Rewe, the German retailer, has announced plans to no longer use pigs castrated with anaesthetic for its own-label fresh meat.

The company said the "unprecedented and pioneering" move would come into force at the start of 2017.

"We already now have alternative methods which can save the animals from the painful procedure. Together with our suppliers, we are now starting a strategy process with the aim to ban the pork from our range," Dr Klaus Mayer, Rewe's director of quality management, said.

The decision is part of a wider programme Rewe has drawn up on sustainability in its animal supply chain. Rewe said it wanted to work with suppliers to build on its existing efforts on animal welfare.

The retailer said its new "mission statement" would be based on the "five freedoms" for animal rights drawn up by the UK government.