Farmers are fighting back against calls for people to help tackle climate change by going vegan in January.
Veganuary is a not-for-profit organisation started in 2014 by husband and wife Matthew Glover and Jane Land.
Since then, they say more than a million people have signed up to take part from every country in the world apart from three – North Korea, Vatican City and the Kingdom of Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland).
But farmers say there’s no need to cut out meat completely insisting what’s key is the sustainability of the produce and where it comes from.
Joe Stanley is a beef and arable farmer in Leicestershire. He says people can play their part in reducing greenhouse gases by eating more sustainably-produced local meat and reducing their carbon footprint in other ways.
He said: “Veganuary, from my perspective, is just a gimmick which is distracting society from the bigger questions we need to be addressing around the sustainability of our diets – not just the meat in our diet but the sustainability of all the food we’re consuming and how it’s being produced across the world.
“There is a danger of casting a very sustainable British industry to the wall in the pursuit of well-meaning campaigns such as Veganuary and then we may find that we’re importing food from other parts of the world which have much worse environmental records and much higher carbon footprints.
“So I would say to any consumer out there who is concerned about the carbon footprint of their food, the first and biggest change you can make to ensure sure you have a sustainable diet is to always try to buy British because we really do have some of the most sustainable food production in the world in this country.”
The agricultural sector accounts for 10% of the UK’s emissions and more than half of that – 6.3% – comes from the methane and waste produced by livestock, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Veganuary encourages people to give up meat in January – a time when many people try to form new habits.
They hope after that people will continue their new practices or at least reduce the amount of meat they eat.
Toni Vernelli, international head of communications for Veganuary, says increasingly climate change is a reason for people going vegan.
She said: “There’s plenty of opportunities for farmers to produce truly sustainable food but it doesn’t need to involve animals.
“Moving to a more plant-based diet is a fairly easy step most of us can take to help tackle climate change.
“In so many ways environmental issues seem out of our control and we don’t think we can make a big impact.
“But we do have control over our diet and that’s one positive change that each and every one of us can make to help us reduce our ecological footprint.”
The Committee on Climate Change, which advises the government how to get to net zero by 2050, has advised a 20% cut in the consumption of meat and dairy.
Stuart Roberts, deputy president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), said: “People should know that if they want to reduce their carbon footprint at the same time as continuing to enjoy meat and dairy products – they can.
“In the UK greenhouse gas emissions from beef production are half that of the global average.
“British farmers are already leading the way in climate-friendly food and we have an ambition to do even more, working towards net zero food production by 2040.”