What does RSPCA Approved mean for improving the lives of farmed salmon?

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If you’re looking for information about how the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme improves the welfare of farmed salmon, we’re here to help.

The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme is just one of the ways in which the RSPCA works to improve the lives of animals that are farmed for food in Australia. The RSPCA Approved certification is a way of demonstrating that a product has come from a farm where animals are raised to our detailed animal welfare standards.

Why salmon? Aquaculture remains one of the fastest-growing animal protein production sectors in the world, so as an animal welfare organisation, the RSPCA considers it critical that good farm animal welfare is seen as a crucial component of this.

Like other sentient animals, fish can experience pain and suffering. So it’s critical that when fish are farmed, their welfare is considered as a priority. Since releasing an animal welfare Standard for farmed Atlantic salmon in 2016, more than 11.9 million salmon have benefitted from better conditions on farm in Tasmania.

If the Scheme is to achieve its mission – improving the lives of as many farm animals as possible, today – it’s absolutely vital that we work with large scale producers to raise the bar and make sure these industries are on a pathway of continuous improvement.

What do the standards mean? Our Standards are animal-specific, comprehensive and publicly available – but in a nutshell, they’re focused on meeting an individual animal’s physical and behavioural needs. So for farmed Atlantic salmon, this means:

  • Access to a quality and nutritious diet,

  • A focus on managing water oxygen levels,

  • Temperature and stocking densities to make sure salmon have the space to swim effortlessly and can perform natural schooling behaviours with other fish,

  • Good management and husbandry to protect salmon from injury and disease,

  • Good stockpersonship with a focus on low-stress handling and animal welfare, and

  • Humane slaughter, including pre-slaughter stunning .

While the RSPCA and the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme Standards are focused on improving animal welfare, we recognise that - like all farming systems - aquaculture does have an impact on the environment. That’s why aquaculture companies participating in the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme, in addition to meeting government regulations, must demonstrate ongoing compliance with a recognised, third-party audited certification scheme that promotes best environmental practice.

How does a producer get the RSPCA Approved certification? By meeting these detailed standards, and being subject to a stringent, ongoing certification program. Currently, there’s only one producer – Huon Aquaculture – who has been able to do this.

This includes frequent on-site assessments to make sure the RSPCA Standard is being met. In 2019, we conducted 18 assessments at Huon salmon sites. Prior to 2019, the company was subject to 31 assessments since their application to join the scheme in 2016.

Of course, the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme is just one of the ways we work to improve the lives of animals on farms. But it’s an absolutely crucial part of our mission – and one that’s always informed by the latest animal welfare science and evidence.

You can read more about the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme for farmed Atlantic salmon, and how the Scheme works, in our detailed FAQs – and you can visit the RSPCA Approved website to read the Standard and other publicly available documentation, as well as information specific to salmon on our Knowledgebase.