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'Red Tractor' ranked lowest on animal welfare

News Section Icon Published 01/05/2012

The Red Tractor scheme ranked lowest in a new study by Compassion in World Farming and OneKind, and was found often to offer little more on animal welfare than compliance with minimum legislation.

What that means for animal welfare

  • In the case of dairy cows: tethering, year-round housing in zero-grazing systems, the weaning of calves from as young as five weeks, long journeys to slaughter and the live export of calves all achieve the Red Tractor stamp of approval
  • Piglets can have their tails docked and their teeth clipped, while mothering sows can be kept in farrowing crates so narrow, they can't even turn around
  • Broiler chickens can be crammed into sheds at stocking densities that allow very little room to act out natural behaviours such as foraging and dust-bathing, with no restriction on the fast growth rates that cause serious problems such as lameness.

Assured Food Standards allows all of these practices under its "assurance" scheme.

In 2002 Compassion in World Farming looked at the main farm assurance schemes and found that, when it came to animal welfare, Red Tractor assured little more than compliance with minimum legislation. Ten years on, the situation is largely the same.

Our new report: "Farm Assurance Schemes & Animal Welfare - how the standards compare" looks at the main assurance schemes in the UK and rates each one according to what they really mean for the animals used to produce our food.

The report and ratings tables can be found here.

The Soil Association performs best overall across all species covered by the analysis. The Scottish Organic Producers Association and RSPCA Freedom Food schemes also offer significant welfare benefits compared with minimum legal requirements and standard industry practice for all species. There is, however, significant room for improvement for all of the schemes - no scheme currently achieves a "gold" rating overall for any species.

We believe consumers have the right to know how their food is produced. If you agree and would like to support our fight for better labelling of meat and dairy products, please donate today.