SIR, – The recent BBC documentary, the 'Dark side of dairy' has left many of us disappointed, frustrated and angry at the portrayal of our world.

The failure of the programme, to recognise the care and commitment of those working in Scotland’s dairy and beef sectors, or to map out the development of dairy beef systems in the UK, ignored baseline production standards.

The regulatory inspection and transport frameworks which protect calves in transit were not explained and the recent work carried out by Scottish Government vets inspecting and monitoring the welfare of export calves was ignored by the programme makers.

The documentary omitted key facts and did not provide a balanced picture of the Scottish industry or EU calf rearing systems.

The documentary used images of cattle from out-with the UK and film of totally un-acceptable slaughter standards from outside the EU. These film sequences did not represent the reality of Scottish and UK systems or welfare standards and, at best, could be considered as misleading.

The approach adopted by the documentary created headlines but failed to deliver an objective or accurate picture of the management and welfare of Scottish and UK calves.

The fact that an interview given by NFU Scotland’s livestock committee chairman was included in the programme has drawn criticism. The heavily edited piece failed to represent the views of the chairman or the industry.

The risk of words being abused or edited by the media is always present. However, over many years, the overwhelming majority of journalists respect and report the core message of industry representatives, even when they choose to highlight the views of others. In this case the programme makers failed to respect or report the industry view.

Communicating is always high risk. However, for the union or the industry to be silent, or to be unseen, where our values of high animal welfare may be questioned, is not acceptable. Engaging with the public and the media is vital, even when the risks are high.

The real issue for us all is the standard of journalism that generated the ‘Dark side of dairy’ documentary. In the era of fake news, there must be ways of pushing back on misinformation.

It is easy to speculate that the programme was designed to deliver a pre-determined agenda, that there was an aim to gain attention through the manufacture of toxic headlines, or that the journalists involved failed to understand or investigate. However, speculation is not helpful.

When a BBC programme clearly fails to report objectively and omits key information, BBC management have the power and responsibility to investigate and identify where mistakes were made and at what level responsibility lies. That process should be open to public scrutiny.

The BBC has a duty now, not just to uphold journalistic standards and the credibility of the organisation, but a duty to all those involved with the care of Scottish livestock to investigate and report with professionalism and integrity.

Nigel Miller

Chairman of Livestock Health Scotland,

Stagehall,

Stow.