Farm assurer Red Tractor has responded to claims on the front page of today’s Times regarding an animal rights organisation secretly filming alleged animal abuse on a pig farm near Dunstable in Bedfordshire.
A spokesperson for Red Tractor said: “While we appreciate that the images in The Times newspaper may be very distressing, the health and welfare of animals is crucial to Red Tractor and our shoppers.
“Sadly, some animals on livestock farms become too ill to treat. In these emergencies and to avoid unnecessary pain or suffering, farmers using an internationally recognised method and having been trained by their vet are permitted by law to humanely ‘dispatch’ such casualty animals. This is in line with all other assurance schemes including the RSPCA.
“In common with many facets of life the Red Tractor scheme is only as strong as its weakest link. To maximise its effectiveness we undertake 60,000 inspections each year that we believe to be robust.
“On occasions a small minority of farmers may breach the rules and by doing so are cheating the system that is designed to re-assure the public. This behaviour will not be tolerated by Red Tractor and those discovered are removed from the scheme as was the case with Rosebury Farm.
“Red Tractor work to ensure the highest standards are maintained and the British public can be confident that the vast majority of our farmers are proud of the work they do, producing great food for us all to enjoy.”
Local MEP John Flack who is putting finishing touches to a book on animal welfare due to be published in October said: “Accurate and meaningful labelling is essential to give consumers an informed choice about the welfare standards employed in producing their food. Yet they are faced with a bamboozling range of labels and claims, from Assured Food Standard, Pasture Promise and Outdoor Bred to Organic and RSPCA Assured.
“RSPCA assured, for example, does mean a better standard of welfare than the legal minimum, but animals could still be confined indoors for their entire lives. How many of us know that?
“The whole system needs starting again from scratch to give shoppers clear, accurate and meaningful welfare guarantees where they are warranted.”