Just when I wondered if Veganuary would morph into something similar for February, I read the latest from Macmillan Cancer Support 'Say cheerio and go meat free for March' which claimed that going vegan will support those living with cancer.

Maybe the ongoing interchange between meat production and pending doom for civilisation is more than coincidental?

Since the revelation of the tactics used by Cambridge Analytica to move Donald Trump into The White House and also to change the dynamic in our 2016 referendum, from easy victory for the remainers to narrow defeat, it begs the question of whether democracy can ever be the same again.

Fake news has undermined faith in experts and other previously trusted sources of information and turned truth into what you want it to be rather than objective fact. The world is now a different place – a place where lies and hatred can be easily accessed, and spread by modern technology.

Following the success of the Obama campaign in 2012 when data processing and voter targeting were used by methods which were, by today's standards, crude, the firm Cambridge Analytica transformed the process into something much more sophisticated and at the same time ethically questionable.

By communicating select messages to specifically targeted voters, Donald Trump, initially an outsider gained The White House. Changing the vote in a mere 77,000 voters in three swing states did the job for him.

A critical player in the election was Facebook with its trade-off of free and easy contact for our personal data which it then sold to advertisers. It makes an average $30 from each of its 170m users, so data is the new 'oil'.

In 2014, lax American data laws allowed Cambridge Analytica access to this information for political purposes by covertly collecting it through a third party under the guise of academic research. This was in direct contravention of Facebook’s terms of service. This enabled them to predict which undecided voters to target and what message to deliver to convince them to vote for Trump.

The same information, concentrated on a few key groups, had a huge disproportionate effect on the result.

Facebook was launched in 2004 as a means of social contact at Harvard University. Within a few years it became the largest social network in the world. It works by sharing photos, opinions and discussion groups and by recommending products and brands through the internet. Every entry is filed and is the basis of Facebook's funding.

Users give away data every time they click on ‘yes’, agree to terms of use and ‘accept cookies’, a form of spyware. The collected data is then sold to commercial companies which enables them to optimise advertising.

As people live more and more of their lives on mobile phones, tablets and computers, more and more data becomes available to calculate everything about its users. The pattern of users likes, profiles, groups and clicks produce clues that can accurately reveal their inclinations and character.

Ten clicks can predict a person’s behaviour better than a work colleague; 150 more accurately than a family member; and 300 knows the person better than their own spouse.

It scrutinises relationships, follows a user around on the phone through GPS and tracks everything bought online. The information becomes available not only about the users themselves but also, without their knowledge, about all their of ‘friends’. (Friend is the Facebook term for a regular contact).

The average Facebooker has 150 friends. The data buyer can then build a picture of who the users are and by delivering the right message on the right media at the right time can tailor their product to suit them.

In 2014, Cambridge Analytica started using Facebook data. They then developed fake pages on Facebook and other platforms that looked like real forums, groups and sources of news to locate and manipulate potential targets.

By using large amounts of data to design tactics capable of moving public opinion en masse they swayed voters in the US Presidential election and also in our referendum on whether or not to leave the European Union. They focused on individuals, messaged them repeatedly and fine tuned the messages by tweaking words, colours, sounds and tag-lines to see what worked best until the objective was realised. The central nervous system of democracy had been breached.

Data protection in UK, France and Germany was already restrictive and previous lax legislation in USA was tightened on 2015. Unfortunately, a loophole was left allowing data already harvested to remain in use.

Rumours which are difficult to substantiate persist of Russian hacking to exert influence on elections in other countries by deploying data from doubtful sources to undermine democracy. As Facebook users know, data bought legitimately from Facebook is used to promote food brands, fashion items and belief in climate change. If them, why not committed vegans in their crusade against eating meat.

It is difficult to believe that the continuous barrage of anti-meat rhetoric at the same time as genuine concerns about global warming is co-incidental. Vegans’ ability to successfully target the media, politicians, those who devise school lunch menus and even charities suggest that they have a sophisticated data base and are using advanced analytics to reach their targets.

Our present tactics of promoting the virtues of meat in various media, enlisting celebrities to endorse meat eating or marching through London may have some limited effect. Knowing what we face, something stronger is now required.

Our united farming unions, or maybe some new body altogether must address the problem. The first step should be to ally ourselves with the huge American meat traders, like Tyson Foods, Cargill and JBS. They are big bruisers and carry enormous clout.

No doubt they are more than aware of the threat and are probably already taking gloves off measures to counter it. There may be other solutions. None involve inaction in the hope that the problem will go away.