Farm leaders have accused the BBC of bias when reporting the planned badger cull to combat bovine tuberculosis.

NFU president Peter Kendall has written to BBC director general George Entwistle calling for an urgent review of the way the topic is being reported.

The letter includes a catalogue of complaints about various programmes and website news items.

Mr Kendall said the worst example was a BBC Newsnight report which blurred out the face of a protestor threatening direct action against a cull.

The same programme named and showed the face of a farmer who said tackling the disease in badgers was vital.

Mr Kendall said it was disgraceful to grant anonymity to an anti-cull protestor who clearly stated he would be taking direct action against the cull.

“This came at a time when many farmers and people living in rural areas are already fearful over the tactics of intimidation and harassment from these ‘animal rights’ activists,” he said.

“At the very least, this protestor will be committing trespass in his direct action.

“At the very worst he will be adding to the climate of fear and intimidation of people who are carrying out a perfectly lawful activity.”

Mr Kendall added: “The clear suggestion was that anti-cull protestors are being intimidated by farmers. This suggestion is disgusting and clearly biased.

“The BBC’s clear partiality in protecting the identity of someone whose clear intent is to disrupt a lawful process by himself taking illegal action goes against BBC editorial guidelines,” he said.

“It is shameful for an organisation which purports to be impartial, accurate and trusted.”

The report also talked of the “mass slaughter” of badgers and that 100,000 of the animals could ultimately be culled, said Mr Kendall.

“The latter statistic is extremely misleading. In the two pilot culls approximately 4,000 badgers could be killed over a four year period.”

The report never explained that the 100,000 figure was only if the culls were subsequently rolled out to 40 areas, said Mr Kendall. Instead, it gave the impression that this would happen in the two cull areas.

“To talk of mass slaughter is just ridiculous. This phrase is clearly designed to raise alarm and would normally be used to describe a barbaric genocide in a war zone.

“Clearly the intent was to ramp up the hysteria by using a phrase so blatantly lifted from the anti-cull lobby group.”

The Newsnight programme was symptomatic of the BBC’s general biased coverage of the badger cull, said Mr Kendall.

A BBC spokesman defended its coverage.

The spokesman said: “We consider all requests for anonymity very carefully and it always preferable people speak on record.

“The protestor requested anonymity as he was concerned he would be targeted. Due to the emotive nature of this story it would be a plausible concern for both sides.

Newsnight would have afforded anonymity to the other contributors had they requested it.

“Hearing from this individual, although anonymously, meant we could challenge their position and plans for direct action.”

Johann Tasker on G+

More on this topic

Badger cull and bovine TB dedicated pages.

Badger cull forum