Red Tractor refines pig assurance scheme

Representatives from the pig production supply chain have agreed to refine the Red Tractor (RT) pig assurance scheme.

Meeting at a pig assurance summit at the end of May, delegates agreed to maintain inspection frequency, but introduce more spot-checks and unannounced visits, standardise training and assessors and make it clearer what the penalties for non-compliance are.

They also proposed to set up a service so people could report pig husbandry abuses, to clarify the procedure for emergency euthanasia, and include “Real Welfare” pig observation scores within quarterly veterinary reviews.

Bpex said it would also be including retailers and the foodservice industry in the discussion.

Andrew Knowles, head of supply chain at Bpex, said: “This is about taking stock of the long-term objectives of the scheme – improving the assessment, monitoring and welfare of the pigs, rather than ensuring everyone has the right documents in their office.

“This is not a knee-jerk response to recent negative media reports regarding the Red Tractor scheme.”

Earlier this year, the Red Tractor Scheme was criticised in a new consumer guide review by Compassion in World Farming. There was also widespread negative press coverage over animal rights, after vegan action group Animal Equality filmed pigs being maltreated at Harling Farm, Norfolk.

The Red Tractor Pigs Board and Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) will now review the proposals. The changes could be incorporated within the current standards in early 2013, subject to wider industry and retail consultation, and a three-month implementation period for scheme members.

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