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The BBC has been blasted for airing ‘blatant misinformation and biased reporting’ in a recent radio broadcast about veganism.
Last Monday’s Start the Week program featured host Kirsty Wark interviewing food writer Joanna Blythman. Among the claims the pair made were that plant-based diets ‘cannot compare in nutrient density’ to omnivorous ones, and that young vegan women are likely to have fertility issues as their ‘diets lack iron’.
Numerous listeners contacted the BBC to complain, with one accusing the broadcaster of giving airtime to ‘fatuous propaganda on behalf of the meat industry’ and others complaining said Wark was ‘far too supportive of Blythman’s controversial views’, instead of challenging them.
Listener Richard Peacock said: “I appreciate that the issue of BBC bias and balance is thrown around far too liberally, but I think if you’re going to talk about an issue in these terms, then you need someone else to balance the viewpoint, whether that is someone who can accurately represent a vegan perspective or a presenter who will challenge the guest’s claims.”
David Gibbon added: “I heard this morning yet another fatuous piece of propaganda on behalf of the meat industry by some woman bleating on about jackfruit and avocados and Seventh Day Advertists. Would it be possible to get some sensible vegan opinions on the airwaves instead of trotting out these ridiculous caricatures of veganism all the time?”
One listener simply identified herself as ‘Teresa from London’. She said that while Start the Week isn’t a news program, when an institution ‘insists on balance to the extent that Nigel Farage is never off the BBC and climate change deniers were given frequent coverage until recently’, Wark’s claims that eating 14-year-old beef will do no harm – implying this was to the environment and maybe even the animal – are ‘ridiculous and offensive’.
‘Wild, unsubstantiated claims’
Vegan charity Viva! published an 800-word statement in response to the program, saying the presenters made ‘wild, unsubstantiated claims on all aspects of veganism – from the environment to nutrition, and even human rights and culture’, accusing the BBC of ‘sharing misinformation and presenting it as fact’.
“How ironic to state that ‘there is a plethora of information out there yet very little of it is authenticated’ when the BBC themselves are sharing misinformation and presenting it as fact,” Viva! added.
The statement tackled the claims made about avocados and jackfruit harming the environment, raised the issues of human rights violations committed through animal agriculture, looked at some of the health claims aired, and challenged the view that ‘vegans have “lost the joy of eating’.
“The BBC has a duty to provide accurate, balanced information which is in the interest of the public. You failed to provide a counter-argument to the unsubstantiated claims made in this show,” it added, while requesting the organization makes on-air corrections for the erroneously claims broadcast during the segment.