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'My shock and disappointment at Evan Davis' comments was clear to anyone listening'

In over 20 years of media interviews, I have never experienced one quite like I did with Evan Davis on Radio 4’s PM programme last Thursday, writes Minette Batters.

The interview was meant to be a reaction to the newly announced Government National Food Strategy, yet it soon became clear that this simply acted as a pretext for an attack on the livestock sector and meat consumption.

 

While the line of questioning itself was incredibly frustrating, it was nothing compared to Mr Davis’ completely unfounded suggestion that animal welfare is so bad that farmers ‘wouldn’t want us to go around showing people pictures of what goes on in a farm’.

 

My shock and disappointment at his comments was clear to anyone listening and it was shared by many of you who took to social media to share your disbelief and frustrations at his comments.

 

It was down to this instant and overwhelming reaction that the programme revisited the topic on Friday’s show and it was good to hear Evan Davis put his self-confessed “clumsy expression” right.

 

However, we didn’t get a response to my invitation to broadcast the programme from my farm and I will be following this up with the BBC.


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It would be unfair to say this bias pervades the entire BBC – it’s currently the only broadcaster that devotes a significant amount of time to farming and rural issues.

 

It’s also wrong to say that the farming industry is not up for challenge or rational debate.

 

But if such a large broadcaster continues to address massive issues like food security, standards and the problems of feeding a growing population through only one lens of whether we should eat less meat it misses the point.

 

Does this approach really help the national debate about one of the most important issues our country faces: How will we feed Britain in the years to come?

 

As frustrating as that experience was, the fact is that public support for farming has not been higher for years.

 

Last week’s Farmer Favourability survey shows that 86% of the British public want to maintain our high production standards in future trade deals, and it is striking that Donald Trump’s visit to the UK, sparked a further 2,000 people to join the NFU’s campaign to Back British Farming in just two days.

 

Over the past six months the NFU has been in regular contact with BBC and in March I met with senior BBC figures about how they can take a more balanced approach when it comes to food and farming.

 

There are real and pressing challenges which BBC News should be reporting on. It’s up to us as farmers to keep reminding them of this alongside showcasing our high standards and environmental delivery. I will be doing just that.

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