Many pigs have their teeth and tails cut to prevent them from biting each other © Getty Images
Many pigs have their teeth and tails cut to prevent them from biting each other © Getty Images

Iceland and Asda 'failing on pig welfare'

17 November 2020

Iceland and Asda have ranked lowest of UK supermarkets in terms of ensuring pig welfare in their supply chains, a report has found. 

The report, produced by the charity World Animal Protection as part of its Raise Pigs Right campaign, found that customers of the supermarkets were unwittingly buying meat from pigs that have been subject to piglet mutilations. 

Pigs have had their tails and teeth cut to “prevent them from causing injury and biting each other in frustration when crammed together on factory farms”, the report said. 

“Tail cutting, teeth cutting and castration are very painful, cause a huge amount of unnecessary suffering and should not be routinely carried out. Routine tail cutting is banned in the UK, but a loophole means the cruel practice continues with over 70% of pigs having their tails cut each year,” the report said. 

The report examined public policies and reports on animal welfare, pig welfare, import policies and transparency from the UK's top 10 supermarkets. 

Waitrose ranked the highest at with an overall score 97% for animal welfare, followed by Marks and Spencer at 94% and Morrisons with 91%.

Iceland was the lowest-ranking supermarket, scoring just 13%, and Asda was in ninth place with 44%. 

World Animal Protection said improving welfare, such as giving pigs more space and access to manipulable enrichment like straw, had been proven to reduce instances of biting and therefore reduced the need for routine tail and teeth cutting.

Lindsay Duncan, campaigns manager at World Animal Protection, said: “Not only is it against the law in the UK, but it's just sheer cruelty to mutilate piglets in this way when we know higher welfare practices would make it unnecessary.”

Supermarkets were given the opportunity to update their public reports and policies before the report was published, which has been reflected in the rankings.

As a result, Morrisons has extended its policies to include all pork products instead of just fresh pork, and Tesco has published data on enrichment, for example straw to forage in.

Sainsbury’s has published data on enrichment and castration for its UK suppliers, Aldi and Lidl have published data on castration for their UK suppliers, and Asda has introduced reporting on tail docking within its supply chain.

“While it is encouraging that some supermarkets have taken positive action as a result of the ranking, in the case of the lowest seven supermarkets, this does not go far enough,” Duncan added. 

“Supermarkets have an undeniable responsibility to improve and uphold welfare standards for the animals in their supply chain and their customers have the right to demand that they demonstrate that they are carrying out their policies by regularly publishing data.”

Sophie Throup, head of agriculture, fisheries and sustainable sourcing at Morrisons, said: “Animal welfare remains one of the most important areas our customers think about – and trust us to get right for them. We continue to work hard with our pig farmers and the wider industry to ensure all animals within our supply chain are treated with care and respect. By working together, we hope to keep on improving and raising standards across the supply chain.”

Raise Pigs Right ranking:

1. Waitrose 97%

2. M&S 94%

3. Morrisons 91%

4. Tesco 84%

5. Coop 78%

6. Sainsbury’s 75%

7. Lidl 66%

8. Aldi 56%

9. Asda 44%

10. Iceland 13%

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