Compassion in World Farming releases controversial Salmon Welfare Scorecard

A Cooke employee with a farmed salmon.

Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) has released the first edition of its new salmon welfare scorecard. 

The U.K.-based non-governmental organization, which advocates for animal welfare across a number of agricultural sectors including in the aquaculture sector, announced the launch of the scorecard in May 2023 at Seafood Expo Global in Barcelona, Spain.

The Salmon Welfare Scorecard assessed some of aquaculture’s biggest companies, including AquaChile, Bakkafrost, Cooke, Grieg Seafood, Cermaq, Mowi, SalMar, and Leroy, together representing more than 50 percent of production of the 400 million salmon produced via aquaculture globally in 2022. The scorecard paints an unflattering picture of reporting in the salmon aquaculture sector, but the organization hopes it will prompt better reporting practices in the future.

“This new Salmon Welfare Scorecard aims to provide meaningful engagement with the salmon industry, fostering transparency across the supply chain. It will enable producers to report authoritatively on salmon welfare and provide a basis for rewarding better policy and practice; all with the aim of improving the welfare of farmed salmon,” CIWF Global CEO Phil Lymbery said.

The scorecard is based on CIWF assessments gleaned from publicly available company information, which is then scored across 13 welfare parameters, including stocking density, humane slaughter, sea lice infestations, and mortality. Numeric scores are not calculated; rather, results are provided in a table comparing the companies using a five-color scale from red (limited reporting) to green (detailed, best-practice reporting). The format allows users to see company scores across the criteria and how well the group is performing across the welfare parameters.

The scorecard does not assess the veracity of the welfare practices carried out by the companies. Instead, the scorecard measures how well companies report on animal welfare practices.

We measure the value of their public policies (i.e. they score more points for having a policy on stocking density specifically, for example). We also weight topics which are more important for animal welfare. We don't evaluate the actual performance indicators,” CIWF told SeafoodSource.

Producers were provided an opportunity to weigh in on the report’s original findings and update any publicly available information prior to publication, but Cooke Vice President of Public Relations Joel Richardson said his company did not see engaging with CIWF as worthwhile.

“Cooke does not participate in NGO ranking schemes that lack credibility and sound evaluation processes. This is the case with the U.K.-based animal welfare group Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) and their new ‘salmon welfare score card ranking,’ which is based solely on a cursory review of company’s website content,” Richardson said in an email. “The CIWF approach, identifying topics to rate and then visiting websites to complete a rating, is not a robust assessment of the work, thought, and effort invested into animal care. No credible seafood stewardship/sustainability organization assesses and ranks both publicly traded and privately-owned companies based on a cursory review of their website content. But that’s what CIWF does in their scheme – which is why Cooke does not participate in their ranking.”

Richardson said his company encouraged greater investment in the welfare of farmed salmon and corporate transparency about their processes, but sees the scorecard as misrepresenting their efforts and commitment.

“We understand that consumers decide on what foods to purchase that match their family’s taste, values, and budget. That is a great thing, because providing quality care to our animals is a top priority for our people too,” Richardson said. “All Cooke farmed and wild seafood divisions have achieved a wide array of credible certifications and recommendations which include animal welfare assessments and CIWF fails to consider them. In addition to certification programs, we operate under strict regulations with government and veterinarian oversight.”

CIWF has made the Salmon Welfare Scorecard methodology publicly available. It covers the assessment process, a description of the parameters used, and the calculation of scores used in the process.

“The fish industry has yet to fully embrace transparent reporting of their welfare policies and practices, even their positive ones, which would enhance their relationships with crucial stakeholders,” the report said. “Investors and companies are keen for producers to improve transparency in their production standards, as evident from the industry’s engagement and positive response to the scorecard.”

Photo courtesy of Cooke Inc.


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