The National Sheep Association (NSA) says it is ready to fight back against the “misguided and misleading campaign” for Veganuary, which is taking place this month.

The association’s chief executive, Phil Stocker, believes the campaign is not just trying to spread the health benefits of the lifestyle but is an attack on the livestock industry.

“Make no doubt about it, behind the positive messages about Veganuary lies a well co-ordinated campaign against livestock farming,” he said.

“Our concern is that our unique grass-based method of sheep production in Britain is hidden within more global and general statistics.

“We are seeing criticisms from welfare campaigners, rewilders, climate change campaigners and health campaigners – but all these are connected.

“It ignores the fact that UK sheep farming works very much in harmony with our environment, our landscapes, and our human ecology – creating a countryside the majority of the public love and producing a food product that is healthy and nutritious within a balanced diet.

“The climate change arguments that have been buoyed by the recent Paris Climate Change Summit ignore the fact that red meat from livestock that is part of a grass-based system is different from that raised in feedlots and in intensive situations.

“Even more misleading is that the carbon footprinting tools we use do not take account of whole life cycles and ignore the role of grasslands and grazing animals in storing carbon and organic matter in our soils and even in the wool they produce.”