NPA challenges Channel 4 over programme glamourising theft of pigs

The NPA has written to Channel 4 to express serious concerns about a programme scheduled to air next week that it says appears to condone and glamorise the theft of pigs.

This documentary, entitled How to Steal Pigs and Influence People, will be shown on Tuesday January 14. It follows what the programme makers describe as ‘a unique community of vegan and ex-vegan influencers’. “Some embark on farmyard heists, others are devoted to back-bedroom chicken sanctuaries,” the programme teaser states.

In a letter to the broadcaster, NPA policy services officer Lizzie Wilson highlighted how the British pig industry and its farming families have been consistently targeted by animal rights activists. This activity has increased over the past two year, with activists ‘brazenly trespassing on farms either at night or during the day to ‘expose the realities of British pig farming’, she said.

“In some instances, they ‘liberate’ the pigs they find, which is of course a criminal act of theft. Furthermore, our members have been subjected to three ‘Meat the Victims’ protests where large groups of protesters descend on and occupy a pig farm for up to 9 hours, harassing the farmer and their staff and distressing the animals in their care,” she wrote.

She said the NPA was aware that a Channel 4 production company (Paradigm) was present at the first Meat The Victims event in Lincolnshire.

“We are extremely concerned therefore that the planned programme could be televising and potentially glamorising acts of criminality, such as the theft of pigs, burglary and the movement of pigs without the necessary licence, therefore inciting others to do the same, particularly against the background media frenzy surrounding Veganuary and the eating meat/climate change agenda.

“One of the activists involved already has a criminal conviction for theft of a pig from a previous incursion.

“On that basis, I am seeking assurance from you that Channel 4 will not be televising people in the act of committing illegal acts.”

Ms Wilson also highlighted how the programme could potentially encourage the spread of notifiable diseases such as African swine fever.

“Some animal rights activists are known to travel from country to country, trespassing on various pig farms with no consideration as to how they endanger the health of the animals they claim to care so much about. I sincerely hope Channel 4 does not condone or participate in such irresponsible behaviour,” she wrote.

The NPA has been in contact with the farmer and will continue to support them where needed. The farmer was notified by the production company that the programme was going to be aired and has been assured that no farm name or location will be featured.

Channel 4 response

Tom Calvert, head of legal at the production company, Dragonfly, has responded, confirming that it was filming at the ‘Meat the Victims’ event in Lincolnshire in March 2019, and that footage of this event is included in the programme. “The programme will also feature other incidents in which vegan activists commit illegal acts. However, I can assure you that these acts are not glamourised, encouraged or condoned in any way,” he said.

He said Dragonfly filmed an interview with the owner of the farm which was the target of the ‘Meat the Victims’ event and her comments have also been included in the programme. “The negative impact of the event on the farmer and her animals is made clear to viewers,” he said. “The programme also features people who actively oppose the vegan movement,”

“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 added that the programme is fully compliant with the Ofcom Broadcasting Code and all relevant laws and regulations.

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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.