Food assurance scheme Red Tractor could increase the number of unannounced inspections following the release of undercover footage showing abuse at one of its certified pig farms.
The footage, released by animal rights campaign group Animal Equality, shows a Bedfordshire pig farm committing harrowing acts of violence and neglect on its pigs.
According to the organisation, Rosebury Farm in Dunstable is the sixth Red Tractor approved pig farm that Animal Equality has exposed animal suffering at in under a year.
The footage shows a worker swinging piglets by a back leg and smashing their head against the wall, and pigs being shocked repeatedly with an electric prod to force them onto the slaughter truck, many prodded in the side and neck in violation of UK law.
Veterinary expert Professor Andrew Knight confirmed the footage showed “inhumane handling and killing of piglets” as well as “excessive and inappropriate use of an electric prod likely to cause pain and fear.”
Following release of the footage, Red Tractor has withdrawn the farm’s assurance certification.
The farm assurance label has also set up a “task force” to consider introducing unannounced inspections carried out without notifying farmers in advance, The Times has confirmed.
The Times has also revealed that only one in 1,000 farms certified by Red Tractor received an unannounced inspection last year.
Peter Stevenson, chief policy adviser of Compassion in World Farming, told the paper: “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.”
A Red Tractor spokesman said the health and welfare of animals is “crucial” to the farm assurance scheme and to the British public.
“In common with many facets of life the Red Tractor scheme is only as strong as its weakest link. To maximise its effectiveness we undertake 60,000 inspections each year that we believe to be robust,” the spokesman said.
“On occasions a small minority of farmers may breach the rules and by doing so are cheating the system that is designed to re-assure the public. This behaviour will not be tolerated by Red Tractor and those discovered are removed from the scheme as was the case with Rosebury Farm.
“Red Tractor work to ensure the highest standards are maintained and the British public can be confident that the vast majority of our farmers are proud of the work they do, producing great food for us all to enjoy.”