JANUARY needs to be reclaimed by the farming industry, a national organisation has said.

People across the UK have chosen to give up animal products for the first month of the year in what is known as Veganuary, which describes itself as “encouraging people and businesses alike to move to a plant-based diet as a way of protecting the environment, preventing animal suffering and improving the health of millions of people”.

The event has sparked controversy from farming organisations since it began in 2014.

This month, strategy director beef and lamb for the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, Will Jackson, said the farming community should use the month to “set the record straight” on UK livestock farming.

“There is a belief that the month is now owned by those who follow alternative lifestyle choices and set out to convert others while spreading misinformation and mischief around livestock farming,” said Mr Jackson.

“But we are looking at this the wrong way. January should be seen as a huge opportunity to set the record straight, hold our heads high and shout about the positives of livestock farming in the UK.

"More eyes are on us than normal so let’s showcase what we do and how well we do it to keep this country eating a healthy, balanced diet.”

Mr Jackson also criticised the BBC for its recent documentary on livestock farming and production, Meat: A Threat to Our Planet? for its “lack of a balanced argument”.

“All of those working in livestock farming need to act as brand leaders, which means pulling together, presenting a united front with consistent, evidence-based messaging.

“Throwing rocks at each other to score points only helps those who would seek to convert the bulk of the population to diets devoid of animal products.”

This is not the first time the AHDB has fought back against Veganuary.

In 2018, along with Dairy UK and the Dairy Council, it supported Februdairy, a campaign launched in response to the Veganuary.

Supporters were encouraged to support the dairy industry through buying products, sharing informative videos and photos on social media, and also participating in a viral challenge where people drink a pint of milk and then nominate their friends and family to do the same.

“We need not waste time worrying about what those who are promoting alternative lifestyle choices are doing. We can be guilty of being over-sensitive, so feel every time a negative comment appears on Twitter, the whole world is against us. They are not,” said Mr Jackson.