.”

While Packham’s advocacy for animal welfare is commendable, his position as president of the RSPCA is becoming unsustainable.

This is not just a matter of policy disagreement; it’s a fundamental breach of trust and coherence within the RSPCA. Packham’s continued presence at the helm is a disservice to the organization’s integrity and mission. For the sake of the RSPCA’s credibility and the values it stands for, Packham should go.


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