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BBC responds as Countryfile comes under fire for ‘controversial’ dairy bull calf story

Dairy farmers have criticised the programme’s comments about dairy bull calves being shot at birth.



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‘They would rather be controversial than positive’ - Countryfile under fire for dairy bull calf story

Countryfile has come under fire following its programme suggesting tens of thousands of dairy bull calves were routinely shot at birth.

 

Dairy farmers have criticised the programme and NFU dairy board chairman Michael Oakes, whose farm was featured, said he had taken part to try and turn them away from a negative story and highlight farmers were using sexed semen and raising cattle for beef.

 

It also showed Ahimsa dairy in Rutland, a ’slaughter-free’ dairy farm - where cows ’retire’.


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Mr Oakes said: “They approached us looking to do a story saying there are tens of thousands shot at birth.

 

“We tried to turn them away from that story. If no one had spoken with them, it could potentially have been even worse.”

 

Wrong impression

 

Mr Oakes said the programme seemed to have given the impression to his non-farming friends, it was standard practice to shoot bull calves.

 

But he said he never shoots them on his farm.

 

“In the past, there have been occasions where we have only just covered cost. We made a decision, instead of producing surplus heifers, to move to sexed semen for our own herd. The rest, we cross with British blue or Hereford.”

 

He added the NFU had done its own research and from travelling around the country he only knew of one farmer who regularly shot bull calves at birth.

 

“He takes the view they are more trouble than they are worth to rear. That is only one farmer as I travel around the country,” he said.

 

“I could not do that.”

 

He added he was disappointed as the programme had an opportunity to portray the industry in a positive light.

 

“They are always looking for a controversial story, they would rather be controversial than positive.”

 

BBC response

 

A BBC spokesman said: “The primary focus of the films was to highlight the work being done by the industry to give value to dairy bull calves.

 

“The report presented a balanced look at the topic and the information featured was sourced from contacts within the dairy industry and those involved in dairy/beef integration.”

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