Bpex responds to animal welfare charity’s complaint

Bpex has denied accusations that it misled the public by advertising Red Tractor pork as high welfare pork. Responding to the claims made by animal welfare charity Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), the organisation said: “Red Tractor pig farmers are proud of their welfare standards and we stand by the statement in our adverts.”

“For the past 12 years pig farmers in the UK have operated to welfare standards that the vast majority of other European countries have failed to match,” the Bpex statement added.  “Even today, two-thirds of all pork and pig meat imports to the UK from the EU would be illegal to produce in this country. The higher costs of producing to higher standards have led to a 40% reduction in the number of pigs reared in the UK with many farmers going out of the business in the face of these cheaper imports.

“The Red Tractor mark is the most recognisable and widely available on-pack food assurance mark in use today. It allows shoppers to make an informed choice between pork that meets high standards of welfare and that which does not. By raising awareness of the Red Tractor standard, our campaign aims to encourage more shoppers to choose high-welfare pork, which over time will help improve welfare standards further.”

CIWF lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) last week, arguing that the Red Tractor standard did not match the EU’s high welfare standards, and that pigs in the UK were not always given enough space or appropriate playing material.

In a letter to the ASA, CIWF said: “We understand that around 80% of British pigs are reared within the Red Tractor scheme. Some of these will be reared in higher-welfare outdoor, free-range systems. However, many will inevitably be kept in crowded barren pens with no straw or any useful and legally required enrichment material. They will be unable to carry out key natural behaviours. Many will be tail-docked. The majority of Red Tractor sows will be confined in restrictive farrowing crates when giving birth and suckling their piglets.”

A CIWF spokesperson said: “We are not attacking British pig farmers, we fully support those using higher welfare systems. And we recognise that welfare standards on many British farms are higher than those in other European countries. However, British consumers are increasingly concerned with the welfare of their meat products and the Red Tractor Standards are not high enough to be able to label all their pork ‘high welfare’.”

Pig welfare standards in the UK have been higher than in most other European countries since sow stalls – keeping sows virtually immobile during pregnancy – were banned in 1999.

> Red Tractor standards revised