NFU calls for BBC apology following unfounded welfare claims

Minette Batters June 2018_55244

The NFU has today written to BBC Radio 4's PM programme after an interview with NFU President Minette Batters yesterday, where presenter Evan Davis made unfounded comments about British farming's animal welfare standards.

Mrs Batters wrote:

Dear Mr Davis

I am writing to complain about the interview on yesterday’s PM programme and the line of questioning that was taken. The interview was proposed to me by producers as a discussion around the Government’s National Food Strategy, yet this simply acted as a pretext for an attack on the livestock sector and meat consumption.

While the Food Strategy was mentioned in the introduction, it was clear from the very beginning that the main focus of this segment was about reducing meat intake and an attack on Britain’s livestock farmers. It is appalling that the Food Strategy wasn’t even mentioned again until nearly six minutes into the discussion, when I myself had to bring the conversation back round to the topic I was invited on air to discuss.

My main objection to the interview was your comment on British farming’s animal welfare standards:

“Yes but they’re not good. Come on, let’s be honest. You wouldn’t want us to go around showing people pictures of what goes on in a farm would you?”

This statement was based on absolutely no facts or evidence and was frankly shocking to hear. Comments like these are hugely damaging to farming families across the country who make animal welfare their top priority. As I mentioned on the programme, hundreds of farmers across the country take part in Open Farm Sunday every year, which invites the public onto farms so they can discover more about farming in Britain and how their food is produced. This event took place only a couple of weeks ago with over 360 farms opening their doors to around 230,000 people. The fact that Britain is leading the way on animal welfare standards is widely recognised across government, with Defra Secretary Michael Gove describing British farming standards as “world-class”. It is therefore wholly inappropriate for such unfounded claims to be broadcast on the BBC.

While I appreciate your public reply on Twitter that your “clumsy expression gave the wrong impression”, it doesn’t undo the fact that millions of people were fed a misleading and untrue statement as fact. There will also be many people who listen to your show that don’t follow you on Twitter, so I urge you to offer an apology to farmers on tonight’s programme.

I note that you said you had been on farms before and would be interested to hear when the last time was. If it had been recently you would have seen first-hand the high levels of animal welfare that farmers in Britain adhere to, and understand that your comment portrayed a completely inaccurate picture of British farming.

I would like to reiterate my invitation for you to visit my farm and I truly hope you take me up on my offer. I would be more than happy for you to broadcast the programme from there.

I look forward to hearing from you and I hope to see you on my farm in the near future.

Yours sincerely

Minette Batters

President

View a copy of the letter here.


Last edited on: 28:06:2019

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  • Posted by: peter gantlettPosted on: 03/07/2019 23:53:26

    Comment: I listen to radio 4 a lot and I would rate Evan Davis as one of its best presenters . While I agree that his question was " clumsy " , it needs to be put into context of the whole, very balanced, program. I see no benefit to attacking Evan Davis, and is likely to be counterproductive , some times a dignified silence speaks volumes!
  • Posted by: Mac YoungPosted on: 06/07/2019 11:23:19

    Comment: Couple of points, has there been a suitable response from the BBC? If not there are certainly grounds for a formal complaint.
  • Posted by: Christopher SturdyPosted on: 06/07/2019 17:14:39

    Comment: Well done Minette - the best President ever, and I thought very highly of Peter Kendall.
    Dignified silence simply means they get away with this sort of thing time and again; they believe this stuff - it's one of the many urban 'religions'. We had this from a local BBC radio station digging for dirt on a charity we have been involved in for 35 years. Anything for a sensational story, absolutely regardless of the truth, and regardless of the effect on our donors, and therefore on the charity's beneficiaries, and it is as Minette writes, extremely shocking. It leaves you in blazing rage with a very fast heartbeat - that their reporting could have sunk to this level. I bet you they won't apologise, won't do a programme telling it how it is, and won't visit her farm; the producers and editors - not necessarily Evan Davis - will be far too arrogant to climb down like that, especially for farmers - ugh, imagine it, us the metropolitan BBC apologising to farmers?

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