Scenes of animal cruelty filmed on a Bedfordshire farm have exposed the “false reassurance” created by Britain’s biggest welfare labelling scheme, campaigning MEP John Flack has said.
He spoke out after animal welfare campaigners, Animal Equality, exposed a case of “industrial-scale” abuse on a farm in his constituency in Dunstable – despite it being certified by the Red Tractor scheme.
The scheme – set up by the NFU and major retailers – claims to offer a “cast iron guarantee” of good animal welfare. The certification scheme was established in 2000 and covers animal welfare, food safety, traceability and environmental protection. It claims that all the major UK supermarkets use its standards as the basis for their UK sourced food.
Footage secretly filmed by Animal Equality at Rosebury Farm, Dunstable, showed dead piglets on the floor of a birthing shed and live adult pigs crammed on top on one another in tiny pens. In the video, the pigs are repeatedly jabbed with an electric prod and a worker is seen swinging piglets by their back legs to smash their heads against a wall.
Flack, Conservative MEP for the East of England, said that the whole system needed to “restart from scratch” and give consumers an “informed choice about the welfare standards employed in producing their food”.
He said: “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 farmers and supermarkets to make soothing but meaningless animal welfare claims.
“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. The charity Compassion in World Farming quite rightly insists that only spot checks are effective.”
Flack added: “There is clear evidence here of a range of abuses including casual use of an electric prod which is illegal – so I hope and expect that those responsible will be prosecuted with the full force of the law.”