Long-running children's TV programme Blue Peter has angered agri-food bodies by encouraging children to go meat-free as part of its new 'Green Badge' challenge.

The iconic BBC show asked viewers to become part of a ‘green army’ to tackle carbon emissions and climate change.

Recommendations to earn a Green Badge include shared on the programme included encouraging children to take the ‘Supersize Plants Pledge’, and replacing meals with what it describes as “climate-friendly” meat-free alternatives.

Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) chief executive Alan Clarke; Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) chief communications officer Christine Watts; and Hybu Cig Cymru / Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) chief executive Gwyn Howells, have penned an open letter in response.

The letter criticised the programme for sharing concepts that were "incorrect, misleading and based on widely debunked data" and sought a meeting with the BBC's head of children’s programming.

The letter claimed children were told: “Reducing the amount of meat you eat, especially beef and lamb, is known to be even better for the climate than reducing the amount you travel in a car”

"This unbalanced reporting risks compromising the integrity of the red meat produced in the UK to the consumers of the future," it read.

"It is essential that young people learn and understand where their food comes from and its impact on the planet, and the Green Badge campaign presents an opportunity to share the fantastic credentials of the British red meat industry - which is amongst the most sustainable in the world and supports the livelihoods of thousands of people.

"As a public service broadcaster, the BBC has a responsibility to provide an impartial argument. This is all the more important when communicating to children Blue Peter also promotes the Carbon Calculator, a simplistic tool that cites global data not representative of the UK’s red meat industry."

The letter went on to highlight some of the initiatives happening on UK farms to improve sustainability, such as:

  • Conducting regular carbon audits to manage and offset emissions;
  • Avoiding ploughing, drainage and over-grazing;
  • Creating wildlife corridors along water margins, field margins and headlands;
  • Taking action to control soil; and
  • Achieving net-zero across the industry in England and Wales by 2040 and by 2045 in Scotland.

"The highest volume of CO2 is produced by the fossil fuel industries, with livestock farming contributing just 6% of the UK’s CO2 emissions," the letter added.

"Given this statistic, cutting your individual meat consumption would, in fact, not reduce the UK’s overall CO2 emissions nearly as significantly as structural changes in the energy and transport sectors, such as encouraging families to walk, cycle and use public transport.

"Furthermore, the minerals and vitamins found in red meat should form an important part of a growing young person’s diet. Iron from meat sources is more readily absorbed by the human body compared with iron found in other non-meat sources.

"We would welcome the opportunity to share the positive messages from the red meat industry.

"Sharing information with young people about the techniques and processes in place to make sure farming in the UK is not at the detriment to the wider environment is also essential in helping them form their own opinions and consumption habits.

"These stories must be shared, and we ask that the BBC and Blue Peter to reconsider their one-sided messaging and provide an opportunity for the heads of the UK’s red meat industry bodies to meet with the head of children’s programming to shed light on the positive messages."

The BBC has been contacted for response.