Pig welfare in the spotlight

Posted on the 30th August 2012

The ‘high welfare standards’ of pigs reared under the Red Tractor scheme have been called into question after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned three adverts that trumpeted standards on British pig farms.

The adverts were commissioned by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), an umbrella organisation for the British Pig Executive.

Following a complaint by Compassion in World Farming, the ASA ruled that the adverts could mislead the public into thinking that pig welfare in Britain was better than it is.

The Red Tractor Assurance scheme asserts on its website ‘When you choose Red Tractor, you’re choosing high animal welfare standards’, but this scheme has long been criticised as meaningless, since most British farms are members of it.

Under the Red Tractor scheme, pigs can be kept on bare concrete or slatted floors without bedding or material to root in. This is not the first time that the British Pig Executive has made welfare claims that do not compare favourably to reality.

Between April 2008 and January 2009, Animal Aid visited seven farms owned or run by five directors of BPEX to see what standards they adhered to, and whether these bore any relation to a series of adverts being placed in the press at the time. One advert showed a pig in a large and clean straw-filled pen out in the sunshine. The text read: ‘Pig farmers in the UK already face higher costs than those in Europe, largely due to our higher standards of pig welfare.’ Another advert featured pigs living outside under a huge sky. The text read: ‘The logo at the bottom of this page, the Pigmeat Quality Standards Mark, is proof that farmers care about the welfare of their animals.’

On farms run by the BPEX directors we found a very different reality. Among the scenes filmed by Animal Aid were: pregnant and nursing sows incarcerated in farrowing crates; dead, sick and dying piglets littering the pens; animals wading through filth or living in utterly barren environments; a lack of bedding; and a lack of environmental enrichment, despite the law stating that this must be provided.

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