Kendall lashes out at BBC over badger cull 'bias'
NFU president Peter Kendall has launched a furious attack on the BBC over what the union claims to be its ‘biased’, ‘inaccurate’ and ‘misleading’ coverage of the planned autumn badger culls.
Mr Kendall has written a letter of complaint to new BBC director general George Entwistle urging him to review the coverage, which he said was currently ‘clearly pitched against the cull’ and is helping to ‘ramp up the hysteria’ over the policy.
The letter was prompted by a lengthy feature on the planned culls on the flagship BBC2 Newsnight programme on Tuesday.
In it, Mr Kendall lists a catalogue of grievances about the feature, including the ‘disgraceful’ decision to grant anonymity to an anti-cull protestor who stated he would be taking direct action against the cull.
He said the decision suggested anti-cull protestors were being intimidated by farmers at a time when farmers, themselves, were feeling ‘harassed and intimidated’ by animal rights activists
“This suggestion is disgusting and clearly biased,” he wrote. “The BBC’s clear partiality in protecting the identity of someone whose clear intent is to disrupt a lawful process by himself taking illegal action goes against your own Editorial Guidelines and is shameful for an organisation which purports to be impartial, accurate and trusted.”
Mr Kendall also accused the programme of giving a misleading impression that a farmer who spoke of the ‘intimidation and harassment’ she had been subjected to was pulling out of the cull. Mr Kendall said this had subsequently proved to be ‘simply not true’.
He criticised the suggestion that the cull involved the ‘mass slaughter’ of badgers, claiming the phrase - ‘normally used to describe a barbaric genocide in a war zone’ - was llifted from the anti-cull lobby and clearly intended to ‘raise alarm and ramp up the hysteria’.
He said the Newsnight suggestion that 100,000 badgers could ultimately be culled was ‘extremely misleading’ as it suggested this related to the two pilot culls when it was, in fact, an upper limit over 10 years if the policy was rolled out over 40 areas
The NFU president said the Newsnight feature was ‘symptomatic of the BBC’s general biased coverage of the cull’ across its formats, although he singled Countryfile out as a notable exception of a BBC programme that covered the debate in an ‘impartial’ manner.
He described the corporation’s reporting of the science behind the cull, notably on its website, as ‘inaccurate, out of date and one-sided’, with too much weight given to scientists who opposed the policy, such as Lord Krebs, and not enough to those who back the cull.
“As the cull rolls out, tensions will be heightened and intimidation of farmers will escalate from some animal rights organisations. The BBC has a duty to base its reports on the latest most accurate science and facts and not to lend tacit support to the anti-cull movement,” he told Mr Entwistle.
A BBC spokewoman said: “The information supplied in this piece came from respected organisations involved in both sides of this story. We will deal with any complaint as and when it is received, responding directly to the NFU.”
She said the BBC considers all requests for anonymity very carefully and that the protestor requested anonymity as he was concerned he would be targeted.
“Due to the emotive nature of this story it would be a plausible concern for both sides. Newsnight would have afforded anonymity to the other contributors had they requested it. Hearing from this individual, although anonymously, meant we could challenge their position and plans for direct action,” she said.