Compassion in World Farming has accused some leading retailers of selling pigmeat from animals reared abroad in ways that are banned on cruelty grounds in the UK.

Sainsbury’s and Somerfield were singled out by CIWF for selling some own label pigmeat imported from stall systems which have been banned in the UK for over ten years.

Pig welfare levels in the UK are acknowledged to be among the best in the world, with about 35% of breeding units now outdoors and a significant proportion of finished pig output on straw-based systems.

But rising costs and falling returns have taken their toll on the size of the UK pig herd which has dropped by 40% over the past six years.

As a result more than 60% of all pigmeat is now imported of which 80% is sold by the seven major UK supermarket chains.

A Tesco spokesman responded to CIWF by saying: “Animal welfare issues are important and we work hard to ensure the best standards possible, which is reflected in our ranking in this report gaining the best mark of the major supermarkets.”

Sainsbury’s added that they had recently extended their existing welfare requirements for pork, sausages and bacon to include ham.

These standards adopt the principal of “equivalence of standards” for livestock when sourced from abroad.

Recent demands by the National Pig Association for clearer point of sale country of origin labelling would also help to underline the welfare benefits of purchasing UK produced pigmeat.