Legal Issues

Farmers accuse BBC of pro-vegan bias

BBC's impartiality in its coverage of meat questioned

A short advertisement produced by BBC Creative showing families and friends enjoying vegan Christmas foods together has come under attack from UK farmers. Animated turkeys are shown wearing “I love vegans” jumpers and one is pointing to a map of the UK with images of meat-free dishes. “Less of us have been gobbled this year” the turkeys proudly proclaim as they rejoice in meat-free meals being consumed.

The National Farmers Union has accused the BBC of being in breach of its impartiality rules by promoting veganism.

Stuart Roberts, vice president of the union, told The Telegraph:

“We are deeply concerned that the BBC appears to have started campaigning for a vegan diet in advertising for its Christmas programming, none of which appears to cover veganism in its schedule. 

“It doesn’t appear to sit within the BBC’s editorial guidelines, which clearly states that they shouldn’t be a campaigning organisation, and this advert takes our concerns about the BBC’s impartiality in its coverage of meat issues a step further.”

“This will cause great frustration for those livestock farmers who feel this is further evidence that there is a wider BBC agenda against livestock farming and rural communities in the UK.”

A lighthearted film which is not an endorsement of a vegan lifestyle

The BBC rejected the claim saying that the advert was meant to be taken in a “lighthearted” manner.

A BBC spokesman said that “the cartoon turkeys are intended to be comedic in keeping with the slightly surreal, exuberant spirit of the film, rather than any endorsement of a vegan lifestyle.”

The video has cameo appearances by Graham Norton, Rochelle Humes and Harry Enfield.

Farmers are very sensitive to the increasing pro-vegan messages which are appearing with great regularity as a result of the huge increase in interest in veganism. Recently the BBC came in for a great deal of criticism from farmers as a result of the Meat: a Threat to our Planet? documentary which aired at the end of November. The farmers claimed that the documentary was biased and did not sufficiently discuss the positive impact that British livestock farming had on the countryside.

Pro-vegan messages constitute an existential threat to livestock farmers, so their sensitivity to them is hardly a surprise. It, therefore, seems that any mention of vegan issues will inevitably lead to claims that such discussions or implications are an attack on livestock farmers.

Many meat producers have decided that the future is to embrace vegan meatless meat as it represents a trend that is growing exponentially. But recently the meat industry in the USA decided to put out an aggressive anti-plant-based meat advertising campaign. Somehow farmers will have to accept that the vegan message is here to stay and that it will need to find a way to co-exist with it and adapt as necessary. It is no easy task.

The NFU ran its annual #BuyMyTurkey campaign to encourage Christmas shoppers to buy their turkeys direct from the farm, or if from a supermarket then to look for the Red Tractor logo on the packaging. 

A recent survey in the USA showed that about 30% of Americans were willing to have a turkey-free Thanksgiving Dinner. It is likely that turkey-free Christmas dinners will become more of a mainstream idea in the coming years.

It is hard to imagine turkeys who have not been killed to be eaten at Christmas being anything other than thankful to vegans.

BBC’s lighthearted #XmasLife

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Nicholas Orosz

Nicholas is a former City solicitor and Cambridge graduate. He has a long-standing interest in health & nutrition, the environmental movement, green politics & digital publishing. He has always loved crafting words. His transition to a vegan perspective has been gradual and an ongoing process of self-discovery. Contact: nicholas@vegansbethechange.com
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