The government has rubbished media reports of secret Defra plans to force Britons to give up meat in order to fight climate change.

Defra said there was no such plan and claimed there never could be. A spokesman said: "It isn't our role to enforce a dietary change on any individual. The Government's role is to provide the facts to help them make informed choices."

However, Defra admitted it was developing advice on how cutting meat and dairy consumption could help individuals reduce their carbon footprint. The department already advises visitors to its website that farm animals are big emitters of greenhouse gases. But it is planning to give that advice much greater prominence in a "carbon calculator" to be unveiled in July. It will tell consumers how much carbon would be saved by different actions.

The NFU said the idea that vegetarianism would reduce global warming was dubious and warned ministers against simplistic responses.