FOLLOWING an industry-wide backlash from farmers and agricultural bodies, the BBC has quietly retreated from an anti-meat eating message aired on its famous kids show, Blue Peter.

As The Scottish Farmer previously reported, the CBBC programme came under criticism for making 'sweeping statements' about meat consumption, potentially having a negative impact on the millions of impressionable young minds who tune in to the TV show and its website.

Blue Peter had asked viewers to become part of a ‘green army’ to tackle carbon emissions and climate change – and its top three suggestions to take part were that kids should turn off lights when they leave a room, switch from using disposable plastic bottles to reusable ones, and reduce meat – particularly red meat – in their diet. By taking a two-week pledge to do these things, children could earn a ‘Supersize Green Badge’ from the BBC.

The programme aired the claim: “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.”

But after a fortnight of sustained criticism from farmers and industry groups, the broadcaster's website now states children should 'choose a couple of vegetarian meal options during your two weeks as part of a healthy balanced diet'.

A spokesperson for the BBC said it was updated 'to reflect that buying seasonal food or local grass-fed meat can also make a difference to climate change'.

"We are not asking Blue Peter viewers to give up meat," the spokesperson stressed.

Earlier this week, UK farming bodies the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, Quality Meat Scotland, and Meat Promotion Wales, wrote an open letter condemning the initiative, calling for the BBC and Blue Peter to 'reconsider their one-sided messaging' and asked for UK red meat industry leaders to meet with the head of children’s programming to share information about the positive message around red meat.

"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 levy boards said. "It is essential that young people learn and understand where their food comes from and its impact on the planet."

Sheep farmer Gareth Wyn Jones, from North Wales, had voiced his concerns on Blue Peter’s stance in a video on his Facebook page, which gathered a massive online support. He has since welcomed the BBC's change of stance.

He said: “In this country we have got grass and grass can be produced very easily on marginal lands that you can’t grow crops. This land will produce some of the top-quality proteins, beef and lamb, and is produced in a sustainable, regenerative, and very environmentally friendly way.

“That is what we should be telling our children. My kids know it. Blue Peter and CBBC have a massive platform with millions of young minds listening. They should take the opportunity to give them a balanced argument, show them the facts, give them the opportunity to make that decision."

National Beef Association CEO Neil Shand said: “Meat – of all origins, but especially red meat – is a valuable source of protein, vitamins and minerals, and is scientifically established to provide nutrients which are essential to development and growth of children.

“It is incomprehensible that this type of programme offered views which are at best unbalanced, and at worst irresponsible,” said Mr Shand.