Blue Peter’s anti-meat message to children dropped
The BBC’s Blue Peter programme has been forced to drop its request to ask children to ‘go meat-free’ as part of its green badge initiative for ‘climate heroes.’ This followed strong opposition from leading levy boards, individual farmers and trade organisations.
The BBC programme amended its green badge qualification from going ‘meat-free’ to suggesting children could have ‘a couple of vegetarian’ meals over a two week period.
In an open letter to the BBC AHDB’s Christine Watts, Alan Clark from QMS and Gwyn Howells at HCC voiced their joint grave concerns and outrage at the green badge criteria.
They wrote: “The iconic BBC children’s TV show Blue Peter has asked viewers to become part of a ‘green army’ to tackle carbon emissions and climate change. Recommendations to earn a Green Badge include encouraging children to take the ‘Supersize Plants Pledge’ and replacing red meat dishes with “climate friendly” plant-based alternatives.
“Citing phrases including “reducing the amount of meat you eat, especially beef and lamb, is known to be even better for the climate than reducing the amount you travel in a car” is incorrect, misleading and based on widely-debunked data. This unbalanced reporting risks compromising the integrity of the red meat produced in the UK to the consumers of the future.
“It is essential that young people learn and understand where their food comes from and its impact on the planet, and the Green Badge campaign presents an opportunity to share the fantastic credentials of the British red meat industry, which is amongst the most sustainable in the world and supports the livelihoods of thousands of people.
As a public service broadcaster, the BBC has a responsibility to provide an impartial argument. This is all the more important when communicating to children.”
The industry leaders also slammed the BBC for oversimplifying things by pushing the Carbon Calculator. They said: “Blue Peter also promotes the Carbon Calculator, a simplistic tool that cites global data not representative of the UK’s red meat industry.
“Some of the fantastic initiatives happening right now in farms across the country include conducting regular carbon audits to manage and offset emissions; avoiding ploughing, drainage and over grazing; creating wildlife corridors along water margins, field margins and headlands, taking action to control soil and achieving net zero across the industry in England and Wales by 2040 and by 2045 in Scotland
“The highest volume of CO2 is produced by the fossil fuel industries, with livestock farming contributing just 6% of the UK’s CO2 emissions. Given this statistic, cutting your individual meat consumption would in fact not reduce the UK’s overall CO2 emissions nearly as significantly as structural changes in the energy and transport sectors such as encouraging families to walk, cycle and use public transport.”
Nutritional facts highlighted
The letter also referred the BBC to the important nutritional benefits of meat eating, which the broadcaster had ignored: “Furthermore, the minerals and vitamins found in red meat should form an important part of a growing young person’s diet. Iron from meat sources is more readily absorbed by the human body compared with iron found in other non-meat sources. A lack of iron may result in a deficiency, increasing the risk of anaemia. Severe iron deficiency may also increase the risk of developing complications to the heart and lungs.
“As it stands, 42% of teenage girls fail to achieve the minimum iron intake and 22% of teenage girls don’t get enough zinc , which is essential in supporting a healthy immune system.
“We would welcome the opportunity to share the positive messages from the red meat industry. Sharing information with young people about the techniques and processes in place to make sure farming in the UK is not at the detriment to the wider environment is also essential in helping them form their own opinions and consumption habits. A good place to start is Farming Foodsteps, an online resource developed by professionals specifically for school-aged children which explores the red meat journey and includes sustainability and health messaging.
“These stories must be shared, and we ask that the BBC and Blue Peter to reconsider their one-sided messaging and provide an opportunity for the heads of the UK’s red meat industry bodies to meet with the head of children’s programming to shed light on the positive messages.”
 The pitfalls of simplification when looking at greenhouse gas emissions from livestock, Thomson Reuters Foundation News, 2018 – click here
 CIEL, Integrated Report, 2020 – click here
 Iron and Health, Scientific Commission on Nutrition, 2010 – click here