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Rural Crime Network refers Channel 4 documentary to Ofcom

15th Jan 2020 / By Alistair Driver

The National Rural Crime Network (NRCN) has asked media regulator Ofcom to look into whether the Channel 4 programme, How to Steal Pigs and Influence People, breached broadcasting guidelines.

The documentary, broadcast on Tuesday evening, included footage of activists stealing pigs from farms on multiple occasions, as well as unannounced mass protests involving up to 200 'Meat the Victims' at pig farms. 

NRCN, which cites the NPA's concerns, has written to Ofcom asking it to investigate whether the programme breached Rule 3.1 of the Broadcasting Code by broadcasting material 'likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or to lead to disorder'.

In her letter to Ofcom Interim chief executive Jonathan Oxley, NRCN chair Julia Mulligan said:“The National Pig Association and the four UK farming unions, including the NFU – who are NRCN members – are among those who expressed their worries to Channel 4 ahead of broadcast that the programme glamorised and condoned crime and violence in rural areas. The broadcaster insisted ‘the programme did not glamorise or condone illegal activity’.

“We do not agree. We believe the programme itself, and particularly the title and promotion ahead of broadcast, explicitly glamorises illegal activity and, therefore, we would be grateful if Ofcom would consider whether it has breached Rule 3.1 of the Broadcasting Code.

“We understand that broadcasters often give titles to programmes which are intended to create debate, but we believe this goes beyond that."

NRCN's most recent National Rural Crime Survey found over two-thirds of farmers and rural-specific business owners have been a victim of crime over the past 12 months and nearly half (48 per cent) saying their quality of life is being moderately or greatly affected by crime.

“Rural crime is not a joke. Offences must not be trivialised. Victims do not deserve to be belittled," she added.

Commenting on Twitter, Sergeant Rob Simpson, of Cheshire Police, said: “We support people's varied lifestyle choices, but stealing livestock is a crime. Committing crime for social media likes and then risking the biosecurity of the farm, could result in all the livestock being destroyed. #RuralCrime #howtostealpigs #BioSecurity #Cheshire.”

The NPA is taking legal advice on its next steps. The association said the programme showcased blatant criminal activity on farms and described the footage as 'irresponsible'.

However, it said the documentary did the animal rights activist movement 'few favours'.

You can read the full NPA response here

The NPA has advised members and supporters who feel strongly about the programme how they can complain to Channel 4, Ofcom or even their MP. Click here to view