Farm staff were filmed kicking live trout along the floor. Test Valley Trout Farming supplies ChalkStream®, a brand under which fish from the fish farms are marketed. Chalk Stream has received glowing reports including endorsements from Jamie Oliver and Tom Parker Bowles. As I understand it, Test Valley Trout Farming supplies the Ritz and Harrods with rainbow trout via ChalkStream®. Jamie Oliver’s endorsement came after he visited the trout farm and his visit was arranged in advance.
The undercover video was made by an animal welfare campaign group called Viva. I think that the video that they made is on YouTube and I have therefore published it below. I can’t watch it all because it is uncomfortable for me to do so. The Times newspaper reports that it shows several fish with damaged tails, fins and eyes at the Romsey farm and at another farm run by the same company beside the River Itchen Abbas, Hampshire. The video makers say that the injuries could be due to poor handling practices, overcrowding or predation by birds. The first 20 seconds of the video shows horribly injured fish in a messy, muddy tank. Highly unpleasant.
Mr Parker Bowles responded to The Times advances for a comment and said that he had no business interests in the fish farm or connection whatsoever. He thought that ChalkStream® was genuinely ethical and sustainable compared to the “awful, environmentally ruinous farmed salmon industry”. He believes that the video may be selectively edited and therefore may mislead but he did recommend a thorough official investigation.
The RSPCA had approved both the fish farms. They were able to display the charity’s logo which indicated high welfare standards. The RSPCA have suspended their endorsement and state that “fish must not be left to die in air, never be thrown onto solid objects and should be killed humanely without any unnecessary distress or discomfort”.
A spokesperson said that the RSPCA was deeply upset and concerned. The Animal and Plant Health Agency is also investigating the allegations. It appears that they have breached regulations which require that farmed fish “are spared avoidable pain, distress or suffering”.
ChalkStream® are also highly concerned and they expect their suppliers to set high standards and carry those standards out. They have stopped supplies from the farms concerned and are discussing the matter with their suppliers. They said that they will only re-engage them once they have firm evidence that standards have improved and meet their requirements in that regard.
Test Valley Trout Farming said that they are responsible producers of high quality farmed rainbow trout and are disappointed with the Viva film. They believe the film does not represent their operation. They have an open door approach and welcome visitors to their farms each year. They’ve started a full review of their handling procedures. The video, they said, demonstrated unacceptable handling procedures.
Comment: the reference by Mr Parker Bowles to salmon farming is interesting. It seems that what was once regarded as a good alternative to conventional fishing has deteriorated into something which is as bad in terms of animal welfare.