Ad's claim on pig welfare misled public

Pork adverts which maintained British pigs have "very high welfare standards" were misleading and must not be used again, a watchdog ruled today.

Animal rights campaigners raised objections to the campaign which they said implied all UK pigs were well cared for.

This was upheld by watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has thrown his weight behind the British pork industry which he maintains has generally higher welfare standards that the rest of Europe.

Practices which have been outlawed here such as the use of sow stalls are still commonly used across the continent.

Oliver is also campaigning for clearer labelling of pork to make welfare standards and the country of origin more obvious to consumers.

The advert by the British Pig Executive (Bpex) said: "British pig farms have very high welfare standards, assured by the Quality Standard Mark. And well cared-for animals mean better quality meat."

The ASA found the second sentence would lead consumers to believe all UK pigs enjoyed "very high" standards of welfare.

In fact, the use of practices such as tail-docking and lack of access to straw bedding meant this was not always true, it said.

Bpex maintained the text referred to the standards set out by the Quality Standard Mark rather than the conditions actually found in British farms.

The ASA rejected a second complaint about claims that British farmers face higher costs because of better welfare standards than the rest of Europe.

It said Bpex had proved that group housing introduced by law in 1999 had left British farmers with larger bills than their continental counterparts.

In another ruling published today, the ASA found the National Farmers Union was wrong to claim that 40,000 cattle would be lost to bovine tuberculosis in 2008 "unless action is taken to eradicate TB from infected badgers".

Researchers have not been able to separate cattle to cattle transmissions and those caused by badgers, the ASA said.