Comment: We got an apology from the BBC – but it took a year

By Aimee Mahony, chief poultry advisor, NFU

If you cast your mind back to November last year, you might recall the anger and frustration in the farming community when the BBC aired its documentary ‘Meat: A Threat to our Planet?’.

From the outset, this programme did not once explain the huge differences between meat production in the USA and South America, which it extensively showed in the programme, and how we farm here in the UK.  

I heard from many poultry producers at the time who were shocked the BBC could air a programme that was so clearly lacking impartiality. They were also concerned that the general public were being shown a picture of farming that was nothing like how we produce food here, which is to some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world.

The NFU felt the same way and complained to the BBC about the lack of impartiality in the programme. Unfortunately, when the BBC failed to provide a timely response it had to be escalated to the broadcasting regulator Ofcom.

We have now had the news that the BBC did uphold our complaint and ruled that the programme did breach its impartiality rules. This is good news, but it is disappointing that it took them nearly a year to make that apology.

One thing the documentary did highlight was some of the standards that other countries produce to and how they absolutely do not meet the same levels required of British farmers or the standards expected by the British public.

It’s this gulf in standards that is driving public support behind amending the Agriculture Bill to include safeguards against imports of food that would be illegal to produce here.

At the time of writing, the Agriculture Bill is heading to the House of Commons for one of the final times. The House of Lords have once again voted in favour of upholding British food standards in trade negotiations, strengthening the Trade and Agriculture Commission and increasing parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals.

There is enormous public support behind all of these principles and I hope MPs have their farming constituents and their high standards in mind when these amendments return to the House of Commons.


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