Telling Porkies

29 August 2012

Adverts claiming Red Tractor-labelled pork is 'high welfare' have been banned following a complaint from Compassion to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The adverts, commissioned by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), which read: "PORK NOT PORKIES - RED TRACTOR PORK IS HIGH WELFARE PORK" were judged "misleading" in the ruling issued today (Wednesday).

The Truth Will Out

Reacting to the ASA's ruling, Joyce D'Silva from Compassion says: "The truth will out. This is a victory for consumers, who deserve to be able to choose higher welfare meat without being misled. Claims of high welfare are clearly a lucrative marketing tool but in this case they were overblown and misleading to the consumer.

"The "pork not porkies" claim on the advert makes this a particularly embarrassing own-goal for Red Tractor pork.

"This is also a victory for those pig farmers in the UK who adhere to higher welfare standards like the Soil Association's organic standard or the RSPCA's Freedom Food."

An estimated 80% of British pigs are reared within the Red Tractor scheme. While some will be higher welfare, many will inevitably be kept in crowded barren pens, some on slatted floors without straw or proper enrichment material. They will be unable to carry out key natural behaviours and many will have their tails docked.

Red Tractor is a label of Assured Food Standards, a farm assurance scheme that guarantees traceability but little above the minimum legal standards for pig welfare.

Farrowing crates

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 sows.

Many Red Tractor sows will be confined in narrow farrowing crates a few days before giving birth and afterwards, during the three to four weeks in which they are allowed to suckle 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.

But 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."

The provision of bedding material for farrowing pigs is not 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. These floors 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.

Red Tractor no guarantee of high welfare

Joyce adds: "The Red Tractor labelling scheme for pork does not guarantee high welfare and we are delighted that the ASA agrees with us that the claim was misleading. We hope the advertisers will think twice before telling porkies about their welfare standards again."

The full letter from Compassion in World Farming to the ASA can be viewed here ( 147.99KB).

The ASA's ruling can be found on their website:

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