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Veggies roasted after study shows they are wrecking our planet

BECOMING a vegetarian can do more harm to the environment than continuing to eat red meat, a new study into meat substitutes shows.

The findings undermine claims by vegetarians that giving up meat automatically results in lower emissions and that less land is needed to produce food.

The Cranfield University study, commissioned by the environmental group WWF, found that many meat substitutes were produced from soy, chickpeas and lentils that are grown overseas and imported.

It found that switching from a diet of beef and lamb reared locally to meat substitutes would result in more foreign land being cultivated and raise the risk of forests being destroyed to create farmland.

Meat substitutes also tended to be highly processed and involved energy-intensive production methods.

Lord Stern of Brentford, one of the world's leading climate change economists, caused uproar among Britain's livestock farmers last October when he claimed that a vegetarian diet was better for the planet.

He said: "Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases.

"It puts enormous pressure on the world's resources. Therefore a vegetarian diet is better."

However, the Cranfield study found that the environmental benefits of vegetarianism depended heavily on the type of food consumed.

It concluded: "A switch from beef and milk to highly refined livestock product analogues such as tofu could actually increase the quantity of arable land needed."

Donal Murphy-Bokern, one of the study's authors, said: "For some people, tofu and other meat substitutes symbolise environmental friendliness but they are not necessarily the badge of merit people claim.

"Simply eating more bread, pasta and potatoes instead of meat is more environmentally friendly."

Liz O'Neill, spokeswoman for the Vegetarian Society, said: "The figures used in the report are based on a number of questionable assumptions about how vegetarians balance their diet and how the food industry might respond to increased demand."