Warning: Article contains graphic pictures of animal cruelty
Red Tractor farmers are likely to face more unannounced inspections after serious animal welfare breaches were exposed on an accredited pig farm.
Currently, only one out of 1,000 farms it certifies receives an unannounced inspection.
But Britain’s biggest farm assurance scheme says this is likely to change following the latest breach.
See also: Red Tractor changes its farm standards
Undercover footage obtained by Animal Equality at Rosebury Farm in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, shows workers swinging piglets by their back leg and smashing their heads into a wall.
Frightened pigs are also shocked repeatedly with an electric prod to force them onto a truck. Many are prodded in the side and neck, which breaches Red Tractor standards.
The footage, which was filmed over the past three months, also shows dead piglets littering the floor of the farrowing shed and piglets trapped in crates with dead siblings.
Five inspections passed
The farm had passed five pre-announced inspections in the past year, the most recent being this month.
All the footage was passed to Red Tractor, Defra’s Animal and Plant Health Agency and the RSPCA last week. Red Tractor said it had withdrawn Rosebury Farm’s assurance certificate.
Farmer Michael Thorne, who runs Rosebury Farm, has apologised and admitted “there were shortcomings in the way I managed the farm”.
Jim Moseley, chief executive of Red Tractor, told The Times newspaper: “When independently benchmarked against other global scheme, Red Tractor compares extremely favourably.
“The use of unannounced audits is likely to rise.”
Peter Stevenson, chief policy adviser of Compassion in World Farming, said: “Farm inspections by Red Tractor and other assurance schemes must be unannounced.
“If Red Tractor wants to be taken seriously, it must substantially strengthen its welfare standards.”
Expose ‘blows apart’ scheme
Conservative MEP John Flack, who represents the East of England, said the whole farm welfare assurance system “needs starting from scratch”.
“This is industrial-scale cruelty that shames our region. It blows apart the false reassurance peddled by the Red Tractor scheme, which I see as a cosy arrangement between famers and supermarkets to make soothing but meaningless animal welfare claims,” he added. “The scheme claims to offer a rigorous standards check, but only one in a thousand inspections is unannounced. The rest get plenty of warning to straighten up their act.”
With more than 46,000 members, Red Tractor says it delivers assurances over the traceability and safety of British food.
The Red Tractor logo is used on more food products in UK supermarkets than any other food certification mark. Its annual retail sales value about £11bn.