Madox Farm, the Welsh dairy farm that was exposed in a BBC’s investigative program Panorama titled “A Cow’s Life: The True Cost of Milk?” in February 2022, which showed footage of workers abusing the cows, has now been certified again by Red Tractor after the certification was removed because of the exposé. This is just another example of how the idea of “high animal welfare standards” farm certification schemes promote is just a marketing tool to sell more products. 

The footage used by the BBC was taken by an undercover investigator from Animal Equality. He recorded workers frequently kicking and hitting cows with their fists and with shovels as well as leaving a sick cow to suffer for at least 24 hours instead of paying for a vet to euthanise her immediately. Red Tractor, the farm certification scheme that is supposed to certify only the best farms, swiftly withdrew the farm certification claiming that this was due to “breaches of Red Tractor standards and the law, demonstrating a systematic disregard for animal welfare by those with a duty of care.” They now say they recertified the farm because of “evidence of corrective behaviours, the delivery of specific conditions and the likelihood of more frequent audits or spot checks.”

Animal Welfare certifications like the Red Tractor scheme are simply part of “welfarewashing” to reassure customers that begin to realise that buying products from the animal agriculture industry is unethical. Red Tractor standards are just a little above the legal minimum standards required by the UK Government, but besides this, Animal Equality has investigated 26 farms accredited by Red Tractor since 2017 and has consistently found farms breaking the standards that Red Tractor sets, as well as breaking the law. In 2017 and 2018, Animal Equality investigated six pig farms certified by Red Tractor and found legal violations in all of them. On Hall Farm in Norfolk, they found female pigs caged in tiny ‘sow stalls’ for days on end, which has been banned in the UK since 1999. On Rosebury Farm in Bedfordshire, they found pigs being shocked repeatedly with an electric prod to force them onto the slaughter truck, many prodded in the side and neck in violation of the law.