A backlash from farmers has forced Mitsubishi to distance itself from a TV documentary showing how vegan activists steal pigs and harass livestock producers.
Called How to Steal Pigs and Influence People, the programme is scheduled to air on Channel 4 on Tuesday (14 January) – despite strong criticism from farmers.
Branding for Mitsubishi Motors has appeared on publicity material for the programme because the automotive giant sponsors documentaries on Channel 4.
The National Pig Association (NPA) had called on Mitsubishi to distance itself from the programme showing activists performing criminal acts on farms – including stealing pigs.
It also called on members to write to their local Mitsubishi dealerships amid growing anger across the farming and meat sector about the documentary.
NPA policy services officer Lizzie Wilson described the programme as a disgrace.
Ms Wilson said she had written to Channel 4 saying the broadcaster potentially could be “glamourising acts of criminality, such as the theft of pigs, burglary and the movement of pigs without the necessary licence”.
And she warned that the footage could encourage others to follow suit.
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.”
‘Kick in the teeth’
Activists trespassing on farms also posed health and welfare risks to the pigs, said Ms Wilson. And she added: “This feels like a further kick in the teeth.”
Other individuals and organisations – including the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (Aims) – have made similar calls.
Aims spokesman 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.”
There has also been a backlash on social media, with some farmers suggesting Mitsubishi could “kiss goodbye” to sales of the company’s popular L200 pickup vehicle.
In response, Mitsubishi spokeswoman Amanda Gibson 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.”
Ms Gibson added: “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 has said the documentary will feature “a unique community of vegan and ex-vegan influencers” – some of whom embark on “farmyard heists”.
And a spokesman for the broadcaster insisted: “The programme complies with the Ofcom Broadcasting Code and does not condone or encourage criminal activity.”