By Debbie James

Among my gift haul at Christmas was the book ‘Defending Beef’. A clue to the subject matter is in the title.

It is not comfort reading so I put it to one side while I lost myself in a novel or two during lockdown but I dusted it off this month after the row erupted when Blue Peter advised children that they would become ‘climate heroes’ if they gave up beef.

What makes this book compelling is that it is penned by a vegetarian who is also a cattle rancher. She is an environmental lawyer too and makes a convincing case for sustainable meat production.

Farmers were rightly angered at the Blue Peter broadside on livestock farming. We live in an age when incorrect information, if repeated often enough, becomes so common it is eventually accepted as fact.

Many of us don’t take the time to dig deeper and facts, however skewed they may be, become an accepted opinion.

The author’s overall premise, that cattle are good for the environment and that beef and animal fat are healthy foods, runs counter to what we have come to assume in this age of avocados and quinoa.

Put simplistically, it is our addiction to sugar and not our consumption of red meat and animal fat that are to blame for the sharp rise in chronic diseases, she says.

The BBC has a responsibility for impartiality but it oversteps the mark time and time again.

The farming industry’s response in the Blue Peter row was that simplistic methods using global data that is unrepresentative of the UK’s red meat industry was used to make the case that eating meat is worse than travelling by car.

It ticks the box of the virtuous among us so let’s make that an accepted fact shall we?

Except it is not – it is incorrect and misleading and based on widely-debunked data, the industry pointed out in its reprimand to the boss at the BBC.

Within a week, Blue Peter had dropped its anti-meat message but some of the mud it had slung will have stuck.

We all apply different principles to the choices we make in how we live but as this row has demonstrated, before preaching to others we should first sort popular myth from fact.