AFS defends Red Tractor pig welfare standards after complaint

ASSURED Food Standards is standing by claims that ‘Red Tractor pork is high welfare pork’, after an advert containing the slogan was reported to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) has made a formal complaint to the ASA in response to levy body British Pig Executive’s (BPEX) ‘Make the Pork Promise’ poster campaign.

CIWF said the ‘high welfare’ claim on the poster was ‘untrue and misleading’.

It acknowledged that some of the 80 per cent of British pigs covered by the Red Tractor scheme will reared in ‘higher welfare outdoor, free range systems’.

But it said many will ‘inevitably be kept in crowded barren pens possibly without straw or other enrichment material’ and will be unable to carry out key natural behaviours.

It claimed many will have their tails trimmed, or docked, while the majority of Red Tractor sows will be ‘confined in restrictive farrowing crates’ when giving birth and suckling piglets. It also expressed concerns about the use of slatted flooring in pig housing.

Far from representing ‘high welfare’, Red Tractor standards were in fact ‘conditions of very considerable deprivation’, the animal welfare organisation said.

CIWF director of public affairs Joyce D’Silva said: “Red Tractor standards are so minimal that Assured Food Standards cannot claim that all its pork products are high welfare. It is unfair to mislead consumers in this way.”

The ASA will now assess CIWF’s claims, outlined in a four-page letter, before deciding whether to launch a formal investigation.

BPEX and AFS, which runs the Red Tractor Scheme, remained defiant, issuing statements defending Red Tractor pork.

“Red Tractor is proud of its pork welfare standards and we stand by the statement in the advert. Red Tractor pork is high welfare pork,” the statements said.

In a reference to the 1999 UK ban on rearing pigs in ‘stall and tether’ systems, which are still not fully banned across the EU, they said: “For the past twelve years pig farmers in the UK have operated to welfare standards that the vast majority of other European countries have failed to match.

“According to BPEX data, even today, two-thirds of all pork and pig meat imports to the UK from the EU have been produced to standards that would be illegal in this country.”

They said the Red Tractor mark allowed shoppers to make ‘an informed choice between pork that meets high standards of welfare and that which does not’.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Facilities claiming high welfare standards need to be rigorously monitored and enforced to ensure they follow through - they cannot be allowed to make claims that merely pay lip service to animal welfare. The British public is increasingly waking up to the welfare of their farmed animals, and won't be misled.

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