Sir, – Re; MacMillan Cancer Support's 'Meat-free March'. I am writing to express the disappointment of myself and the members of the Texel Sheep Society at the decision by MacMillan Cancer Support to promote ‘Meat-free March’ as a vehicle for fundraising and to applaud the charity for listening to the rural community and changing its strategy on this matter.

While there is no doubt that MacMillan Cancer Support does excellent work supporting many hundreds of thousands of people suffering with many forms of cancer, its decision to promote a fund raising event encouraging people to turn their backs on a healthy, balanced diet is highly questionable and potentially damaging.

MacMillan’s own website clearly advises those recently diagnosed with cancer to eat a ‘healthy balanced diet’ with advice given that eating such a diet can help avoid the risks of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or osteoperosis developing after cancer treatment.

I would suggest the charity focuses it’s efforts on encouraging those sadly suffering with cancer and, indeed, the wider public, to ensure the meat they eat is produced in sustainable, local farming systems. British sheep and beef farming systems are largely grass-based, with more than 90% of sheep and beef diets in the UK coming from grass and forage.

These grass-based systems act as carbon sinks, absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere and locking it up underground, providing a sustainable source of protein which British consumers can eat with the confidence it is has been produced to some of the highest environmental and welfare standards in the world.

In addition, many British farmers, including members of the Texel Sheep Society, are working with scientists to further reduce the impact of cattle and sheep on the environment by selecting more efficient genetics.

The Society itself is involved in a worldwide project ‘GrasstoGas’ with the aim of finding new ways of feeding and breeding sheep to reduce their impact on the environment.

We are working with long-term research partner, SRUC, in this project that also involves organisations from France, Ireland, Turkey, Norway, New Zealand and Uruguay.

Collectively, the G2G project combines international scientific and industry expertise to measure two key factors that affect the environmental impact of sheep – feed efficiency (the amount of feed required to produce one unit of meat or milk) and methane emissions.

None of us goes untouched by cancer and the work MacMillan undertakes is highly valued by all who receive its support and their families and friends. Much needed fundraising is often undertaken by those touched by the disease, including those in farming and rural communities.

As such, the society has urged MacMillan to immediately rethink its promotion of ‘Meat-free March’ to avoid any further loss of support from the farming and rural communities across the UK.

There are so many other more positive ways to raise funds for this much valued charity which avoid alienating any sector of the public.

John Yates

Chief executive Texel Sheep Society.