Red Tractor life proposal meets farmer resistance

Beef farmers have raised concerns about plans to extend the Red Tractor (RT) assurance scheme to cover the whole life of the cattle, rather than just the 90-day finishing period. Nearly two-thirds opposed the change, according a survey carried out by the National Beef Association (NBA).

A consultation on the proposals finished on 27 March, and Red Tractor is now reviewing the findings before deciding how to proceed. David Clarke, chief executive of RT told MTJ in February the consultation had resulted in a “stronger adverse reaction than we had expected”.

At the moment, the RT scheme currently only covers the last 90 days of the animal’s life and is focused on the finishing of beef cattle before slaughter. Clarke said this was down to the fact that, when the scheme was set up, the focus was food safety and the finishing period was deemed the area of greater risk.

“The finishing period is critical to the safety of food and that was what we were focused on. But 20 years on and people now often attach animal welfare to farm assurance; it’s not just about food safety, it’s about the animal being kept in good condition throughout. We want to be certain of the conditions through the lifetime of the animal, not just on the finishing farm.”

The survey by the NBA spoke to 523 farmers. Of those, 72% were against whole life assurance, while 23% were in favour. Meanwhile, 76% said they believed it was not necessary for an animal to spend its life on an assured holding to ensure high standards of welfare and traceability were accomplished. And 89% said they believed that the present statutory legislation they work under, from both the EU and UK legislatures, gives consumers all the assurance that they need.

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