April Fool’s Day – Don’t Be Fooled by the Red Tractor
When vegans first turn towards the compassionate lifestyle we are usually met with what I refer to as ‘tuts and buts’.
Any explanation we give to the inquisitive meat eater seems to warrant loud tutting of the teeth and sentences starting with ‘but this’ or ‘but that’, all with the implication that we are some sort of a fool!
The irony is, when we finally go vegan it’s usually the eye-opening moment where we are finally free from being fooled by the animal agricultural industry.
A major masking of this industry is the Red Tractor scheme that was launched by the National Farmer's Union with the original idyllic logo known as ‘the little red tractor’. It was supposedly created for consumers to be able to buy meat from the supermarkets and be assured that the farm practiced the highest welfare standards.
“Getting involved with the Red Tractor scheme promotes your business, telling your customers that they can trust your food. Get Red Tractor assured today.”
On the surface, this sounds like a good thing, something not to question. But by digging a little deeper and asking simple questions, you will soon find that they are of course fooling us all.
Red Tractor was founded in the year 2000 and up until February of this year, only one in 1000 inspections were unannounced. It has taken them 19 years and an exposé published in The Times to consider inspecting their "higher welfare farms" without prior warning. This means that the farms undergoing an inspection were given notice and had plenty of time to hide anything that would not meet the standards of the scheme.
So, what are these standards that are being valued so highly by the consumers?
Each farmed animal fits into a different category because Red Tractor has decided some animals deserve better welfare than others.
Looking over some of their standard manuals it is clear that what we would perceive as ‘high welfare’ and what Red Tractor accept at being so, are two very different things. Red Tractor still allows zero grazing for dairy cows, vastly overcrowded broiler sheds, caged hens and de-beaking. They have no problem with farrowing crates or with cutting off pig's tails without anaesthetic. Red Tractor also uses subjective wording such as ‘reduce the risk of’ which implies that farmers need only to show show willing, without enforcing or eradicating poor welfare conditions.
The standards that they are more firm on are simply the basic needs of the animals to survive such as “livestock must be provided with sufficient feed" and “…must have permanent access to water”.
April Fools! Red Tractor is just clever marketing.
I have to give credit where credit is due, Red Tractor clearly have a clever marketing team because I admit it, you had me fooled for years! Now, as more people are starting to question the purpose of the scheme and the vegan community are calling them out on their poor assurances, Red Tractor have upped their game (and their budget!) and launched a huge advertising campaign, costing them a whopping 1.5 million pounds. They mean business.
The misleading advert has resulted in many complaining, including ourselves, to The Advertising Standards Authority, but as expected all the complaints were sadly dismissed.
Red Tractor may have money on their side, but they can't pull the wool over everyone’s eyes forever. As it becomes more apparent that the scheme is simply a money making business, we are making it our business to air the truth behind this trickery.
Don’t be fooled by the misleading marketing and have a fool-free April Fool's Day!
About the Author
Claire is founder of Grow Up Vegan a platform made to inspire everyone and to encourage the younger generation to - Grow Up Vegan! She is our blog writer and creative content creator here at Viva!. Having an extensive background within the vegan community, and being vegan for over a decade, she began her journalism and creative career by writing for a popular well-being company as their 'vegan expert'. Claire now works closely with vegan charities, businesses and activists to spread the vegan message far and wide.