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NFU leader accuses BBC of bias over badger cull reports

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 28, 2012

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The BBC has been strongly criticised by farming leaders for "biased, inaccurate and misleading" coverage of badger culling set to take place in the South West.

National Farmers' Union (NFU) president Peter Kendall has written a letter of complaint to new BBC director general George Entwistle urging him to review its reporting of the controversial Government plan to combat tuberculosis (TB) in cattle.

In a furious attack, prompted by a lengthy feature on the planned culls on BBC2's Newsnight on Tuesday, he said the corporation's coverage was "clearly pitched against the cull" and is helping to "ramp up the hysteria" over the policy.

Last week, Natural England licensed a badger cull in west Gloucestershire, with a start date expected within weeks.

A second in west Somerset likely to be given the go-ahead shortly.

If deemed safe, ten cull zones could be given the go-ahead each year for four years in bovine TB hotspots, with some likely to be further down the Westcountry peninsula.

In his letter, Mr Kendall points to a litany of complaints about the feature, and said the decision to grant anonymity to an anti-cull protester threatening direct action against the cull was "disgraceful".

He said it suggested anti-cull protesters were being intimidated by farmers when, actually, farmers were feeling "harassed and intimidated".

"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 was lifted from the anti-cull lobby and intended to "raise alarm and ramp up the hysteria".

The NFU president said the Newsnight feature was "symptomatic of the BBC's general biased coverage of the cull" across its formats.

A BBC spokesman 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.

"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.

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  • Charlespk  |  September 29 2012, 9:14AM

    Badgerists haven't got the first clue about tuberculosis, the vaccine or the history of its control, as is once again demonstrated by the previous posts. This is where the BBC have totally failed in their position as our main public service broadcaster. http://tinyurl.com/8d6wb7o (open in a new window) If this short video had ever been put out on prime time viewing and also live comment from experienced Doctors, microbiologists and veterinaries instead of a continual flow of self-promoting popstars, personalities and anthropomorphisists, the current bad situation wouldn't exist. http://tinyurl.com/66l9ud9 (open in a new window)

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  • Charlespk  |  September 29 2012, 9:12AM

    Why BCG does not perform like other Vaccines. In any normal infection the body defence works by production of vast amounts of antibodies. Such antibodies can also be stimulated by ordinary vaccines for all kinds of bacteria and virus diseases and they can be traced in blood which makes diagnosis with various techniques fairly easy. But this does not work for Tuberculosis - it never did and it never will do - because the tubercle bacteria have a waxy coat to which antibodies cannot attach. Tuberculosis therefore causes a so called humoral body defence; that means the very slowly multiplying bacteria are attacked by enzymes and white blood cells mainly. These are killing or even digesting the bacteria by a method called phagocytosis resulting in crumbly pus in the so called tubercles - whole heaps or lumps containing several 1000 to billions of bacteria. This defence is much more unspecific and slower than the usual one by antibodies. Any BCG vaccine stimulates this humoral defence only but never prevents an infection; it may keep it on a low scale maybe. There is no other vaccine available and there most probably will never be another one. No matter how many millions more DEFRA invests (I hear of some 30 so far for the Vaccine only) this is nature - which cannot be forced by politics. Dr. Ueli Zellweger MRCVS GST TVL Somerset http://tinyurl.com/8d6wb7o (open in a new window)

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  • Jake_Blake  |  September 29 2012, 8:51AM

    The BBC biased! I can't see it myself, how possibly could and organisation that; [] runs a public opinion poll on badger culling using cold calling a week after Adam Henson receives death threats for covering the research on bTB. [] demands Adam Henson to observe "impartiality" whilst other presenters can spew as much rubbish and miss information about the cull as they want. [] delays the release of reports till near the deadline of the consultations in which time they are no longer relevant but, still releases them anyway in order to increase negative reaction. [] refuses to accept what's scientifically proven and when talking about these facts uses the term "which farmers believe that." [] runs several articles on what anti-cull celebrities think but, miss very important developments in scientific research. could be considered biased.

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  • dodgethebulle  |  September 28 2012, 10:25AM

    The BBC are not biased they are just telling the truth http://tinyurl.com/bvl9s9o http://tinyurl.com/bvjp9rv

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