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'Pork Not Porkies' Plastered Across the UK

21 October 2011

UK - Compassion in World Farming has made a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority as the campaigning charity questions the validity of Assured Food Standards’ current advertising campaign.

Hundreds of "Pork Not Porkies" posters plastered across the UK claim that pork stamped with a Red Tractor logo, is high welfare pork. Having considered the Red Tractor standards, Compassion feels the adverts to be untrue and misleading.

It is estimated that around 80 per cent of British pigs are reared within the Red Tractor scheme (Rural Voice, 2011). Some of these will be reared in higher welfare outdoor, free range systems - systems and farms that Compassion supports. However many will inevitably be kept in crowded barren pens possibly without straw or other enrichment material. They will be unable to carry out key natural behaviours and many will have their tails trimmed, or docked. The majority of Red Tractor sows will be confined in restrictive farrowing crates when giving birth and suckling their piglets. Red Tractor pork cannot therefore be described as being "high welfare" and Compassion believes it is unfair for farmers who rear their pigs to a genuinely high standard to be labelled with the same stamp.

Joyce D’Silva, Director of Public Affairs at Compassion in World Farming says: "We are very surprised by this claim from the Assured Food Standards. Many consumers look to labels such as The Red Tractor and trust that they are buying products from animals that have been treated well and raised humanely. However, Red Tractor standards are so minimal that it cannot claim that all its pork products are high welfare. It is unfair to mislead consumers in this way."

In addition to issues with tail docking and the provision of material such as straw for the pigs to root around in, Compassion is particularly concerned about Red Tractor’s guidelines on the use of slatted flooring and farrowing crates for new mother pigs.

Many Red Tractor sows will be confined in narrow farrowing crates a few days before giving birth and afterwards during the 28 days in which they are allowed to feed their piglets. A 2007 Opinion by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) highlighted that frustration and stress due to insufficient space and lack of foraging and nest building materials are major risk factors for the welfare of sows in farrowing crates. However, The Red Tractor standard allows the use of such farrowing crates: "Sow farrowing crates must be of a length that allows the sow to lie within that length, but not of such an excessive length that the sow may injure herself with excessive free movement."

Worse still, provision of bedding material for the farrowing pigs is not even compulsory in the Red Tractor standard: "In the week before the expected farrowing time, sows and gilts must be given suitable nesting material in sufficient quantity unless it is not technically feasible for the slurry system used."

On top of this, according to Red Tractor’s guidelines, pigs can be kept on slatted floors which provide an uncomfortable surface and mean that the pigs’ natural instincts to root and rummage around in materials such as straw and hay are thwarted.

The conditions outlined in Red Tractor’s standards do not represent "high welfare" but are in fact conditions of very considerable deprivation.

The full letter from Compassion in World Farming to the ASA can be viewed here. To make a complaint visit www.asa.org.uk and fill in the easy to use complaint form.

TheMeatSite News Desk



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