Unfortunately the fabled 'Red Tractor Label' just isn't the shining beacon of tip-top animal welfare (and meat-eater get-out-of-jail-guilt-free card) that people like to think it is, and that the meat industry would very much like us to think it is too. In fact, research has shown The Red Tractor Label 'lays down the lowest animal welfare standards of any quality mark'. Often Red Tractor just means 'the same as the minimum legal requirements'. Not great.
What Is It?
The Red Tractor Label is the UK's largest animal welfare scheme and is supposed to certify, and assure consumers, that the animals on the farm that produced the product have been 'well cared for' (their words, not ours).
Think of it as a badge of honour designed to conjure up those pictures you see hanging over the meat aisle in supermarkets - you know - the ones where a tweed-clad, smiling farmer is standing proudly in front of a sunny pasture full of cows he'll eventually slaughter. Soooo wholesome.
The Big Red Problem
The headline here - that not many people seem to realise - is that The Red Tractor scheme was actually set up by the National Farmers' Union and is owned by them and other industry bodies, such as Dairy UK. This means the group of people that make up the board, and who are subsequently responsible for developing Red Tractor's standards, form a veritable 'who's who' of the industry's biggest meat moguls.
To put this in perspective, one of these board members is the agricultural director of the largest producers of chicken, duck and turkey products in the UK. Their farms have been exposed time and again for animal cruelty, concerning conditions and therefore - you guessed it - violations of Red Tractor standards. Several of these farms have been stripped of their Red Tractor accreditation after persistent undercover investigations and public pressure by some fantastic campaigners, such as Viva.
To quote Ed Winters, from his fantastic book 'This is Vegan Propaganda' (we highly recommend giving it a read):
"Are we really expected to believe that an audit from an inspector is going to provide any real accountability for a farm that is owned by a company whose agricultural director also sits on the board of the organisation that is auditing it?"
We've made a handy flow chart so you can really see how problematic this scheme is.
The Other Big Red Problem
Red Tractor plasters their label so proudly on products you'd think they were totally reinventing the very definition of animal welfare. Their whole website is page after page of how GOOD they are for farmers! How GOOD they are for you! How GOOD they are for Britain! If this is the best Britain can do, then we're already packing our bags, because it's downright disgraceful.
The truth is that Red Tractor's oh-so-holy 'standards' only meet the most basic animal welfare criteria required by law in the UK (which let's face it - is pretty grim).
So really, 'Red Tractor Certified' just means 'Animal welfare on our farm MEETS THE BASIC MINIMUM - GO US!'
And obviously as stated above, often even this isn't true, as Red tractor are continually revealed to have stamped their approval on farms that are exposed keeping and killing animals in absolutely tortuous conditions. Such as Lambrook Pig Farm which was exposed by the Daily Mail to be a 'hell hole' where both alive and dead pigs were found chained, living in tiny concrete pens, covered in excrement. The farm in question had been audited by Red Tractor and deemed acceptable.
The Big Red Punch In The Gut
Ultimately, Red Tractor is NOT ONLY a smokescreen created by the meat-industry to trick consumers into believing the farms they're buying from are maintaining super high animal welfare standards - but ALSO those standards are LITERALLY THE BARE MINIMUM.
So there you have it. Red Tractor is at best a waste of time, a way to normalise (even celebrate) farms making no effort to improve the welfare of their animals more so than what's legally required.
Our take: Red Tractor - Certified Bullsh*t.
If you've reached the bottom of this blog then you care about these really important issues, and you care about changing the lives of animals for the better, just like us. That means you've earned some happy little animals. Enjoy.
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