A BBC programme that features young vegan activists attempting to convert residents of a Welsh town to veganism has been criticised by farmers.

The new BBC Three series Veganville follows five vegans head to Merthyr Tydfil to convert local meat-eaters to a plant-based lifestyle.

It claims to challenge views on both sides of the debate in the process, and with New Year's resolutions fresh in the mind and many taking part in Veganuary - a challenge to eat a plant-based diet for the month of January - veganism is promising to be one of the hot topics of 2020.

Meat and dairy consumption is ingrained in local culture across the UK, and Merthyr Tydfil, a town surrounded by hills and farmland as most of the communities in Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham are, is home to many who depend on animal agriculture for employment and nutrition.

As veganism increasingly makes its way into the mainstream, the series explores what motivates those who choose a plant-based lifestyle.

But, NFU Cymru says the documentary is an example of unbalanced and disproportionate reporting of veganism.

The Leader:

NFU president John Davies

NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “It is frustrating that once again a BBC-commissioned programme is acting as a promotional tool for a specific campaign representing only a tiny minority of people.

“A number of claims are made during the Veganville series that are false – not least that the best thing a person could do for the environment would be to immediately turn vegan. NFU Cymru was asked to contribute to the programme, but our dairy farmer featured in less than 6 minutes of over 2 hours and 18 minutes of total airtime while other contributions from the farming industry amounted to short and sporadic soundbites. This is hardly balanced.

“The Veganville series did, conversely, highlight once again that there is a huge amount of public support for red meat and dairy products so it is strange, therefore, that the BBC persists with this agenda of providing so much airtime to this issue.

“The truth of the matter is that red meat and dairy products have an integral role to play in a healthy, balanced diet and remain a staple part of many UK consumers’ dietary choices. Consumers can continue to have confidence that food produced by hard-working UK farmers is produced to some of the highest animal welfare and environmentally sustainable standards in the world.

“NFU Cymru has submitted a letter of complaint to the commissioning editor of the programme at the BBC about the lack of balance in this piece. Once again, NFU Cymru is encouraging its members to submit an official complaint via the BBC website if they feel any of its programmes covering food and farming lack the balance that we would expect from our national broadcaster.”

The Leader:

Rikki, Korin and Joey in Veganville

The vegans in Veganville include full-time animal rights activist Joey, Miami bodybuilder Korin, single mum Jodi, foodie Rikki and truck driver Dan. Each has a different connection to giving up animal products, leading to tensions when it comes to the methods used for spreading the word about veganism.

Over three weeks, Merthyr’s meat-eaters present a range of views that test the group, from farmers whose businesses depend on animal products to those building muscle in the gym and busy parents looking to provide nutritious and affordable meals for the whole family.

With some studies suggesting a number of Brits are put off giving up animal products by the ‘aggressive’ image of vegan activism, the series offers the chance for both sides to learn from each other, while allowing the vegans themselves to assess the way in which they spread their plant-based message.

A BBC spokesperson said: “Veganville isn’t pro-vegan or anti vegan. As NFU Cymru points out, the documentary hears from a range of local contributors who support the meat and dairy industry, whether farmers or members of the Merthyr Tydfil community, alongside those who practice veganism.”

With an estimated 600,000 vegans in the UK, compared to 150,000 in 2006, the choice cannot be ignored, with Greggs and KFC already launching highly-publicised vegan options this year.

Veganville is the fist of a number of programs set to both champion and challenge veganism in 2020.

A new Channel 4 show, called Meat the Family, will see families adopt regularly slaughtered for meat livestock before being asked whether they want to go vegetarian or to eat their newly adopted "pets".