Meat is crucial for feeding the planet, leading scientists have said, as they warned it is not more environmentally-friendly to go vegan.
Experts from the University of Edinburgh and Scotland's Rural College said farmers were increasingly feeling demonised by the unsupported 'meat is evil' claims being promoted by environmental lobbyists.
Speaking at a panel in central London, they argued that meat was critical for the physical and mental health of children, particularly in developing countries, and said that moving away from livestock1 farming would not improve land use.
Prof. Geoff Simm, Director of Global Academy Agriculture and Food Security at the University of Edinburgh, said: "I think (livestock farmers) do feel they are being demonised.
"Often the argument is made that going vegan would minimise land use, and the modelling studies that have been done demonstrate that that's not the case.
"We feel that while livestock production has a range of economic, social and environmental costs and benefits, the costs have perhaps been receiving far more attention recently than some of the benefits.
"Meat has massive social benefits. It's an important source of dietary protein, energy, highly bioavailable micronutrients, even small amounts of animal-sourced food have a really important effect on the development of children, in the developing world on their cognitive2 and physical development and they are really important."
Prof Mike Coffey, from Scotland's Rural College, added: "It's completely unnecessary to go vegan.
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