A television programme due to be broadcast on Channel 4 tonight, Tuesday, January 14, has been heavily criticised by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), which says that the programme “glamourises criminal activity”.

According to Edmond Phelan, the association’s president, the programme – entitled ‘How to Steal Pigs’ – “incites animal extremists to invade farms and steal pigs apparently on the basis that this would be good for the pigs’ welfare”.

Phelan claimed that broadcasting the programme would “represent a new low for previously respected media”.

This is grossly irresponsible and can be seen as an incitement to hatred of pig farmers. It beggars belief that any responsible media outlet would condone, let alone glamourise blatant criminal activity.

“It is also grossly irresponsible in animal welfare terms because the biosecurity breach of invading a pig farm could potentially endanger the health of all pigs on the farm and potentially cause a disastrous disease outbreak,” the ICSA president added.

“It is also unclear as to how the stolen pigs would be looked after. There is little doubt that portraying stealing pigs as consequence-free is just plain wrong,” Phelan concluded.

The ICSA also called on Channel 4 sponsors Mitsubishi to withdraw all funding unless the programme is pulled from the air.

Mitsubishi has already moved to distance itself from the documentary.

Amanda Gibson, the press public relations manager for Mitsubishi in the UK, said: “We try to remain neutral on emotive topics. However, the upcoming documentary has the potential to cause distress. Therefore, we will not be associating ourselves with this documentary. Mitsubishi Motors in the UK does not condone criminality or illegal and irresponsible activity in any form.”

The reaction from the ICSA mirrors the reaction from UK farm organisations.

Lizzie Wilson, policy services officer with the country’s National Pig Association (NPA) commented: “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, while also posing health and welfare risks to the pigs – this feels like a further kick in the teeth,” Wilson added.