Drugs-in-farming programme starts BBC-TV row

Farmers Guardian, 4 May 1979

A major row flared this week between leaders of the livestock and meat industries and the BBC.

The cause is a Radio Times front cover colour picture of a pig drawing attention to a BBC2 television programme on the use of growth promoting drugs in farming.

The cover picture carries the headline “Should this little piggy go to market?” – and at the bottom, printed in a type similar to the Government warning on cigarette packets, are the words – “Health warning: Meat and poultry may seriously affect your health.”

The programme, to be screened next Tuesday, is the first in a new series of discussion programmes entitled “Brass Tacks“. It will deal with the use and misuse of drugs in farming, featuring interviews with farmers who do not use drugs or chemicals in farming.

This will be followed by discussion and local and regional radio phone-ins to debate what Radio Times describes as “the question of Britain’s highly competitive and possibly dangerous farming methods.”

The NFU say they were never  consulted about the programme and after they had complained the BBC decided to allow a union representative to be included on the discussion panel.

“Our main complaint is over the Radio Times front cover and feature. We are seriously concerned about very damaging implications which we understand it contains, that certain modern farming techniques are a risk to public health,” said a union spokesman.

“Such drugs as are necessarily used in the production of animal products – meat, milk and so on – are used under very strict government and veterinary controls. There is no reason to believe that they pose any risk to human health.

The National Federation of Meat Traders has also protested strongly. Mr Len Moss, federations spokesman, said: “The health warning is the most scandalous piece of journalism I have ever seen. It is the most alarming piece of scaremongering which cannot be justified whatever the content of the feature in the Radio Times or the programme itself.

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