The RSPCA has defended its policy on the shooting of seals that attack salmon stocks, here are the key points it makes:
No one wants seals to be shot, least of all the RSPCA, but neither do we want hundreds or thousands of salmon - which have the capacity to feel pain - to suffer and die in a seal attack. It’s a welfare dilemma and one which we are working hard to address.
The RSPCA is concerned equally about the welfare of all animals whether they be farmed salmon or wild animals such as seals, which may prey upon them.
All members of the RSPCA Assured scheme must record and demonstrate that rigorous measures are taken at all times to deter predator attacks on their salmon. These measures must - in accordance with RSPCA standards - focus on physical exclusion, including the proper use of acoustic devices, properly tensioned and weighted nets and the efficient removal of dead and moribund fish from the bottom of the nets.
However it is a sad reality of salmon farming - as it is with predator attacks on terrestrial livestock farming - that from time to time a determined predator may be able to bypass all efforts to exclude them and attack on the fish. Such attacks can cause serious welfare problems, with potentially hundreds of fish being killed and/or caused great suffering. In these cases, the predator must be dealt with in a humane way by a suitably trained and competent person.
This method of control must only be enacted as a last resort.
RSPCA Assured scheme members must report any incidents of seals being shot to the scheme management within 72 hours.
If a member of the RSPCA Assured scheme cannot demonstrate that any lethal action was taken only as a last resort, and that all required non-lethal deterrents were in place and fully functional, then the member will automatically be suspended from the scheme.
The number of seals being shot as a last resort is going down. However, the shooting of one seal is still one too many and the RSPCA and its RSPCA Assured scheme are working closely with the Salmon, Aquaculture and Seals Working Group (of which we were founder members) to try and find further new ways to reduce the use of a lethal method of predator control to zero. The Group is made up of concerned animal welfarists, salmon farmers, academics specialising in sea mammals and retailers.
These views do not necessarily reflect those of ITV News