Two lobbying organisations in Denmark are taking legal action against the country’s pork processor and exporter Danish Crown over its claims of producing “climate-controlled” pigs.

In May, the Climate Movement and the Vegetarian Society of Denmark issued a joint statement backing its claims, which included taking Danish Crown to task over its marketing slogan, “Danish pork is more climate-friendly than you think”.

Both claims amount to ‘greenwashing’ over Danish Crown’s misleading environmental statements, the two-strong group has said, as they threated legal action in an approach to the company in May unless it “denies” the claims, a process that has now come to fruition.

The Green Student Movement also chipped into the May statement, although it is not part of the legal action. “In the Green Student Movement, we are fighting for a new, climate-friendly agriculture. But that is not possible as long as agricultural and food giants are allowed to spend many, many millions deceiving the population into believing that their products are climate-friendly,” spokesperson Mette Susgaard said.

Meanwhile, the local division of Amsterdam-headquartered non-governmental organisation Greenpeace International submitted a separate complaint to Denmark’s ombudsman in June in relation to Danish Crown’s claims.

Greenpeace said in an 18-page document dated 7 June – forwarded to Just Food – that Danish Crown’s marketing campaigns contained “several misleading and unsubstantiated allegations, as well as misleading labelling/certification schemes” in violation of certain sections of the ombudsman’s guidelines on the “use of environmental and ethical claims”.

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A spokesperson for the Vegetarian Society of Denmark confirmed to Just Food that legal proceedings were initiated early in June with documents submitted to the Byretten i Randers city court in Denmark, despite Danish Crown responding to the group.

The spokesperson added the two-party contesting group has four claims against Danish Crown of which the company is disputing two of them, although the representative could not elaborate further due to legal reasons.

“They [Danish Crown] are not trying to get the entire case dismissed,” the spokesperson said, adding that the company “is trying to say we don’t have a legal form of interest in part of it, but other parts of it they [Danish Crown] are not disputing”.

Danish Crown acknowledged Just Food’s request for a comment on the matter but the company had not responded with a statement by the time of publication.

The Randers-headquartered business has made a commitment to reduce its carbon footprint – measured by greenhouse gas emissions – by 50% by 2030 and to become “climate neutral” by 2050.

The company says on its website that its farmers and abattoirs have reduced the carbon footprint from pork production by 25% per kilogram since 2005, verified by what Danish Crown calls a life-cycle assessment carried out from 2005 to 2016, performed on its behalf by the Aarhus University in the city of the same name in Denmark.

A separate online notice reads: “Ninety-percent of our Danish pigs are climate-controlled. This means the pigs come from one of our 950 Danish farms which have signed up to Danish Crown’s sustainability programme, the Climate Track”.

It adds farmers define three-year goals on how to reduce their climate impact and improve in areas relating to the environment, animal welfare and social responsibility.

“Each farmer therefore defines a baseline for CO2 emissions per pig reared, which allows the farmers to assess performance against their own targets. The control is carried out by Baltic Control, an independent third-party provider.”

Commenting in the May joint statement, Rune-Christoffer Dragsdahl, the secretary general of the Vegetarian Society, said: “The major producers of animal foods need to understand that intensive production of e.g. pigs that eat huge amounts of feed can never become climate-friendly.”

And Frederik Sandby, the head of the secretariat at the Climate Movement, said: “The climate movement has long sent complaints to the Consumer Ombudsman with a view to stopping companies from marketing themselves as climate-friendly. Now we are taking a step further, and if necessary we will sue Danish Crown, which in particular has made large campaigns to greenwash their climate-damaging products.”