Adverts marketing “high welfare” pork under the Assured Food Standards’ Red Tractor scheme have been banned by the ASA after 207 complaints were made against the adverts’ claims.
Adverts marketing “high welfare” pork under the Assured Food Standards‘ (ASF) Red Tractor scheme have been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after 207 complaints were made against the adverts’ claims.
A poster for Red Tractor pork ran with the tagline: “Pork not porkies. Red Tractor pork is high welfare pork.” The same text was also featured in a banner ad on the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Facebook page and a national press advertisement.
Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) and 206 members of the public complained to the ASA, challenging these claims.
According to CIWF, an estimated 80% of British pigs are reared within the Red Tractor scheme. However, while some are higher welfare, many are kept in crowded barren pens and some are kept on slatted floors without straw or proper enrichment material, meaning they are unable to carry out key natural behaviours.
CIWF also states that many Red Tractor sows are confined in narrow farrowing crates a few days before giving birth and afterwards, causing frustration and stress – “major risk factors for the welfare of sows”.
Responding to the complaints, the AHDB said the higher welfare claims were being made in comparison with EU guidelines as “the Red Tractor accommodation standards significantly exceed accommodation in EU exporting countries.” The AHDB also claims that Red Tractor standards go beyond EU legislation on transportation, general health and hygiene issues, nutrition, water availability and temperature.
However, the ASA chose to upheld the complaints as, despite the higher welfare claims being a comparison with the pork imported from the EU, the claim was not clear enough in the adverts and were therefore “misleading“.
In reaction to the ruling, Joyce D’Silva from CIWF said: “The truth will out. This is a victory for consumers, who deserve to be able to choose higher welfare meat without being misled. This is also a victory for those pig farmers in the UK who adhere to higher welfare standards like the Soil Association’s organic standard or the RSPCA’s Freedom Food.”
Meanwhile, the RSPCA said: “[We] understand that shoppers are being bombarded with different welfare messages in the supermarket and hopefully [this] ruling will help bring some clarity.
“Under the Red Tractor scheme pigs can be kept on bare concrete or slatted floors with no comfortable bedding or suitable materials such as straw to root around in – not conditions which the RSPCA, and many shoppers, would equate with ‘high welfare’.”
The ads will not appear again in their current form, and the ASA has told the AHDB to “ensure that the basis of comparative claims” are made clear in future advertisements.