If you’re trying to farm or catch fish, it’s very frustrating to see seals scoffing them ... but it’s hardly a surprise. That’s what seals naturally do.

The question is whether you should then reach for your rifle. Though fish farmers, anglers and salmon netters say they only do that as a last resort, they still shot more than 1,500 seals between February 2011 and October 2015.

We reported last weekend on a scientific study suggesting that hundreds of them had been shot inhumanely. They were shot in the neck instead of the head so didn’t die instantly, or they were pregnant or feeding pups that would be left to starve to death.

Today we reveal that six fish farm companies shot 23 seals across Scotland in the first three months of this year. This is despite their promise to cut the killing to zero.

The continued slaughter is not acceptable, and that is why the Sunday Herald has launched a campaign to stop seal shooting. We don’t think that seals are going to be wiped out, but we do care about their welfare.

The way we treat wild animals says something about who we are as a nation, and as a species. The unnecessary cruelty that is currently inflicted on seals in Scotland to protect businesses is impossible to justify.

Sometimes there may be good reasons to control wild animals, but not when there are proven, non-lethal alternatives. It is encouraging that more fish farms are using acoustic deterrents and anti-predator nets, but there’s still some way to go.

It’s not just their public image that fish farmers have to worry about: it’s now their profits. The US – Scottish salmon’s biggest market – has made it clear that in five years' time it won’t be importing fish from countries that licence seal killing to protect fisheries.

Campaigners are calling for the Scottish Government to introduce a legislative commitment to cut seal killing to zero by 2020. That is a sensible aim, which ministers should adopt.