A leaked e-mail from a government agency suggests that if the public switched to a vegan diet it would be better for the environment, according to the Daily Mail.

The paper reports the story under the headline “The secret plans to turn us all vegetarian”.

The paper claims to have seen a leaked e-mail which expresses sympathy for the environmental benefits of a mass switch to a vegan diet.

The e-mail, sent to vegetarian campaign group Viva, is understood to have come from an official at the Environment Agency.

It states: “The potential benefit of a vegan diet in terms of climate impact could be very significant.”

But it suggests that DEFRA is looking to encourage a gradual change that would be more palatable to the general 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 official goes on to say it is “unlikely” that the Environment Agency would ever suggest adopting a fully vegan lifestyle.

But the e-mail added: “Certainly encouraging people to examine their consumption of animal protein could be a key message.”

NFU communications chief Anthony Gibson rejected the claims as “simplistic and flawed”.