The Advertising Standards Authority has rejected complaints by vegan campaigners who said TV adverts for the Red Tractor food scheme were misleading.
The complaints involved two TV adverts for the Assured Food Standards’ Red Tractor Scheme, which were screened in September 2018.
The first advert showed a red tractor towing a number of trailers, which included a family at a kitchen table, cows in a pen and vegetables being grown.
A voice-over said: “Behind a Red Tractor is peace of mind when putting food upon your table. UK farmed, meticulously checked, just look for the Red Tractor label.”
See also: Video – FW columnist Josh Dowbiggin takes on hardcore vegan
‘Thousands of checks’
It continued: “There are thousands of checks, thorough, widespread. From crop stores, to chicken sheds, cows and sows and what they’re fed. Fruits, roots, vegetable beds.
“So from field to basket it feels fantastic to know we’re always there to ensure your food is traceable, safe and farmed with care. Just look for the red tractor.”
The second advert showed a red tractor towing a trailer of a family at a kitchen table.
It featured a voice-over, which said: “Behind a Red Tractor is peace of mind when putting food upon your table. Traceable, safe and farmed with care, just look for the red tractor label.”
Some 28 complainants and the Viva! Vegan campaign group, who believed that the Red Tractor scheme did not guarantee animal welfare, challenged whether the ads were misleading.
In response, Assured Food Standards said Red Tractor food and drink could be traced from farms to pack and every stage of the supply chain was certified to its standards.
Robust on-farm standards were based on scientific evidence, farming best practice and consumer demand – including substantial animal health and welfare standards, it said.
Whilst no scheme could guarantee a particular level of welfare or that all food was risk-free, those standards were independently checked regularly by experts.
To be Red Tractor certified, farmers and food processors were required to sign an agreement giving inspectors access to their farm and business any time unannounced.
Assured Food Standards also said there were robust food safety and bio-security standards and procedures in place to help minimise any risk to consumers.
Any issues were dealt with in a robust manner, it added.
The adverts were also checked by Clearcast, which checked them against the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising setting out what is and isn’t permitted.
Clearcast said it understood Assured Food Standards did more checks than anyone else in the industry.
It acknowledged things could go wrong, but the checks minimised the risks and instilled consumer confidence.
Clearcast said it also felt that the visuals in the ad were a fair and representative way of showing what Assured Food Standards did.
In its ruling, the Advertising Standards Authority said it recognised that what constituted an appropriate degree of animal welfare on farms was a subjective issue.
But it said it considered in the context of the adverts, viewers would understand that the scheme had enforceable standards in place that went beyond those required for the farming of livestock.
Information provided by Assured Food Standards demonstrated that standards had been put in place for livestock, crops, dairy products and other fresh produce, said the authority.
It also acknowledged a veterinary health plan in place for pigs and procedures covering the whole of the production cycle, with similar checks for beef and lamb.
The authority said it considered the scenes in the adverts were representative of the conditions under which cows and chickens would be kept.
Standards were in place for Red Tractor produce that went beyond those required for livestock farming – and an inspection scheme ensured adherence to those standards, it added.
The authority said: “We concluded that the ads were not misleading.”