A BBC spokesperson said the ad was not intended to be an endorsement for a vegan lifestyle.
The BBC has added more fuel to the fire with its new #XmasLife television advert, which features a family tucking into a nut roast and an animated turkey in an ‘I love vegans’ green jumper.
Farmers argue it raises questions about the broadcaster’s commitment to impartiality.
A BBC spokesperson said the ad was not intended to be an endorsement for a vegan lifestyle, rather the cartoon turkeys were supposed to be comedic, ‘in keeping with the slightly surreal, exuberant spirit of the film’.
But NFU vice president Stuart Roberts said he was concerned the BBC appeared to have ‘started campaigning for a vegan diet’.
The cartoon turkey says ‘less of us have been gobbled this year’.
Mr Roberts said: “It does not appear to sit within the BBC’s editorial guidelines, which clearly states that they should not be a campaigning organisation, and this advert takes our concerns about the BBC’s impartiality in its coverage of meat a step further.”
It came as vegan campaign Veganuary is beginning to ramp up its advertising, with a television advert expected to air between Christmas and New Year.
Veganuary, which encourages people to follow a vegan diet throughout the month of January, will be in its seventh year in 2020 and is expecting 350,000 registered participants across the world.
The NFU said it was ‘continuing to encourage members to showcase the great story that British livestock farmers have to tell, whether through social media or other forms’.
TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham is just one of the celebs seen to be already sporting a Veganuary t-shirt, suggesting: “If [people] knew where it had come from and how it was produced, meat consumption would drop off straight away.”
But in a ‘vegan alternative’ comparison segment on Australian breakfast show programme Sunrise, nutritionist Susie Burrell said consumers making a straight swap from meat products would ‘not get any of the key nutrients’.
She pinpointed examples such as the beef burger, which has 13g protein, 8g of fat and 450mcg of sodium, compared to a ‘vegan burger’ which has 8g of protein, 13g fat and 1,700mcg of sodium.
And while a real chicken breast and its vegan alternative have the same 22g protein, vegan ‘chicken’ has 15g of fat, compared to the 2g fat found in a real chicken breast.
The story is similar in vegan ‘fish’, with 22g of protein and less than 1g carbohydrates in salmon, compared to 0.4g protein and 32g carbohydrates in its vegan substitute.
Ms Burrell said: “I would argue these options are not healthier – they are vegan alternatives if that is your choice. But it is not better nutritionally and it is definitely not healthier.”