A Green Party MP was met with criticism on the final day of the Oxford Farming Conference when she urged parliament to consider a tax on meat.

Caroline Lucas admitted that her comments would not prove popular, but stood firm by her assertion that a meat tax would make an impact in reducing greenhouse gas emissions produced by livestock.

Ms Lucas addressed the conference: “The UK must prioritise more humane and human-scale methods of livestock farming, together with support for farmers to transition to less livestock. If the world’s diet doesn’t change, we simply can’t avoid the worst effects of climate change,” she stressed.

“Better manure management and careful selection of feed can both help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but – at the risk of incurring the wrath of the energy secretary, who said recently that encouraging people to eat less meat would be the worst sort of nanny state ever – we need serious consideration of measures like a meat tax.”

The MP’s comments serve a blow to the industry at a time where they face pressure from animal rights campaigners, who under the guise of ‘Veganuary,’ are pushing forward an agenda to discredit livestock farming.

Phil Stocker, chief executive of the NSA, defended British sheep farming, meriting its efforts to improve the environment, an argument which can often fall on deaf ears: “Our concern is that our unique, grass-based method of sheep production in Britain is hidden within more global and general statistics,” he stressed.

Mr Stocker made the argument that the UK’s approach to sheep farming utilises the least intensive form of livestock farming but often it will be grouped in to the same camp as the feedlots and megafarms which can be found in other parts of the world, such as the US.

Stocker strongly opposed the notion of a meat tax: “The right meat, consumed sensibly, should be incentivised and not taxed. Sheep production is not damaging to the environment or to health – sheep mainly eat grass and grass is part of a complex and natural cycling of carbon, with soil storing carbon in organic matter.

“Any meat tax would be likely to affect all meat production and consumption – and there are many different forms of meat production,” he continued. “A meat tax would end up putting further pressure on primary producers – in the case of sheep this would impact on the profitability of many small family farms, yet these are highly desirable and deliver a host of economic, social and environmental goods,” he explained.

The secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs, Michael Gove, sparked debate on day two of the Oxford Conference when he told the audience that advances in synthetic biology meant that in the future, we would be able to create traditional farming products such as meat, milk or eggs in laboratories.

National Farmers Union president Minette batters responded by saying: “When you have one of the very few areas in the world where you have the right climate for producing food, that surely is what you should be doing,” she urged. “95% of what we eat is produced in soil, it’s nutrient dense and that is why it is such a valuable food. Why would you want to be stepping back from that?” she questioned.