Following the highly misleading documentary by the BBC, Meat: A Threat to our Planet, NFU Cymru President, John Davies, explains why it has caused so much anger and upset within the Welsh and British farming community. He writes...
I am sure you are all as annoyed as I am at the airing of the BBC documentary Meat: A Threat to our Planet - an hour long programme that aimed, but spectacularly failed, to accurately explain to the British public the environmental impact of eating meat.
Given the anger and upset among the farming community caused by this damaging documentary, I think it’s high time the BBC introduced the same investigative ‘Reality Check’ for its own commissioned programmes as it does for statements made by others who hold positions of responsibility and influence in public life.
The broadcast focussed almost entirely on American production systems that bear no resemblance whatsoever to the farming systems we have here in Wales and across the rest of the UK, leaving the audience with the misleading impression that all meat is produced this way.
The reality of food production here in Wales is very different to the American systems shown in the BBC programme; Welsh and British farmers produce some of the most climate friendly meat in the world and have an ambition to reach net zero agricultural emissions by 2040.
The distinct lack of context in the broadcast meant viewers were not notified that UK beef production systems are 2.5 times more efficient than the global average. Nor were viewers informed that the vast majority of UK beef is produced using grass-based diets, with over 85% of the water used to produce a kilogram of beef coming from rainfall. The programme also failed to convey that 80% of land in Wales is best suited to growing grass; we could not grow other crops on this land. Our livestock are grazing pastures that are valuable habitats for our native wildlife species, protecting soils in Wales that store over 400 million tonnes of carbon and turning inedible grass into high quality nutrient rich beef and lamb, one of the best sources of iron, zinc and Vitamin B.
I am mystified that the BBC would devote the vast majority of its broadcast to showcasing a model and standards that British farmers do not identify with when, in fact, we have such a fantastic, clean, green story to tell here in Wales. In fact, the systems of production portrayed on the BBC merely highlight the very reason why we continue to ask government not to enter into trade deals that would allow food to enter this country that has been produced to standards that would be considered illegal here in the UK.
At NFU Cymru we feel that, not for the first time, our national broadcaster has failed in its duty to bring context to the climate change debate. Once again the BBC has simplified its narrative to infer that reducing meat consumption is the answer to climate change. The fact of the matter is that the UK farming industry is responsible for just 10% of all UK emissions. As a sector we take this seriously and our net zero aspirations show our ambition to play our part in tackling the climate change challenge. However, scapegoating the UK farming industry will not provide the answers to a conundrum that society, as a whole, will need to tackle together.
It is for all of these reasons that we have been left with no choice but to lodge an official complaint with the BBC on the grounds that this report lacked context and misled its audience. We are encouraging anyone who objected to the skewed view of farming in the Meat: A Threat to our Planet documentary to make an official complaint to the BBC. Details of how to do this can be found at www.bbc.co.uk/complaints.
The important message consumers should be getting is they can purchase Welsh produce safe in the knowledge that they are buying a safe, quality and affordable product that has been produced to the highest animal welfare and sustainability standards. We thank consumers for their continued support of Welsh agriculture.