BBC Hit With Complaints Over Cow Documentary That Shocked Viewers
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*WARNING: CONTAINS DISTRESSING IMAGES*
The BBC has received complaints over a Panorama documentary that exposed the mistreatment of cow's in the dairy industry.
A Cow's Life: The True Cost of Milk? aired a few weeks ago and explored whether animal welfare in the dairy industry was being comprised in order to keep milk prices low.
It featured undercover footage obtained by international animal welfare organisation, Animal Equality.
The upsetting footage was recorded on Madox Farm in Carmarthenshire, Wales, last year and showed dairy cows being kicked while lying on the ground, dragged by tractors and hit in the face with shovels.
At the time, the farm was supplying milk to Freshways, the UK's largest independent dairy processor, which distributes to the likes of Costa Coffee and British Airways. However, Freshways subsequently suspended its contract with the farm.
After the documentary aired, viewers took to social media to share their shock.
One person wrote: "It's something that makes me feel sick despite being a vet student and knowing about the farming industry.
"How many months did it take to get this footage? I honestly believe these are isolated events that would make most dairy farmers feel sick also."
Another tweeted: "5 minutes into Panorama A Cow's Life and I'm already horrified by the scenes.
"I know there is no easy fix. But I would happily pay more for milk if it meant cows welfare and environment were dramatically improved. Are these isolated events or are all subjected to this?"
A third added: "Heartbreaking scenes of the treatment of cows in the dairy industry. A difficult watch but worth it."
I watched Panorama A Cow’s Life this evening & was horrified by the scenes. I realise there is no easy or quick fix. But I would happily pay more for milk if it meant cows welfare and environment was seriously improved. That was animal abuse, awful. #Panorama #animalrights 🐄— Alison Braganza 🌟💙 (@alibeeson) February 14, 2022
Watching Panorama A Cow’s Life - cruel and avoidable treatment of animals. These people should face prosecution.— Lyndsay McAteer (@LyndsayMcateer) February 14, 2022
In the aftermath, the BBC confirmed it had received 'some complaints' about the documentary, though it wasn't the use of the undercover footage itself that viewers objected to - it was the apparent misrepresentation of the industry and failure to reflect the view of farmers.
In response to the complaints, the BBC issued a statement on Monday (7 March), which read: "BBC Panorama ensured a range of views and opinions were heard during this episode.
"We took a number of steps to report with due impartiality, and reflect things from the perspective of the Dairy Industry too:
. The economic pressures on the dairy industry were reflected clearly throughout the film.
. We included the team’s visits to two dairy farms whose efforts to maintain high standards of animal welfare were clearly conveyed to the audience.
. We reported the UK dairy industry’s view that it has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world.
. We included input from a representative from the National Farmers Union.
"The programme also interviewed a vet with extensive experience of working with dairy herds, to put the undercover filming into context within the wider dairy industry.
"We feel the programme was duly accurate and fairly portrayed the issues involved, bearing in mind the specific editorial focus on this occasion."
You can watch the documentary for yourself on iPlayer now.