A trout farm which supplies fish to high-end shops has been stripped of its RSPCA Assured status after allegations of cruelty.

Test Valley Trout's Island farm has lost the status, which allows companies to market and label products as RSPCA backed, as a sign of animal wellbeing standards being met.

It comes after animal rights campaign group Viva filmed undercover at several local farms and made claims about workers being cruel to fish, or even leaving dead fish to rot.

The RSPCA investigated four farms in total based on Viva's allegations - these were Test Valley Trout’s Itchen Abbas, Romsey and Island sites, and Trafalgar Fisheries’ Barford site.

After a "rigorous" in person assessment, the RSPCA found no breaches at the Itchen Abbas, Romsey and Barford sites.

However it has now decided to strip the Island farm of its RSPCA assured status. 

The trout farms supply supermarkets and retailers including Waitrose, Abel & Cole, Harrods and Fortnum & Mason.

In response to the RSPCA's continuing investigation, a spokesperson from Test Valley Trout Farming said, before the news of the Island site losing its status: "Test Valley Trout Farming Ltd has been working incredibly hard with the RSPCA to restore assured status across the group.  

"We are pleased with the progress and very grateful for the support we have received locally."

Note: This RSPCA update came in after the Advertiser's print deadline this week on February 11, 2021. The print edition still refers to the Island farm being under investigation. This article updates readers with the outcome of that investigation.

The RSPCA statement in full

·  We were deeply upset and concerned by some of the footage. It is totally unacceptable for fish to be treated this way 

·  We started an investigation as soon as we were made aware of the video and suspended four farms from the RSPCA Assured scheme, pending investigation. These were Test Valley Trout’s Romsey, Itchen Abbas and Island sites and Trafalgar Fisheries’ Barford site 

·  However, following rigorous in-person assessments by one of our specially-trained assessors - and a further detailed review of the footage - we are fully satisfied that there is no evidence of any breaches of the RSPCA welfare standards, or RSPCA Assured requirements, at three of the farms (Barford, Romsey and Itchen Abbas). Therefore, we have lifted their suspension. As an extra precaution, however, they will all be subject to further additional visits over the coming months

·  Following our investigation into Test Valley’s Island site, we have now removed its RSPCA Assured certificate. This means it is no longer a member of the scheme and therefore cannot label or market any trout as RSPCA Assured

·  Any allegations of animal welfare issues, or breaches of the RSPCA Assured membership agreement, are not tolerated and we take them very seriously

·  One case of poor farm animal welfare is one too many but, thankfully, welfare concerns on RSPCA Assured certified farms are extremely rare, and many millions more farm animals are having a better life thanks to the work of the charity.