Memorandum submitted by Seafish
Seafish is a statutory body serving the UK sea
fish industry. We are assisted in this by our Food Legislation
Expert Group which is a cross sectoral group of industry representatives,
from catchers to retailers. Catching sector membership of the
Group includes the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations,
the Scottish Fishermen's Federation and the Shellfish Association
of Great Britain. This submission is on behalf of Seafish and
the Expert Group.
1. The draft Bill is being promoted as extending
the requirements for animal welfare from farm animals to other
animals kept by man, such as pets and zoo animals. The welfare
requirements are framed with such animals in mind.
2. Defra have consulted on their proposals
from January 2002 but did not include Seafish or the fishing industry
in that consultation. Seerad are consulting on similar proposals
and similarly have not included the fishing industry in their
consultation. We were alerted to the existence of the proposals
by the recent media coverage of the Minister launching the draft
3. However, the Bill as drafted will apply
to the commercial fishing industry and it will apply inappropriate
requirements that cannot be met in practice. Defra and Seerad
have now been made aware of this problem and we are engaging with
them. Apparently such impact on the fishing industry was unintended.
4. Article 53 of the draft Bill defines
"animal" as a vertebrate other than man, ie finfish
but not shellfish, although it allows national authorities to
extend this definition. Seerad are proposing to include cephalopods
(squid, etc) and crustaceans (crabs, etc). Article 54 defines
a "protected animal" as including an animal being kept
by man or temporarily in the custody or control of man. It also
defines "kept by man" as meaning if there is a person
who owns, or is responsible for, or in charge of it. From these
very broad definitions it can be deduced that the legislation
will apply to fish (and possibly shellfish) from when they bite
the hook, enter the trap or are herded toward the net, until they
5. Article 1 creates an offence of cruelty
and Article 3 creates an offence of failing to ensure welfare.
The detail of these Articles associated with the offences is that
which is expected for the treatment of farm animals, including
humane slaughter. The extensive powers given in relation to these
offences include in Article 26 the power to disqualify a person
from keeping animals.
6. Essential commercial fishing practices
include catching fish on hooks or in static nets, either of which
are set for extended periods, trawling and the handling in bulk
of the fish caught. It is difficult to envisage how this industry
could comply with the welfare expectations for farm animals.
7. The current Protection of Animals Act
1911, as amended, applies only to domestic and captive animals
and so does not apply to the capture of wild fish by the commercial
fishing industry. It also specifically permits dealing with animals
for food, provided that this does not cause unnecessary suffering.
8. The human health benefits of fish consumption
are increasingly being recognised and consumer demand is strong.
Even if these inappropriate welfare rules were applied in the
UK to the detriment of our own fishing industry, demand would
increase our already large imports fish from all around the world
which is caught and handled according to normal fishing practices,
over which we have no control.
9. Therefore our conclusion is that fishing
must be exempted from the inappropriate new requirements of this
25 August 2004