Ever since its conception; we have had our doubts and concerns about the Red Tractor ‘quality’ mark. This investigation proves that animal welfare comes way down the list of ethics; yet animal welfare is supposed to be one of the core values when the public buy Red Tractor produce – they are supposed to be getting the best in all areas – one has to ask if the Red Tractor label is really a veil for abuse on farms whilst misleading the British public into thinking it is buying the best welfare practices for animals that are available.
Assured Food Standards is an organisation that promotes and regulates food quality in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. It licenses the Red Tractor quality mark, a product certification programme that comprises a number of farm assurance schemes for food products, animal feed and fertilizer.
All stages of food production are independently certified (inspected) to the Red Tractor standards before food can be labelled with the Red Tractor logo.
The Red Tractor Farm Assurance scheme is divided in different sectors:
- Pigs (Assured British Pigs) – 90% of British pig producers
- Dairy (Assured Dairy Farms – former National Dairy Farm Assured Scheme)
- Beef and Lamb
- Fresh produce
- Poultry (Assured Chicken Production. Members of the British Poultry Council will produce poultry meat to the Red Tractor standard, meaning they are kept in more humane surroundings.)
- Crops and sugar beet (Assured Combinable Crops Scheme)
Investigation pictures – Animal Equality.
Investigation Exposes “Extreme Animal Suffering” at Red Tractor Chicken Farms
Shocking footage from an undercover investigation by the animal protection charity Animal Equality has revealed horrific animal abuse at three Red Tractor-certified chicken farms in Lincolnshire, UK.
The “horrifying conditions and extreme animal suffering” shown in the video include 63,000 chickens all cramped together in double-decker sheds, and chickens living among the dead carcasses of their fellow creatures who had been just left to decompose on the ground.
The investigators, who visited each of the farms several times between February and April this year to carry out covert filming, found workers kicking and abusing chickens and breaking their necks before dumping them to die slowly on piles of other dying birds.
The chickens were forced to live on the ground in their own filth, as none of the sheds had perches, causing many of the birds to have sore, red skin. In addition, some chickens had leg injuries so terrible they were unable to walk or even stand up; and tiny, two-day-old chicks were found panting and straining to breathe — or already dead.
“As our appetite for chicken meat has grown, so has the size of Britain’s chicken farms. Images of distressed birds in giant double-decker sheds will be a shock to many consumers who buy British, Red Tractor-certified meat thinking they can trust its animal welfare standards,” says Dr. Toni Vernelli, Executive Director of Animal Equality UK. “Yet the truth is, the unnatural conditions chickens are forced to endure in these vast sheds are utterly dismal. One meal for us equals a lifetime of misery for them.”
The three farms — Saltbox, Ladywath and Mount — provide chickens for Moy Park, a chicken company that supplies major supermarkets including Tesco, Co-op, Sainsbury’s and Ocado. The farms are all certified by the Red Tractor farm assurance scheme which claims to provide “an easy signpost for consumers looking for British food and drink that they can trust” that is “farmed with care”.
Commenting on the investigation, a spokesperson for Red Tractor told the BBC: “Our own routine auditing of these farms had identified some breaches to our high standards, and we have been working with them to ensure they put the necessary processes in place for them to remain Red Tractor-certified.”
However, Vernelli says that labels and certificates can’t protect animals in the meat industry; only consumers can do this. “It’s easy to make the compassionate choice of leaving chickens off your plate and opting for delicious meat-free alternatives, which are now widely available in supermarkets and restaurants across the world,” he concludes.
The only way to do this is as Mr Vernelli says – leave dead animals off your plate and go for delicious meat free alternatives. As is shown, the high welfare standards supposedly of Red Tractor are in fact, quite the contrary.