I AGREE with Countryfile presenter Tom Heap that schoolchildren should visit abattoirs to gain a fuller understanding of where their food comes from.

Heap has called for greater transparency of food production practices to increase awareness of animal welfare. He even suggests that each stage of food production could be filmed on webcam.

Writing in this week’s Radio Times Magazine, he said: “I honestly believe that slaughterhouses, intensive chicken barns or crowded pig pens should be open to the public eye. Schools should be encouraged to visit as part of the curriculum.”

He adds: “Much of the farming industry is nervous about letting the cameras in. I’m not saying they have something to hide, but they seem to believe the consumer would rather not know. For me, secrecy breeds malpractice inside and, frequently unjustified, suspicion on the outside.”

While not everyone cares about the welfare of the animal that ends up on their plate, there are many meat-eaters who do care. For increasing numbers of consumers, food provenance is important. Today’s restaurants expect diners to take an interest in where the vegetables are grown, the meat is farmed or the fish is caught. Many shoppers are keen to trace the source of food they buy. And farm to fork issues should be part of education too.

Greater transparency of farming processes would allow the public to see how meat is produced, and raise awareness of some methods many would prefer not to think about.

I gave up meat when I was 18 because I was disturbed by the idea of intensive farming. I felt it was an unnatural way to produce meat, and a barbaric way to treat animals. I didn’t want to be part of that and I stopped eating meat overnight. I haven’t eaten it since and, over three decades later, I still feel the same about battery farming. I believe animals should be treated humanely before they are slaughtered.

If people want to eat meat, that’s up to them. But it doesn’t start off neatly wrapped in plastic in the supermarket, or covered in ketchup in a fast food carton. It starts as a living, breathing animal; which is something that’s easy to lose sight of.

Countryfile shouldn’t be afraid to cover the issue, despite its early Sunday evening timeslot.

As Tom Heap said: “While taking care not to offend gratuitously, Countryfile - like the countryside - is not a ‘safe space’ and we shouldn’t hide or gloss any uncomfortable truths.”

* No binge-watching for me

WE have so much at our fingertips now, it’s easy to forget a time when it wasn’t so. ‘On demand’ has radically changed the way we watch television - no longer do we have to wait a week for the next episode of a gripping drama or a must-see sitcom. We can get it straight away, with a flick of the remote. And box set culture has made it perfectly acceptable to sit through even an entire series in one go.

I don’t see the appeal of binge-watching. I recently got into Grey’s Anatomy (I know - I’m 15 series behind) but I only watch one episode at a time, even though the next one is already downloading, beckoning me in.

Block viewing is greedy. People no longer wait, which is a shame because there’s a pleasure to be had in looking forward to weekly instalments. I still have fond memories of watching Tenko on Thursday evenings with my mum.

As a fan of US family drama This is Us, I was thrilled that Season 2 was back on telly last night. For the next three months, it’s going to be my Wednesday night treat. Bliss.

* Baggy, a bit loose at the seams...and much loved

FAREWELL to Peter Firmin, the man who gave us the "old, saggy cloth cat" I have adored since childhood.

The creator of TV favourites Bagpuss and The Clangers brought joy to generations of children with his skilfully-crafted sets and characters. Some of my earliest memories are of those quirky, gentle programmes, with Oliver Postgate's soothing narration. The Clangers remain on their 'small blue planet not far from Earth', and Bagpuss still lies in Emily's shop window. And they will forever have a place in my heart.

* About time TV dramas highlighted homelessness

I HAVE often thought that homelessness would be a meaty issue for a TV drama to tackle.

Now Coronation Street is doing just that. One of its most popular characters, Sean Tully, ends up sleeping on the streets, after losing his job and home. Actor Antony Cotton, who plays Sean, says: "The one thing I hope people will take from it is it can happen to anyone."

It's easy to walk past people lying in shop doorways, without giving a second thought to the downward spiral that led them there. Often it's just a few steps between having a comfortable home, a decent job and a stable relationship to losing all three, in swift succession, and becoming a rough sleeper.

Homelessness really can happen to anyone. Even Corrie's happy-go-lucky Sean.