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NFU president slams 'abhorrent' Countryfile reporting

Farmers, including NFU president Minette Batters, took to social media to vent their fury about ’unbalanced’ reporting in an episode of the BBC’s Countryfile.  

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NFU president slams 'abhorrent' Countryfile reporting

The segment showed an interview with a vet turned vegan activist who shared her experiences of the pressure to ‘preserve clients’ reputation’ at the cost of animal welfare, with producers giving less than a minute of airtime to a Royal Agricultural University vet to counter the claims.

 

The programme angered farmers and industry representatives as it implied vets were complicit to welfare abuse and failed to address instances where farmers and vets worked together through assurance schemes to maintain and improve welfare standards.


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Reacting on Twitter, NFU president Minette Batters labelled the interview as an ‘abhorrent piece that was not a true reflection of British farming and animal welfare standards’.

 

She added: “The BBC and Countryfile have blood on their hands and there are real life consequences from the words they use.

 

“I will never, ever condone poor animal welfare but the British consumer deserves to hear the truth.”

 

Other farmers tweeted:

 

 

 

BBC Response

A BBC spokesperson said: “Like all BBC Countryfile investigations, the piece was balanced and thoroughly researched.

 

"Both Red Tractor and the National Pig Association were approached for interviews but both declined.

 

"We did include a written statement that Red Tractor had given us and included a range of views, including from David Maine, Professor of Animal Welfare at the Royal Agricultural University in Gloucestershire.”

NPA Response

 

The NPA ’felt the challenge was directed squarely at Red Tractor and the vet profession’ but gave the BBC a ’statement which did not feature in the segment’.

 

The statement said: "The National Pig Association is immensely proud of the high standards on pig farms in the UK, which are robustly assessed and audited through voluntary assurance schemes such as Red Tractor and RSPCA Assured.

 

All commercial pig farms that are part of these schemes are routinely visited and audited by vets and independent certification bodies who understand the seriousness of their role and, together with pig farmers, are acutely aware of the consequences of not upholding the standards set.

 

"In addition, vets have a professional responsibility with regard to the animals in their care and are of course bound by a code of conduct.

"Every sector in society has its challenges however, and so it is vital that issues are appropriately addressed when raised.

 

"We believe that assurance bodies and the veterinary profession have worked very hard to put in place a raft of measures to ensure that the standards are upheld.

 

"As an industry we continue to strive to provide a good standard of animal health and welfare on all pig farms and seek to improve wherever possible."

 

Red Tractor response

A spokesperson for Red Tractor said:"Red Tractor is extremely disappointed with the representation of British farm assurance standards on BBC Countryfile.

“After comprehensive discussions with the show’s researchers, it became clear that the item was not going to be fair or balanced and the decision was taken to not offer a Red Tractor spokesperson to be filmed, but to provide a detailed brief and statement.

 

"This decision was mirrored by every other industry body approached.”

BCVA response

The British Cattle Veterinary Association has announced it remains ’supportive’ of food standards schemes such as Red Tractor as they are an ’integral way to enable consumers make healthy choices that uphold animal welfare in this country’.

 

Nikki Hopkins, BCVA president, said: "Over the years I’ve seen how these standards have helped to demonstrate British farming’s commitment to high welfare – and enabled consumers to select food produced to those high standards.

 

"Our job as farm vets is not to stand by where welfare is compromised.

 

"In farm animal practice, the relationship between vet and client is exactly that – a relationship and a commitment to work together for the benefit of the farmer, vet and most importantly the stock. No farm vet should feel under any obligation to sign a certificate they know to be undeserved due to outstanding welfare issues."

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