The move came following an outburst from farming leaders who slammed the documentary as being ‘sensationalised and inaccurate’.
The BBC has been forced to amend its footage which portrayed Hungarian calves being exported to north Africa as being from Scotland.
The move came following an outburst from farming leaders who slammed the BBC’s Disclosure: The Dark Side of Dairy documentary as being ‘sensationalised and inaccurate’.
NFU Scotland (NFUS) put in an official complaint to the Corporation in regards to the standards of the reporting involved, which has since seen P&O Ferries pull the plug on calf exports from the region.
Scotland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Sheila Voss was the latest to speak out with a public letter suggesting much of the commentary around the practice ‘could be politely referred to as alarmist’.
Writing in The Times, she said: “As Scotland’s chief veterinary officer I want to reassure the public that Scotland has a responsible dairy industry that cares about the welfare of these animals and is subject to the highest standards of welfare as regulated by European law.
“There are small numbers of calves being transported to Spain for fattening and production. These are male dairy calves which otherwise would have no productive purpose in Scotland.
“Some reports have distorted the reality of these journeys.”
It followed a request for anyone with evidence to disprove livestock in Scotland is treated to the highest possible welfare standard to come forward.
The Scottish government said it was concerned at P&O’s reaction, which said: “We will not hesitate to act decisively and close the account of any customer which breaches our policies in this area.”
Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon said there was nothing that suggested any harm had been done or there was any breach of welfare standards by those transporting the 5,000 calves last year to Northern Ireland, Ireland or continental Europe from Scotland.
She said the issue of male dairy calves was a ‘very complex’ and ‘not a black and white situation’, something also reiterated by NFUS.
NFUS president Andrew McCornick said the Union believed the BBC had not properly portrayed the true agricultural industry and there was no evidence to indicate the journeys were subject to that kind of treatment.
“The distressing scenes were those of cattle being shipped onto boats, which we discovered were obtained in Romania and were Hungarian cows,” he said.
“NFU Scotland has the utmost faith in the Scottish government and their Chief Veterinary Officer to ensure that Scottish dairy bull calves being exported are done so to the highest of welfare standards and regulations.”
A BBC Scotland spokesman said although it removed the 10 seconds of footage for iPlayer and any future rebroadcast, no-one had ‘disputed [...] that 5,000 calves were exported from Scotland last year, primarily to Spain’.
The programme also did not claim any of the animals shown in the disputed sequence were Scottish, he added.
“As was stated clearly in the programme, while we cannot be 100 per cent sure Scottish cattle are among those exported in this way, equally it cannot be ruled out as they have entered the general market,” the spokesman said.
“It was entirely legitimate to explore the question of what could happen to live animal exports that originated in Scotland if they leave the EU.
“We stand by our journalism and the public interest issues it has raised.”