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Welfare group backed by Carrie Symonds claims fish are 'suffering'

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 06/03/2021 Sean Poulter Consumer Affairs Editor For The Daily Mail
Carrie Symonds talking on a cell phone: MailOnline logo © Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo

An animal welfare group backed by Carrie Symonds is calling for action to tackle fish suffering, including efforts to protect their mental wellbeing. 

A study published by the group threatens to upset Britain's millions of hobby fishermen by raising concerns about hook injuries and stress.

Even the stocking of ornamental fish, such as goldfish and koi carp in garden ponds, can be a source of suffering, it is claimed.

The group, the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, argues the welfare of fish has not been given the same attention as other animals.

It adds: 'Stereotypes of fish as unintelligent and unsophisticated have prevented this from happening before now. It is time the question is shifted from whether fish can suffer, to how we are going to protect their interests given they can.'

Carrie Symonds holding a sign: Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, backed by Carrie Symonds (pictured) is calling for action to tackle fish suffering © Provided by Daily Mail Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, backed by Carrie Symonds (pictured) is calling for action to tackle fish suffering

The 'Fish Welfare' study is calling for a major reform of how British fishermen operate, including a ban on certain types of large trawlers and industrial fishing techniques.

It also warns of a need for safeguards around a booming industry of land-based fish farming, where a wide range of fish are reared in large concrete tanks.

The report warns: 'High stocking densities can have serious negative effects on fishes' mental wellbeing as well as physical health.

'For example, high stocking densities result in lesions, both through aggression and due to fish constantly rubbing against each other.'

Both the Prime Minister's partner, Carrie Symonds, and his father, Stanley, are patrons of the group. 

It also backed by a number of senior Tory figures, including Environment minister, Lord Zac Goldsmith, the former Food and Farming Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers MP, Sir Roger Gale MP, Sir David Amess MP and Henry Smith MP.


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Carrie Symonds has long been a supporter of animal welfare issues. 

Earlier this year, she was appointed the new head of communications at the Aspinall Foundation, animal conservation charity, which runs Port Lympne and Howletts wildlife parks in Kent.

The report states: 'The UK was one of the first countries to enact animal welfare legislation, and to this day

stands as one of the strongest countries for protecting farmed animal wellbeing. However, fish have typically been left out of this progress.

Stanley Johnson et al. posing for the camera: Both the Prime Minister’s partner, Carrie Symonds, and his father, Stanley, are patrons of the group © Provided by Daily Mail Both the Prime Minister’s partner, Carrie Symonds, and his father, Stanley, are patrons of the group

'Today, the UK farms an estimated 28 to 77 million fish and catches a further 1.5 to 2.7 billion every single year, with close to no regulation on the treatment of these animals.

'The scientific community found evidence for fish sentience over two decades ago, and now this is broadly recognised by consumers.

'Seventy-six per cent of people in the UK believe the welfare of fish should be safeguarded to the same extent as other animals farmed for food.'

The study argues: 'Fishing gear was not designed with fish welfare in mind, and frequently stresses, injures, and kills fish before slaughter.'

It calls for the phasing out of beam trawling, which drags nets supported by a beam along the sea floor, and demersal trawlers, which are better known as 'super trawlers' and operate in a similar way.

The study raises concerns about baitfish, which are caught or farmed in order to be used as bait for the target species.

It complains: 'Baitfish often spend days or weeks in crowded confinement before being hooked or thrown into the water. Either of these outcomes involves prolonged fear, stress, and physical injury.'

On fish farming, the study argues that a high death rate among salmon is evidence of poor rearing conditions, stating:

'Mortality rates average 12-18per cent for 'adult' salmon in Scotland. To put this in perspective, typical mortality rates in the UK poultry sector are 2-3per cent.'

Significantly the report raises concerns about recreational fishing, saying: 'It is also worth noting that fish welfare issues are not confined to the food sector. There are also considerations to be made as to fishes used in other sectors, as well as for recreational purposes.

'In recreational fishing, fish suffer from hook injuries, stress, and crowding when stored in buckets. Although no official statistics have been obtained, it is unlikely that every angler properly stuns the fish they catch to eat, meaning that fish may still be conscious while asphyxiating or being gutted.'

And for those who have fish ponds, it says: 'For ornamental fish, import and transport cause serious harm as they are deprived of food and oxygen while being stored and handled roughly in small plastic containers for days at a time.'

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