Red Tractor Scheme for Pigs
Red Tractor is the largest food scheme in Britain and it is managed by limited company Assured Food Standards (AFS), and owned and funded by the British farming and food industry. The flag logo on Red Tractor approved meat indicates the origin of the food. The flag relates to the chain of production of the food so, for example, when there is a Union Flag, the meat is from Britain. Meat from all parts of the EU can be labelled with the Red Tractor logo using the appropriate flag if they ‘meet the same or equivalent standards’ (www.redtractor.org.uk/quality-and-provenance).
The Red Tractor scheme reflects standard industry practice in Britain. Some of the standards benefit animal welfare by going beyond minimum legislation, such as prohibiting surgical and chemical castration of ‘meat pigs’ and the requirement for on-farm health and welfare monitoring (135).
However, in some circumstances the standards inadequately reflect the legislation, such as provision for manipulable material for pigs. Straw or other bedding material does not have to be provided, even in the lying area (136). The scheme recommends environmental enrichment ie straw or other material but then gives the ‘cop out clause’ by saying ‘Objects such as footballs and deformable-plastic pipe can be used’. The scheme also allows pigs to be kept on concrete slatted floors (135).
Red Tractor allows the farrowing crate - a gross welfare assault on the welfare of mother sows and their piglets. Nesting material is recommended but does not have to be provided if the slurry system doesn’t permit it; in fact very little environmental stimulation has to be provided. Sows can be put into farrowing crates seven days before farrowing and stay there until weaning is completed (which means sows are in crates five weeks at a time). The crates must only be of a length to allow the sow to lie down and stand up, and the Standards state that the space allowed sows should ‘not to allow excessive free movement’.
The tail docking, teeth clipping or grinding of pigs is allowed under the Red Tractor Assurance Scheme as long as it is carried out ‘as a last resort’ and ‘not routinely’. This is the same as Defra codes – however, most indoor pigs are mutilated as it is legal! Concrete slatted floors are allowed and bedding is only necessary where floors cannot be drained.
Nose ringing of outdoor pigs is allowed. The purpose of the ring is to cause pain when the pig roots for food – that is how it prevents or reduces the pigs from rooting and digging.
The Red Tractor scheme base their space requirements for intensively produced pigs on that of the minimum requirements of The Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 (SI 2007 No. 2078, Schedule 8).
Minimum permitted space allowances for growing pigs are:
Average live weight (kg) minimum total floor area (m2/pig)
Pens used to house a group of sows/gilts can have sides of only 2.8 meters in length. Pregnant animals have 0.95m² per gilt and at least 1.3m² per sow (135). They spend their life in this miserable small space pregnant, then five weeks in a crate, and then back to this small space – until they are killed.
Viva! investigated Poplar pig farm, near Hull, in 2015 where piglets were crammed together in the equivalent of battery cages, three tiers deep. The only ‘enrichment’ afforded to some of these pigs was a chain dangling from the wire mesh above. The farm was Red Tractor approved and supplied Morrisons supermarket. This investigation was reported in the Daily Mail (136).
Piglets in cages at a Red Tractor approved farm in 2015 (see Appendix One) © Viva!
Piglet fallen though the cages at a Red Tractor approved farm © Viva!
Elsewhere on the Red Tractor farm, Viva! documented farrowing crates, rotting piglets, ‘rape racks’, and a pile of dirt or faeces in one corner crawling with flies and maggots
Similarly to the RSPCA, the Red Tractor scheme does not guarantee high welfare. It guarantees implementing a weak, ineffective law which basically states that pigs should have space to turn around, lie down at the same time and have a dry lying area and little else.