The Soil Association – the UK’s largest organic farming charity – has been forced to apologise after suggesting that non-organic farms abuse livestock and are bad for animal welfare.

The organisation used Twitter to make the claim in a tweet that said: “Millions of animals are abused in pursuit of cheap food, but there is another way.”

Soil Association tweet

The tweet linked to a video and a webpage arguing that “low welfare is still the norm” on non-organic UK farms and urging people to donate to the Soil Association.

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The Soil Association subsequently deleted the tweet, but not before infuriating farmers – including some of the association’s own supporters. They took to Twitter to express their anger.

Eventually, the Soil Association deleted the original tweet and issued an apology. It said: “We apologise for the misunderstanding caused by a recent tweet.

“Animal welfare is an emotive subject and we were trying to convey a very complex message in a short space, and we didn’t do a good job.

“In the pursuit of cheap food, more than 80% of animals raised in the EU each year are factory farmed, where they can’t exhibit their natural behaviours.

“This is a problem with the system, not individual farmers. We recognise that most farmers, whether organic or not, care deeply for their livestock.

“The demand for cheap food means that the scale of these indoor, intensive farms is increasing, pushing out smaller family farms to make way for industrial systems that affect local communities and the environment as well as the animals themselves.

“We want farmers to be paid fair prices, which will allow all farmers to farm in ways where animals have a good life. This is why we’re campaigning for higher animal welfare.”