As we move into a new decade, farming has never been more vulnerable.

Our voting power has never been smaller. Competition for finance has never been greater and vested interests relentlessly attack everything we do.

We can’t improve our voting strength. We can’t deny the importance of education, the National Health Service or climate change, but we can influence the media. So far, our efforts have been lamentable.

The gloves must come off. We must fight our corner and it pays to know what works.

Farming has been portrayed unfavourably over pesticide use, vermin control, muirburn, use of imported labour, greenhouse gases and killing raptors. The latest in many attacks on our meat production and its effects on global warming came in the BBC film: 'Meat, a threat to the planet'.

The technique used by the producer is 'guilt by association' and is well understood. Who invented it is unknown, however the most successful practitioner in the past century in terms of desired outcome was the Nazi Minister for Propaganda, Josef Goebbels.

His films over a long period, juxta-positioning images of Jews, gypsies and the mentally handicapped with violent sexual crime, sleazy behaviour and rats, persuaded one of the most civilised nations on earth to condone unspeakable horrors ending in genocide.

In the case of 'Meat, a threat to the planet', the portrayal of extreme and environmentally damaging farming methods in other countries was followed by a cameo of farming in the UK. The implication, without categoric accusation or proof, was that similar things happen here but maybe not so much.

Some months ago, a similar BBC programme, 'Dark side of dairy' about transport of live animals overseas, mixed scenes of the transport of British cattle with pictures of inhumane treatment of animals in other countries which had no connection with Britain.

Possibly, as a consequence of this, Boris Johnston has stated in his pre-election programme that he intends to stop all transport of live animals overseas. Here, I confess a vested interest as we export pedigree cattle to Europe. The process is heavily regulated and they travel in luxury.

In our attempts to stem the tide of negative publicity we know what doesn’t work. Letters and articles in the farming press don’t work. Letters of protest to the BBC don’t work, neither does the release of copious data defending the safety and production methods of our meat industry.

Indignation expressed in the farming press lets off steam. It preaches to the converted and misses those most influenced by targeted media attacks.

The BBC is a faceless entity. No one is ever held to account, with viewer targeting and viewing figures the main criteria of success, regardless of the effect on those in their sights.

While it is important that data which defends our industry is available to answer specific points of attack, this will never negate initial impressions that there is not smoke without fire.

Lastly, facts must be faced that livestock do affect the environment. The extent of this is confusing even to those who try to learn about it. It is important that we, ourselves, self-regulate and make improvements even when costly and difficult.

So, what does work? Nothing is more effective in influencing legislation than letters, or personal contact with Members of Parliament. When done by farmers themselves, our lack of polish or presentational skills, compared to professional lobbying by our national associations, seem no disadvantage.

This is well known, yet how many farmers actually do this? The SNFU, National Beef Association and National Sheep Association do good work, which should be appreciated. Maybe, however uncomfortable, we should be doing more to help ourselves.

Society today has been described as 'the information age', because few things are more important than TV, the press and social media, which have enabled both news and fake news to influence millions worldwide quickly and at minimum cost.

As farmers, we have been slow to realise the importance of controlling our image. Those who represent us must not only, as they do at present, release a positive message about British agriculture, but must also develop the foresight to anticipate potential attacks and a hard edge when questionable tactics are used against us.

So, what’s to be done about 'Meat, a threat to our planet' to prevent it from happening again.

Attacking the BBC as an entity is unrealistic due to its lack of accountability and enormous financial resources, so it is time to get personal. Most responsible is the producer who edits the data and slants its presentation.

The ultimate buck stops with Lord Hall of Birkenhead, the Director General of the BBC, who is already being accused of political bias in the recent general election. Our MPs and MSPs should be pressured to ask in their respective parliaments why, when such an opportunity existed to compare British farming favourably with practices in other countries, he chose by insinuation to harm it.

If no satisfactory response is forthcoming, press for his resignation. Okay, that may sound a bit ‘over the top’ but it may make someone think twice in the future.

In 1971, after decades of failure, the British Lions won a series against the All Blacks. Their captain, one of the greatest and most ruthless players ever to pull on a rugby jersey remarked that at least the Lions had stopped believing in fairies. It is time now we got our retaliation in first and stopped believing in fairies.