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A major farming union will be making a ‘formal complaint’ to the BBC following its documentary on dairy.

The Dark Side of Dairy – part of the broadcaster’s Disclosure series – showed journalist Samantha Poling investigate the fate of male dairy cows, many of whom are exported for fattening and slaughter abroad.

According to the BBC, around 5,000 calves were shipped from Scotland to Europe last year, via the port of Cairnryan in Dumfries and Galloway.

‘Not properly portrayed’

But National Farmers Union (NFU) Scotland president Andrew McCornick says he believes the ‘health and welfare of any livestock during live transporting is of the highest priority to everyone in the agricultural industry in Scotland‘ and that the BBC did ‘not properly portray’ this in the program.

He added: “Although the scenes are distressing, there is actually no evidence to indicate that the Scottish calves traveling to Northern Ireland, Ireland and continental Europe were subjected to this kind of treatment.

“The distressing scenes were those of cattle being shipped onto boats, which we have discovered were obtained in Romania and were Hungarian cows. The scenes in the Egyptian slaughterhouse were wholly unacceptable, but again, there is no evidence to indicate that these are Scottish cows.

“NFU Scotland has the utmost faith in the Scottish Government and their chief veterinary officer to ensure that Scottish dairy bull calves being exported are done so to the highest of welfare standards and regulations.”

P&O

As a result of some of the scenes shown in the program, ferry operator P&O has stopped transporting calves with immediate effect, saying: “We place the highest priority on animal welfare across all of our routes and were shocked by the scenes in last night’s documentary. We will not hesitate to act decisively and close the account of any customer which breaches our policies in this area.”

McCornick called P&O’s reaction ‘disappointing’, branding the documentary ‘sensationalized and inaccurate’, adding: “We will look to work closely with them to see where members of ours who this will affect can go from here.

“Following on from the Disclosure documentary, NFU Scotland is writing an official complaint to the BBC in regards to the standards of the reporting involved in the documentary and journalism showcased in the programme which, disappointingly, has already had an immediate effect on the agricultural industry.”

A spokesperson for BBC Scotland said: “We stand by our journalism. The investigation was neither sensationalist nor inaccurate and has raised issues of public interest.”

The program is available to watch here

Maria Chiorando

Maria is the editor of Plant Based News. As a former magazine editor, newspaper reporter, and features writer, her work has been published by The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and various regional newspapers, as well as Vegan Life magazine and Vegan Trade Journal. She has interviewed a huge range of people, from Prime Ministers to authors, activists, pop stars and actors, and enjoys the varied range of topics writing for PBN allows her to tackle.