PIG PRODUCERS have warned that an imminent documentary about radical vegans who trespass on farms to 'free' livestock may inspire copycat crimes.

The National Pig Association has written to Channel 4 seeking assurances that the programme ‘How to Steal Pigs and Influence People’ will not televise – and glamorise – people committing illegal acts against farmers.

The documentary will highlight a community of vegan and ex-vegan influencers, and how farmyard raids to release animals – often filmed and shared on social media – became the currency by which they achieved social standing with their peers. Channel 4 has suggested that the handling of the subject will not depict the farm raiders in a particularly positive light, and would not encourage anyone else to follow suit.

However, the NPA and other meat industry bodies are concerned that the coverage will nonetheless normalise the illegal behaviour.

NPA policy services officer Lizzie Wilson pointed out that some farming families had been consistently targeted by animal rights activists, with a combination of daytime protests and verbal abuse, and more sinister night-time trespass onto their farms with the intention of 'liberating' pigs – which amounts to nothing less than a criminal act of theft.

"Our members have been subjected to three ‘Meat the Victims’ protests where large groups of protesters descend on and occupy a pig farm for up to nine hours, harassing the farmer and their staff and distressing the animals in their care.

“We are extremely concerned therefore that the programme could be televising and potentially glamorising acts of criminality, such as the theft of pigs, burglary and the movement of pigs without the necessary licence.”

Pig producers have also warned that the programme could potentially encourage the spread of notifiable diseases such as African swine fever.

Ms Wilson added: “Some activists are known to travel from country to country, trespassing on various pig farms with no consideration as to how they endanger the health of the animals they claim to care so much about. I sincerely hope Channel 4 does not condone or participate in such irresponsible behaviour,” she said.

Channel 4 insisted that the programme was fully compliant with the Ofcom Broadcasting Code and all relevant laws and regulations.

The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers has called on channel sponsor Mitsubishi to withdraw its links with the programme, which due to air on Channel 4 on Tuesday January 14.

“Having seen the trailer for the programme it would appear that the documentary shows scenes of trespass onto a pig farm which may encourage others, as a result of watching, to follow suit” said AIMS spokesperson Tony Goodger.

“We believe that the programme is irresponsible and the actions of those within it potentially compromises bio-security as well as the safety of protestors, pigs, farmers and their families. What is surprising is that the programme is being shown alongside the car brand Mitsubishi who have a sponsorship package with Channel 4.

“It is our view that many businesses and individuals within the farming and food industry would consider a Mitsubishi the vehicle of choice. The brand’s association with this programme has the potential for significant reputational damage and we strongly urge them that they withdraw their links to it," he continued.