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BBC under fire over ‘sloppy’ reporting on livestock emissions

The report stemmed from the back of the government’s announcement of a net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions target by 2050.


Lauren   Dean

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BBC under fire over ‘sloppy’ reporting on livestock emissions

A beef and sheep farmer has questioned the BBC on its reporting that ‘more than half of emissions come from animal products’ following a radio bulletin targeted at the under-25s.

 

John Jessop, who farms a pedigree Angus grass-reared herd and an extensive sheep flock at Carthorpe House Farm, Bedale, North Yorkshire, said the actual nine per cent figure had been ‘rounded up to the nearest 50’ through ‘sloppy’ reporting.

 

The report stemmed from the back of the government’s announcement of a net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions target by 2050.


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The presenter on BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat 15-minute lunchtime programme on Wednesday June 12 said, following a clip of cow mooing: “What will 2050 be like? Well, food wise, probably less of that. More than half of emissions come from animal products so, more fruit and veg for me.”

 

Mr Jessop said while nothing similar had been reported on the BBC News website, there was reference to the Climate Change Committee’s May 2019 report.

 

‘Populist views’

“Chapter seven basically said that in the UK in 2017, output of greenhouse gases [from agriculture] was 45.6 metric tonnes out of about 506 – which was nine per cent – and if you dig down further then a lot of that is being released from peat which there is nothing anybody can do about,” he said.

 

“When you dig down into it, ruminant livestock was about 50 per cent of that agricultural output, which is 4.5 per cent. That is a country mile off 50 per cent.”

 

Mr Jessop said this was also without mentioning carbon lock-up by grassland and crops, and that when cows eat they are part of the carbon cycle.

He wrote to the Newsbeat team to ask for clarity on the facts, ‘instead of populist views’.

 

He added: “They are just demonising meat-eating and there is no science behind it at all. If you are eating responsibly and naturally reared livestock products then there is no problem at all.

 

“It is not just because we are farmers – nobody wants to hear that sort of inaccuracy in any sort of news item. It did make me wonder if the lass reading it out was a vegan.”

 

A spokesperson from BBC Newsbeat added: “During a report on proposals to deal with climate change we mistakenly omitted a key word when quoting research from the Science Journal.

 

“We should have said: ‘More than half of food emissions come from animal products’ rather than just emissions.”

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