Red Tractor Improve Your Standards

The Red Tractor label does not ensure adequate (or even legal in many cases) welfare standards on their accredited pig farms. Too many pigs on these farms are routinely (illegally) tail docked and are deprived (illegally) of bedding for them to root and manipulate. Red Tractor have opened a public consultation (deadline 5 March) asking farmers, retailers, NGOs and others for their responses to proposed changes to their standards. Please respond to this consultation by asking Red Tractor to improve their standards. We have compiled template responses that you can copy and paste.

Respond to the Red Tractor Consultation

Go to this consultation link to get started:

Red Tractor Consultation

The consultation asks you to respond to questions using ‘agree’, ‘disagree’, ‘partially agree’, or ‘N/A’ tick boxes. In many cases the options to ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ is not an appropriate response. For example, “Sows must enter farrowing crates a minimum of 3 and no more than 7 days prior to their expected farrowing date”. In this case we do not think farrowing crates should be used at all. Instead, check all boxes ‘N/A’ and make relevant comments in the ‘other’ box. You can simply copy and paste our template responses below. Use your own words if you prefer, or have anything to add.

1. Please tell us a few things first.

About yourself – If the first six options do not apply to you, then choose ‘other’ and paste into the box: As a consumer and member of the public, I am affected by food, farming and animal welfare standards and I feel I have the right to respond to this consultation.

2. Have your say on the next chapter of the Red Tractor story

Select ‘pigs’ – The information in this consultation guide applies to ‘pigs’ only.

3. Pigs

We have no comments on the first four topics of the ‘Pigs’ consultation, so scroll down to ‘Housing, shelter and handling facilities (HF)’.

Housing, shelter and handling facilities (HF)
Farrowing crates are inhumane and should be banned in the UK as they already have been in Sweden, Switzerland and Norway. Farrowing crates are metal cages usually with a bare concrete/slatted floor, so narrow that sows cannot turn around, and can only stand up and lie down with difficulty. These cages deprive pregnant sows of natural behaviours; they cannot explore, exercise, forage or socialise. Farrowing crates deny pigs of four out of the five freedoms listed by the Farm Animal Welfare Council and adopted by the RSPCA and the 2020 DEFRA Code for the Welfare of Pigs:

Freedom from hunger and thirst
Freedom from discomfort (denied in farrowing crates)
Freedom from pain, injury and disease (denied in farrowing crates)
Freedom to express normal behaviour (denied in farrowing crates)
Freedom from fear and distress (denied in farrowing crates)

Minimum space requirement – Pigs should have enough space to express their natural instincts to move around and root in deep straw. The following space requirements, per head, should be applied to indoor farms:

Piglets – 0.6 sq m
Up to 50 kgs – 0.8 sq m
Up to 85 kgs – 1.1 sq m
Up to 110 kgs – 1.3 sq m

Feed and water (FW)
I recommend that Red Tractor ensures that the pig feed on accredited farms is sourced locally and ideally from within the UK. Imported GM feed (e.g. soya and maize) should be banned and as much as possible pigs should be free to root in the soil and grass.
Animal health and welfare (AH)
Tail biting/tail clipping/teeth clipping – The health of pigs is directly related to the intensity of their housing and provision of legally required manipulable materials. Adequate space and rooting materials are, when used efficiently, preventative measures to tail biting and the subsequent clipping of tails. Routinely cutting off pigs’ tails is illegal and is not an adequate response to the issue of tail biting as it does not address the root causes of this behaviour.

Handling – No stockperson with historical violence or evidence of animal cruelty should be employed. Training should be completed before handling livestock. The use of blunt instruments should be prohibited and pigs, if they need to be lured, can be lured using food.

Independent auditing – The AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board) is recommended as the provider of handling courses, and that assessments are carried out in line with the AHDB Pork protocol. Considering that the Red Tractor brand is in part owned by the NFU, who also owns the AHDB, I suggest that the Red Tractor seeks independent organisations to provide these services.

Vet Checks -I suggest that checks are done randomly, and unannounced and the findings made available to the public. If the checks reveal non-compliance I suggest the farmer should take immediate remedial action or face expulsion from the scheme.

Manipulable material – The law requires that all pigs must have permanent access to enrichment materials which provide pigs with the opportunity to enable proper investigation, manipulation and foraging activities. Enrichment materials should enable pigs to fulfil their essential behavioural needs without compromising their health. They must be safe, hygienic and should ideally have the following characteristics: a) edible— so that pigs can eat or smell them, (possibly with some nutritional benefits); b) chewable— so that pigs can bite them; c) investigable— so that pigs can investigate them; and d) manipulable— so that pigs can change their location, appearance or structure . The material must be safe, hygienic and ideally should be straw, and dried grasses, such as hay in sufficient quantities and regularly replenished.

Husbandry procedures (HP)
Tail biting – Finishing units should not accept any pig that has had its tail docked without evidence of significant efforts to mitigate tail biting, including reducing the stock rates significantly.

Nose ringing – Nose ringing should not be permitted because it prevents outdoor pigs from exhibiting natural behaviour.

Biosecurity and disease control (BI)
Factory farms are intrinsically bio-insecure because diseases can be spread by insects and rodents that enter the buildings.

Pigs in factory farms are immunocompromised by overcrowding, stress and toxic stench from faeces stored in tanks under the floors. They are far more likely to fall ill than pigs that are kept outdoors, or indoors with adequate space and bedding.

Mass sharing of data about the well being of pigs is crucial although concentrating on one certifying organisation ie. Red Tractor is problematic – particularly an organisation that is so closely connected to the NFU and intensive pig farming.

Animal medicines (AM)
Routine prophylactic antibiotic use for growth is illegal in the UK, but metaphylactic (preventative) routine dosing of antibiotics is still widespread on industrial, indoor pig farms. Metaphylactic use of antibiotics to prevent diseases induced by overcrowding and stress from spreading throughout intensive housing contributes to the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistant diseases that spread from pigs to humans. Pigs kept outdoors, or indoors with adequate space and bedding are healthier and rarely need antibiotics.

Livestock transport (LT)
Increased journey times typically result in lower welfare standards, and so journeys should aim to be as short as possible. All necessary arrangements should be made in advance to minimise the length of the journey and to meet the animals’ needs during the journey, such as rest breaks and feeding.

Journeys over 8 hours should have a continuous water supply.

Ensure a lower stocking densities in high temperatures.

Animals need sufficient headroom to ensure adequate ventilation and to enable them to stand comfortably in their natural position.

Care must be taken to ensure that animals that are ill or injured are not transported, and are
fed and rested. Moreover, injured animals should be carefully handled so as to not cause pain
or suffering.

Environmental protection (EC)
Now that 58% of England (and all of Wales from 1 April) has been designated a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) I recommend Red Tractor takes steps to ensure that accredited farms comply with the Nitrate Action Programme. Measures that the law requires include not spreading slurry when there is a risk of Nitrogen getting into surface water, or when the land is waterlogged, flooded, snow covered, or has been frozen for more than 12 hours in the previous 24 hours. Red Tractor accredited pig farms should also comply with the law that prohibits spreading slurry from 1 September to 31 January depending on soil types and whether the land is under grass or tillage.

I recommend that Red Tractor provides accredited pig farmers with detailed training on how to comply with the NVZ Action Programme, and that appropriate measures are taken to reduce Nitrate pollution such as increasing the area on which slurry is spread, or reducing the stocking density, and that implementation is a condition of membership of the Red Tractor assurance scheme.

Outdoor pigs (OP)
I recommend that pigs should be kept outside, whenever possible, foraging on grass or on fields that have been harvested for cereals or root crops, should not be alone, should not be on bare, denuded soil, have an enclosed shelter (arc) with adequate straw for rooting, comfort and for nest-building before farrowing.

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