Chicken 'exposé' is cut to suit - Hugh responds

Celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall has responded to allegations his programme misled viewers.

In last Friday's issue, MTJ revealed how the chef had come under fire after his latest television show appeared to show that the poultry industry refused to take part.

Hugh's Chicken Run, shown last week, was billed as an exposé of "the horrors of intensive chicken farming", and showed the chef setting up an intensive poultry unit near his home in Axminster, Devon, after claiming no poultry farmer would "let me any closer than the end of the phone".

Yet Devon poultry company Lloyd Maunder said the chef spent three days filming at farms, including an intensive unit, with the TV chef and the company's commercial director Andrew Maunder engaged in a "robust debate" on camera. But when the show aired this week, all the footage had been cut and no mention was made of Lloyd Maunder's contribution. Veronica Newport from Lloyd Maunder said the company felt "extreme disappointment".

"We do feel an injustice is being done here - not just to Lloyd Maunder, but to the industry because [the programme-makers] did have an industry perspective, they did have the opportunity to include that to give the debate context, and they have chosen to edit it out."

British Poultry Council (BPC) chief executive Peter Bradnock said he had been invited to appear on camera, but had refused. "It was very clear from all our discussions with the makers of the programme that there was a complete lack of objectivity when it came to the merits of indoor systems."

Over the weekend, the allegations about the programme were reproduced in three national newspapers, the Mail on Sunday, the Independent and the Sunday Mirror, and now the chef has responded.

He said in a response that will be published in full in this Friday's issue: "We wholeheartedly applaud the openness of Lloyd Maunder and their staff in engaging with our production; but our experience in trying to gain access to the poultry industry in general has shown that Lloyd Maunder's openness is the exception, rather than the rule. We are delighted to have a continuing and constructive dialogue with Andrew Maunder and his colleagues, who we believe are committed to helping bring about some of the changes we have called for in our programmes."

At the time our initial story went to press, Jaimie D'Cruz, executive producer of the programme told MTJ that the episode aired at the start of the week was filmed before Lloyd Maunder agreed to take part.

Channel 4 said the sequence was cut because Lloyd Maunder also took part in Jamie Oliver's Fowl Dinners, so they "held over this footage to avoid repetition between our respective programmes".

D'Cruz denied the accusation the programme was unfairly biased, and said access to farms had been near-impossible, with Lloyd Maunder "conspicuous by being the only farm in the whole country that would allow us access".

Channel 4 said in a statement: "The rationale behind building Hugh's own farm was that no-one within the industry who was approached, would allow us unfettered public access to an intensive farm, which is the premise for Hugh's main argument - that if people could see how their cheap chicken was really produced, they would forgo it and choose a more expensive higher-welfare product instead."

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