Mitsubishi is coming under pressure from across the farming and meat sector over its connection to a forthcoming Channel 4 programme that will show activists performing criminal acts on farms, including stealing pigs.
The documentary, entitled How to Steal Pigs and Influence People, due to be shown on Tuesday, January 14, features what the programme makers describe as ‘a unique community of vegan and ex-vegan influencers’, which ‘embark on farmyard heists’.
NPA policy services officer Lizzie Wilson has described the programme as a ‘disgrace’ and has written to Channel 4 expressing concern that it could be ‘televising and potentially glamourising acts of criminality, such as the theft of pigs, burglary and the movement of pigs without the necessary licence’. She warned that the footage could encourage others to follow suit.
The programme has already prompted a major industry backlash, including multiple comments on social media, with much of the focus turning on Mitsubishi. The vehicle manufacturer’s branding is being shown alongside the programme trailer as part of a sponsorship deal with Channel 4.
Ms Wilson said: “This is an extremely irresponsible programme that appears to be promoting and glamourising criminal activity. Our members have already suffered enough from the actions of activists that can bring despair to farming families who have done nothing wrong, while also posing health and welfare risks to the pigs – this feels like a further kick in the teeth.
“Mitsubishi has customers across the farming industry and we are appealing to it to show some solidarity with the industry and use what leverage it has with Channel 4 to stop the programme being aired.
“We are also asking members to contact their local dealerships directly make their feelings known.
“There is a real risk that the company’s reputation will be badly damaged by this. We want to send a clear message to Channel 4 that this sort of programming is a step too far and should not be tolerated.”
Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) spokesperson Tony Goodger said: “Having seen the trailer for the programme it would appear that the documentary shows scenes of trespass onto a pig farm which may encourage others, as a result of watching, to follow suit.
“We believe that the programme is irresponsible and the actions of those within it potentially compromises bio-security as well as the safety of protestors, pigs, farmers and their families. What is surprising is that the programme is being shown alongside the car brand Mitsubishi who have a sponsorship package with Channel 4.
“It is our view that many businesses and individuals within the farming and food industry would consider a Mitsubishi the vehicle of choice. The brand’s association with this programme has the potential for significant reputational damage and we strongly urge them that they withdraw their links to it.”
Farmers have also been contacting the vehicle manufacturer via social media to question why it appears to be supporting the programme.
Mitsubishi has issued a statement confirming that it is investigating the issue, after it was brought to its attention. It said its sponsorship package with the broadcaster covered hundreds of documentaries that give ‘insight into the modern world through thought-provoking matters’. Content is controlled solely by Channel 4, the statement added.
Responding to the NPA’s letter, Tom Calvert, head of legal at the production company, Dragonfly, confirmed the programme included ‘incidents in which vegan activists commit illegal acts’, including a Meat the Victims mass incursion. But he claimed these acts are ‘not glamourised, encouraged or condoned in any way’.
“We believe that the programme gives a fair and balanced view of the ‘Meat the Victims’ event from both sides, as well as presenting a fair reflection of vegan activism in the UK,” he said.
On Wednesday, Channel 4 aired George Monbiot’s ‘Apocalypse Cow’ programme explaining why farming has to end soon to save the planet. It was preceded by ‘Meat the Family’ in which families reared chicken and pigs in their gardens before deciding whether to eat them or ‘save’ them.
A Channel 4 spokesperson said: “This is an observational documentary on a relevant and topical subject which is widely discussed. The programme complies with the Ofcom Broadcasting Code and does not condone or encourage criminal activity.”