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NPA urges Mitsubishi to distance itself from Channel 4 activist documentary

10th Jan 2020 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA has called on Mitsubishi to distance itself from a Channel 4 programme showing activists performing criminal acts on farms, including stealing pigs.

How to steal pigsThe association is also calling on members to write to their local Mitsubishi dealerships amid growing anger across the farming and meat sector about the documentary, entitled How to Steal Pigs and Influence People, due to be shown on Tuesday, January 14. It features what the programme makers describe as ‘a unique community of vegan and ex-vegan influencers’, which ‘embark on farmyard heists’.

NPA policy services officer Lizzie Wilson has described the programme as a ‘disgrace’ and has written to Channel 4 expressing concern that it could be ‘televising and potentially glamourising acts of criminality, such as the theft of pigs, burglary and the movement of pigs without the necessary licence’. She warned that the footage could encourage others to follow suit.

The programme has already prompted a major industry backlash, including multiple comments on social media, with much of the focus turning on Mitsubishi. The vehicle manufacturer’s branding is being shown alongside the programme trailer as part of a sponsorship deal with Channel 4.

Ms Wilson said: “This is an extremely irresponsible programme that appears to be promoting and glamourising criminal activity. Our members have already suffered enough from the actions of activists that can bring despair to farming families who have done nothing wrong, while also posing health and welfare risks to the pigs – this feels like a further kick in the teeth.

“Mitsubishi has customers across the farming industry and we are appealing to it to show some solidarity with the industry and use what leverage it has with Channel 4 to stop the programme being aired.

“We are also asking members to contact their local dealerships directly make their feelings known.

“There is a real risk that the company’s reputation will be badly damaged by this. We want to send a clear message to Channel 4 that this sort of programming is a step too far and should not be tolerated.”

Other individuals and organisations, including the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) are making similar calls. AIMS spokesperson Tony Goodger said: “The brand’s association with this programme has the potential for significant reputational damage and we strongly urge them to withdraw their links to it.”

Mitsubishi has issued a statement confirming that it is investigating the issue, after it was brought to its attention. It said its sponsorship package with the broadcaster covered hundreds of documentaries that give ‘insight into the modern world through thought-provoking matters’. Content is controlled solely by Channel 4, the statement added.

Responding to the NPA’s letter, Tom Calvert, head of legal at the production company, Dragonfly, confirmed the programme included ‘incidents in which vegan activists commit illegal acts’, including a Meat the Victims mass incursion. But he claimed these acts are ‘not glamourised, encouraged or condoned in any way’.

“We believe that the programme gives a fair and balanced view of the ‘Meat the Victims’ event from both sides, as well as presenting a fair reflection of vegan activism in the UK,” he said.

On Wednesday, Channel 4 aired George Monbiot's 'Apocalypse Cow' programme explaining why farming has to end soon to save the planet. It was preceded by ‘Meat the Family’ in which families reared chicken and pigs in their gardens before deciding whether to eat them or ‘save’ them.

A Channel 4 spokesperson said: "This is an observational documentary on a relevant and topical subject which is widely discussed. The programme complies with the Ofcom Broadcasting Code and does not condone or encourage criminal activity."

Full Mitsubishi response 

After this article was published, Mitsubishi issued a further statement in response to a request from the NPA. 

Amanda Gibson, the company's 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 “How to Steal Pigs and Influence People” 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."