RSPCA attacked for its policy on seal shooting

A group of seals rest on bedrock in Shetland Credit: ITV News

The RSPCA is being criticised for allowing the shooting of seals. Its new welfare standards permit salmon farmers to kill seals that attack fish stocks. The welfare organisation says shooting is a last resort, but it's angered campaigners who want a ban on the killing.

Many Scottish salmon producers work to RSPCA standards. But that doesn't stop them being able to shoot seals. The organisation has just re-written its welfare guidelines - but has resisted growing calls to ban the use of lethal measures to protect fish stocks.

The RSPCA defended its new standards, which continue to permit the salmon industry to shoot seals.

Jeremy Cooper, chief executive of RSPCA Assured, explained its position:

That's infuriated John Robins from the Saves Our Seals campaign group. He told me that he has fought ten years to get the RSPCA to join calls for a ban on killing seals.

He says it is unacceptable that not every salmon producer has installed anti-predator nets, which are a non-lethal alternative to the shootings.

But this is the others side of the story.

One salmon farmer in Shetland gave us these images of fish killed by seals.

And they say non-lethal defences like anti-predator nets don’t always work.

An image that purportedly shows salmon that has been killed by seals. Credit: ITV News
Hundreds of fish that have been killed despite the use of anti-predator nets Credit: ITV News

Supermarkets say farmers have to protect fish from these predators using non-lethal deterrents wherever possible.

And the Scottish Minister for rural affairs, Richard Lochhead told us the number of licenses granted for killing seals is going down.

He told me the government is researching more non-lethal solutions.

While the numbers of shootings is reducing, finding effective alternatives could take years.

Campaigners are angry that in the meantime it likely the seals will still be shot.