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'Wacky' jibe by Shropshire MP Owen Paterson over anti-meat comments

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Shropshire MP Owen Paterson has hit out at Jeremy Corbyn's "wacky" shadow cabinet – after claims that meat should be treated like tobacco.

The former Defra boss criticised Mr Corbyn's vegan shadow farming minister Kerry McCarthy after she said there should be a campaign to try to stop people eating meat.

Mr Paterson said quotes attributed to Labour's shadow farming minister Kerry McCarthy in an interview with a vegan magazine showed how "wacky" some of the people were that new leader Mr Corbyn had welcomed into his inner circle.

The comments, made in an interview earlier this year, have resurfaced in recent days and have also angered the British farming industry.

Speaking to Viva! life magazine, Ms McCarthy said: "I really believe that meat should be treated in exactly the same way as tobacco, with public campaigns to stop people eating it.

"Progress on animal welfare is being made at EU level . . . but in the end it comes down to not eating meat or dairy."

The MP for Bristol East has irked the British farming industry with her veganism and vice presidency of the anti-hunting League Against Cruel Sports.

Mr Paterson, who was Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from 2012 to 2014, said: "I think it is absolutely ridiculous. Comparing meat, which I think brings protein, pleasure and prosperity to people, comparing it to tobacco, which does lead to health problems, is just ludicrous.

"I think it just shows how wacky some of these people are that Corbyn has appointed.

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"I think it's ludicrous, it's simply not going to happen and it's not even really worthy of discussion."

Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard said Ms McCarthy was entitled to her vegan views but added that they "did not reflect the majority meat eating views of most British people".

He joined voices criticising Mr Corbyn for appointing her to the role, saying: "Kerry has many talents but perhaps they are best deployed in a more suitable shadow post."

Asked about the comments, Mr Corbyn contradicted the suggestion by encouraging meat-eaters not to change their habits.

Mr Corbyn said:

"I think meat eaters, if they wish to carry on eating meat, that's up to them to do so."

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