The RSPCA has launched a campaign calling for better EU laws to protect pig welfare.
The Rooting for Pigs campaign wants to see a review of welfare within the EU and the UK pig industry.
It also wants a legal set of definitions for product labels to be compiled so consumers understand the way pigs are produced.
The campaign’s launch came after a survey by the RSPCA found most shoppers were confused about the conditions in which pigs were reared.
Only 2% of consumers understood terms such as free-range, outdoor bred and outdoor reared.
Julia Wrathall, RSPCA head of farm animal science, said the public was concerned about animal welfare, but terms used on product labels confused shoppers.
“It is essential that all pigmeat is clearly and consistently labelled to allow consumers to make an informed choice,” she said.
“There is no industry-wide agreed definitions when it comes to labelling, in contrast to eggs and chicken, which do have legal definitions at EU level for terms such as free-range.”
Dr Wrathall said the RSPCA had asked supermarkets and other retailers to work with the industry to develop and sign up to a voluntary labelling agreement.
It also urged the public to show their support for the industry by buying the highest welfare pork they could afford.
“The pig industry has been one of the most proactive of all UK livestock sectors in seeking ways to progress the health and welfare of animals,” Dr Wrathall said.
“However, even in the UK where industry practices go beyond EU legal requirement in key welfare areas, some pigs are kept in ways that fail to meet their needs.
“If consumers want to support higher welfare production they should look out for meat labelled with the RSPCA’s Freedom Food logo,” she added.
The campaign has been backed by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, whose programme looking at pig welfare, ‘Jamie Saves our Bacon’ will be aired on 29 January.
“The public needs clearer labelling when it comes to meat, particularly pork and bacon, as the variation in pig welfare across Europe and the world is so diverse,” he said.
“How may people outside of the industry know the difference between outdoor bred and outdoor reared? Not many.”
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