21 August 1998
Undercover BBC pig film is unfair, says vet
By Shelley Wright
AN OXFORDSHIRE vet has hit out at the BBC over the way it accused one of his farmer clients of breaching a number of welfare regulations after surreptitiously filming a local pig unit
Richard Potter, a specialist pig vet at the Larkmead Veterinary Group, Cholsey, said he had rarely felt so angry, especially as he had found no evidence at all to substantiate the claims.
The problems began seven weeks ago when the farmer, who has asked not to be named, received a telephone call from a man called Ian Dickinson who claimed to be a pig producer in financial difficulties.
Mr Dickinson asked if it would be possible to visit the Oxfordshire farm to investigate ways of reducing the cost of production on his own farm.
“With hindsight, it was naïve for my client to agree to this visit, but, out of compassion for a fellow farmer in difficulties, he agreed,” said Mr Potter.
Mr Dickinson told the farmer that he was so impressed he would like to return two days later with his business partner. The farmer agreed. But, on the next visit, one of the two men brought a concealed camera.
The farmer then received a telephone call from the BBC to say that Andy Kemp, the producer of a new series called Private Investigations, would like to bring Mr Dickinson back to the farm for an interview.
According to Mr Potter, the BBC said the programme would demonstrate that pig welfare legislation in the UK was too lax.
Despite strong advice from both the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the British Veterinary Association to steer clear of involvement in the programme, Mr Potter was determined to help his client.
He visited the farm, inspected every pig, and found that a great deal of work had been done to upgrade the unit.
His client, frightened by the way events were unfolding, felt uncomfortable about being interviewed by the BBC. Mr Potter agreed that he would do the interview, with the farmer standing beside him.
The BBC has refused to allow the vet and farmer to see what had been filmed. A BBC spokeswoman said Mr Dickinson was a pig farmer at the time of filming.
The purpose of the series was for members of the public to report on issues they wanted brought to a wider audience, she said. Mr Dickinsons film, was an investigation into the plight of pig farming in general.
The Oxfordshire pig producer was one of four farmers interviewed. The spokeswoman said Mr Potter gave a full interview in defence of the farmer and his comments would be reflected in the story.
She added that the BBC had very strict policies on secret filming. In Mr Dickinsons case, the idea had been reviewed and permission was granted in accordance with BBC producer guidelines.
The film will be screened by the BBC next Wednesday (26 August).