9 June 2004; immediate use
Ofcom Rejects Bernard Matthews' Complaint
Against Viva! Exposé
After an exhaustive, 18-month investigation into complaints
by Bernard Matthews (BM), the Office of Communications (Ofcom)
has rejected the turkey producer's claim that it was treated
unfairly by a GMTV exposé of conditions in one of its
turkey sheds. Ofcom failed to uphold any of the allegations
made by Europe's biggest turkey farmer.
The campaign group Viva! invited a GMTV camera crew and reporter
into the turkey shed before Christmas 2003 and the programme
broadcast footage on its peak-viewing morning show. It included
to-camera commentary and comment from the RSPCA on the conditions
revealed. Dr Martin Potter, then Head of Farm Animals, described
the scenes as 'disgraceful' and questioned standards of management.
BM claimed that Dr Potter's words were 'ill-informed and irresponsible'
and maintained there had been misrepresentation and distortion
and that BM had been given no opportunity to respond.
On Dr Potter, Ofcom found that he was well-qualified to make
the comments he did. BM also claimed that injuries to birds
shown on film had been caused by the 'intruders', that allegations
of overcrowding were incorrect as were comments that floor
litter was in an 'appalling state' - and this amounted to
misrepresentation and distortion. Ofcom did not accept these
claims and said that what had taken place was a legitimate
investigation into conditions at BM. It added: "
it was stated that the footage indicated probably standard
stocking densities and the conditions shown were common and
representative of modern intensive turkey farming". On
BM's claims that it had been given no opportunity to view
the footage prior to transmission, Ofcom supported GMTV's
position that the company had been given adequate opportunity
both to view the footage and respond.
Viva! has subsequently conducted investigations into intensive
conditions at Bowes of Norfolk, one of Tesco's principal pig
meat suppliers, and Manor Farm Ducklings, one of Marks &
Spencer's duck suppliers, both of which have received widespread
"What goes on inside the UK's factory-farms is never
seen by the public", says Tony Wardle, Viva!'s Associate
Director, "unless groups such as Viva! actually go in
there and film it. And when we do, we almost always find scenes
of disease, pain and acute suffering in sickening conditions
- all of which are camouflaged and excused by the constantly-repeated
claim of 'the best animal welfare conditions in the world'.
We are delighted that Ofcom sees our work for what it is -
legitimate investigation in the public interest. And we intend
to continue with it, despite threats and denials".
For further details of Viva!'s investigations into Bernard
Matthews, click here