Red Tractor mulls over results of welfare consultation

The decision on whether to extend the Red Tractor Assurance (RTA) scheme to cover the whole life of the cattle, rather than just the 90-day finishing period, is unlikely to be made until August, following the end of a consultation on the proposals.

RTA chief executive David Clarke is currently looking to appoint an independent person to review all of the responses to the proposals, which he admitted had been surprisingly controversial. In February, he told MTJ there had been a “stronger adverse reaction than we had expected”.

Clarke told MTJ: “We are taking the consultation seriously and will very carefully go through all the responses. There have been a wide range of different views expressed and it is important to RTA that we take time to consider all responses very carefully and properly. RTA will appoint an independent person to review all the consultation responses to ensure an unbiased and balanced view. Once that process is complete, the RTA Beef and Lamb Sector Board and the Red Tractor Assurance Board will consider the outcome of the consultation, taking time to reflect and discuss. Only then will any next steps be formally announced. This is unlikely to be before August 2015.”

Clarke explained why RTA put forward the proposals. “People now often attach animal welfare to farm assurance. We want to be certain of the conditions through the lifetime of the animal, not just on the finishing farm.”

But some beef farmers have raised concerns about the plans and, according to a survey carried out by the National Beef Association (NBA), nearly two-thirds opposed the change. The NBA said 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.

However, Clarke criticised the NBA survey, telling MTJ: “The questions were biased towards one point of view, and the people who took part were not representative of the whole industry.”

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