Is there a secret vegan plan?

The government is considering a secret plan to turn the nation vegan, according to reports in the Daily Mail.

The paper reported that a leaked email from a government department expressed sympathy for the environmental benefits of the mass switch to a vegan diet.

However farming leaders have dismissed the idea as "simplistic".

The email was sent from the Environment Agency to a vegetarian campaign group and the paper claimed it said: "The potential benefit of a vegan diet in terms of climate impact could be very significant."

But, the message recognised that it would be very difficult to win public support, and said Defra was looking to encourage a gradual change that would be more palatable to the public.

The e-mail states: "It will be a case of introducing this gently as there is a risk of alienating the public majority."

The report said the official goes on to say it is "unlikely" that the Environment Agency would ever suggest adopting a fully vegan lifestyle, but added: "Certainly encouraging people to examine their consumption of animal protein could be a key message."

The NFU's Anthony Gibson told the Daily Mail the claims were "simplistic and flawed", and NFU president Peter Kendall told the BBC's Today show that from an environmental point of view there was a case that more intensive farming of livestock could actually play a beneficial role for the environment.