Agricultural groups including the NFU and National Beef Association have joined dozens of farmers in registering formal complaints about the BBC One documentary Meat: A Threat To Our Planet?, which they say is evidence of anti-farming bias.
The groups described the programme, which looked at livestock systems in North America, Brazil and South Africa, as ‘nonsense’, while an open letter from AHDB, Quality Meat Scotland and Welsh meat promotion agency Hybu Cig Cymru said the red meat industry was being used as a ‘scapegoat’ in discussions around carbon emissions.
The documentary also claimed the meat industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the transport sector, which in the UK context is false, with total UK agriculture emissions at 10 per cent, compared to 27 per cent for transport.
National newspapers including The Guardian and The Times have since published supportive reviews of the programme, describing it as ‘vital viewing’ and ‘guaranteed to put you off your chicken nuggets’.
The National Beef Association said: “To our industry, the programme quite clearly demonstrated why we should buy British as we are aware of how different UK livestock production systems are to those elsewhere in the world.
“However, we feel this point was not made clear in any way to viewers, some of whom have little understanding or experience of agriculture, and the content of the documentary could have a potentially damaging public perception of all red meat.”
NFU president Minette Batters suggested the core message of the programme was ‘cheap food comes at a price’.
AHDB’s head of environment Jonathan Foot also weighed in, saying the documentary makers had ‘missed a massive opportunity’ to present a solution to people who wanted to enjoy meat but were concerned about the environment.
“The programme failed to highlight meat provides a protein-rich source of food which, weight-for-weight, can be produced on a smaller area of land than the equivalent plant-based diet,” he added.
Farmers on social media were equally angry, calling on their followers to ‘flood’ the BBC’s inbox with complaints, while others invited presenter Liz Bonnin, who has given up red meat since recording the show, on to their farms to see how things are done in the UK.