CELEBRITIES and politicians have signed an open letter urging the public to go vegan.

The letter has been published by Veganuary, a charity that encourages people worldwide to try a vegan diet for the entirety of January.

It has now attracted high-profile support from politicians including Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, and Conservative MP for Crawley Henry Smith.

Comedian Ricky Gervais, Sir Paul McCartney and naturalist Chris Packham have also signed the letter.

Mr Packham, who is also a Veganuary ambassador, said: “Trashing the planet does none of us any good, as the coronavirus pandemic shows all too clearly.

“But we can emerge from this stronger and wiser, with a renewed commitment to protecting the environment, its inhabitants and our own futures.

“Being vegan is a great way to support the natural world and to live sustainably.”

The charity claims that there is a “very clear connection between climate change, global pandemics and our consumption of animal products”.

Veganuary believe that climate change cannot be tackled effectively while animals are being “farmed and eaten on an industrial scale”.

The letter also includes a warning from experts that factory farming is a breeding ground for pandemics and examines the associated links between animal farming and future pandemics.

Tony Vernelli, international head of communications at Veganuary, said: “2020 has brought much hardship and heartbreak, but it has also given us an opportunity to change and build a better future.

“Our united message is one of hope, but we must act now.”

Despite the warnings, the charity ends the letter by stating that it is not too late to prevent a future climate and health crisis.

It said: “Catastrophic climate breakdown and global pandemics could not be more serious, but they are not inevitable. If we act now, the future can be better.

“Today, we are urging everyone to help build a better future by signing up to try vegan this January with Veganuary. Together, we can create a world that is kinder and safer for all.”

Big businesses are also embracing vegan eating for sustainability and sales.

April Preston, director of product development for Marks and Spencer food, said the retailer is expanding its vegan range to coincide with Veganuary.

She said: “As the proud owners of the UK’s number one vegan own label, Plant Kitchen, we’re getting super excited about Veganuary.

“This year we’re sharing the sign-up links with all our colleagues in stores and support centres, encouraging them to give Veganuary a go. We’ve got lots of amazing new products launching in our Plant Kitchen range, so it’s the perfect time to sample them.

“Our M&S Food leadership team are getting fully involved as well, and will be creating a series of fun, weekly videos that we’re sharing internally of the team sampling different Plant Kitchen products and their meat equivalents and finding out which comes top.”

Other businesses taking on Veganuary’s Workplace Challenge include Wagamama, Tesco, O2, e.l.f. Beauty, Kings College London, Docusign, Hastings Direct, Givaudan, Ecotricity, Deliveroo and Upfield, owners of Flora Plant and Violife.

This year Veganuary celebrated surpassing a million sign-ups since it began in 2014.

Founders Matthew Glover and wife Jane Land started Veganuary from their kitchen in York with the hope of encouraging just a few people to go vegan.

Official participant numbers have been growing exponentially, from just over 3,000 in 2014 to more than 400,000 people from 192 countries in 2020.

Rock stars Brian May, from Queen, and Meatloaf were among last year’s participants.

However the charity believes that the number of people who have taken the Veganuary pledge without actually signing up could be ten times greater.

Matthew Glover said: “When my wife Jane and I decided to launch a new year’s vegan pledge in 2014 we expected only 1,000 people to take part. More than 3,000 signed up and we were blown away. Now Veganuary is a bigger feature in the retail calendar than Christmas, reflecting the ever-increasing number of people choosing plant-based food.

“One million official Veganuary participants in just seven years is a huge achievement, but the momentum behind the plant-based revolution will see us hit two million in no time.”

More than 300,000 people have already officially signed up to take part this year, double the number as at the same time last year.

The charity hopes to reach a global total of 500,000 sign-ups through its website.