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The story on the new Channel 4 documentary "How to steal pigs and influence people"

Over the past week, a new Channel 4 documentary has hit headlines in the UK due to concern voiced by the farming industry.

14 January 2020, at 10:18am

The show, "How to steal pigs and influence people", follows a "unique community of vegan and ex-vegan influencers. Some embark on farmyard heists, others are devoted to back-bedroom chicken sanctuaries", as described by Channel 4.

The Channel 4 documentary will be aired at 10pm, Tuesday 14 January
The Channel 4 documentary will be aired at 10pm, Tuesday 14 January

The announcement of the show has been met with criticism from the National Pig Association (NPA) who, in a letter to the television channel, say that the programme appears to "condone and glamorise the theft of pigs". In the letter, NPA policy services officer Lizzie Wilson sought assurances that Channel 4 will not be televising people in the act of committing illegal acts and highlighted how activist activity has increased in recent years, with illegal trespassing and theft of pigs on the rise.

“We are extremely concerned... that the planned 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, therefore inciting others to do the same, particularly against the background media frenzy surrounding Veganuary and the eating meat/climate change agenda," wrote Wilson.

Wilson also pointed out that the programme could potentially encourage the spread of disease, including African swine fever which has devastated China's pig industry and pig herds globally. Animal rights activists are known to travel from country to country, entering various pig farms without biosecurity considerations which endangers the health and the lives of the animals they are protesting for.

Mitsubishi steps back from programme sponsorship

In a move welcomed by the NPA and other industry representatives, Mitsubishi Motors released a statement this week detailing how they will be not be associated with the documentary after pressure from UK farm groups led to them reconsidering their position in the industry.

Amanda Gibson, press public relations manager, said: “Mitsubishi Motors in the UK is a proud sponsor of documentaries on Channel 4 but occasionally the subject matter can cause upset.

“We try to remain neutral on emotive topics. However, the upcoming documentary has the potential to cause distress therefore we will not be associating ourselves with this documentary.

“Mitsubishi Motors in the UK does not condone criminality or illegal and irresponsible activity in any form.

“We have no contact whatsoever with any of the participants of this documentary and do not support their actions.”

Channel 4 respond

In response to the media storm, Tom Calvert, head of legal at Dragonfly - the programme producers - released an official statement: “We believe that the programme gives a fair and balanced view of the ‘Meat the Victims’ event [Lincolnshire, March 2019] from both sides, as well as presenting a fair reflection of vegan activism in the UK," he said.

“The programme will... feature other incidents in which vegan activists commit illegal acts. However, I can assure you that these acts are not glamorised, encouraged or condoned in any way.

“The negative impact of the event on the farmer and her animals is made clear to viewers. The programme also features people who actively oppose the vegan movement."