Egg farmers angered by criticism on 'Archers'

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The Independent Online
EGG FARMERS are angry at criticism of battery hen farming in The Archers, radio's long-running soap opera.

They say the BBC programme gives a 'completely one-sided' portrayal of battery systems in favour of free range production.

Keith Pulman, secretary of the 650-member UK Egg Producers' Association, said: 'After Edwina Currie, this is the last thing we want.'

He is urging his members to register a protest with the programme's agricultural storyline editor, Tony Parkin.

But the BBC insisted the programme was 'even-handed'. There had been no letters of complaint and just one phoned protest, a spokeswoman said.

Egg farmers accuse the programme of unjustly raising chicken welfare issues in battery farming while maintaining that free range hens enjoy an idyllic life. One scene had Mike Tucker, a battery farmer, casually mentioning there were usually 'a couple of dead 'uns' among the droppings. He said they got swept out with the waste, adding: 'I can hardly give them a proper funeral.'

Listeners also heard that free range eggs would be cheaper if more people bought them.

Mr Pulman said this was not true, as free range production cost more than battery cages.

'Free range eggs are fine if you are talking about six hens and a cockerel running about in an orchard, but big producers keep whole herds of the birds together. We do not accept there is a welfare problem in battery cages.'

The BBC said a tasting session on the programme ended with few characters having any preference.