UK farming unions express concern at broadcast of Channel 4 ‘stealing pigs’ programme

The four UK farming unions have issued a joint statement expressing concern that the controversial Channel 4 documentary, ‘How to Steal Pigs and Influence People’, will be shown tonight. 

The statement from NFU, NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland and the Ulster Farmers Union said: “We are deeply concerned that Channel 4 is broadcasting this documentary, despite being contacted beforehand by those involved in the farming industry who know only too well the very real impact that this kind of criminal behaviour has on farmers, their families, their business and the health and welfare of their animals.

“We believe that the title and trailers for ‘How to Steal Pigs and Influence People’, with promotional wording talking about ‘daring farmyard heists,’ shows that the programme makers regard this illegal activity as trivial and humorous. Channel 4 has said the programme will not glamorise or condone illegal activity.

“We are interested to know how this statement is compatible with its own admission that the documentary will feature illegal activity by activists. We want to understand what efforts the broadcaster has gone to to pass information on to the police regarding any criminal behaviour it has either filmed or featured in the programme.

“Farms are not only businesses, they are also homes for families. It is quite astonishing that Channel 4 has chosen to commission and broadcast this programme given the dreadful impact that these attacks have on the health and wellbeing of those farmers targeted.

“We do not understand why farming families are being seen as fair game by the broadcaster and treated differently from other British citizens who all have the right to be protected from criminal behaviour and not to see those criminals given airtime and profile.”

The unions added that they ‘fully support’ the actions of the NPA, which is taking legal advice regarding the programme, due to be shown at 10pm tonight.

NPA policy services officer Lizzie Wilson said the programme would be showcasing ‘blatant criminal activity on pig farms that has caused great distress to farmers, who have done nothing wrong, as well as harming the welfare of pigs and posing unacceptable health risks’.

“We want to send a clear message that this sort of programming is unacceptable, and as a result we will be seeking legal advice to help inform further NPA action,” she said.

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’ and the programme gives a ‘fair and balanced view of the Meat the Victims event from both sides’.

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.”

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.