Calls to eat less meat to combat climate change are misguided, the Country Land and Business Association has warned.
Instead, new ways must be found to produce meat with lower greenhouse gas emissions, said CLA president William Worsley.
The association was responding to a government-funded report calling for a sharp reduction in livestock numbers to help combat climate change.
But Mr Worsley said: “Calls for people to give up eating meat to fight climate change are misjudged. We must not forget that meat provides us with key nutrients.
“Farming fewer livestock would only create other problems. Milk from cows, for instance, is a key nutrient for the healthy development of young children.
The only viable milk substitute would be large volumes of soya. But soya farming has destroyed vast tracts of rainforest across the world and continued to do so.
“There is much natural grazing in the world,” said Mr Worsley.
“It makes little sense to plough up this land for human food crops which would in itself produce significant carbon emissions.”
Mr Worsley dismissed suggestions that landowners were failing to take global warming seriously.
“Climate change is an issue we take very seriously, but eating less meat would make little difference to it,” he said.
“We believe that research into farming methods that limit the greenhouse gases that cows and other livestock emit is the key to moving forward.”
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