Study: Most meat eaters support veganism, but ‘practical matters’ keep many from switching

BATH, England — Veganism, or abstaining from consumption of any animal-related foods, is more popular today than ever before. Vegan-themed restaurants and shops continue to pop up and flourish in cities and neighborhoods the world over. The movement, though, has also dealt with its fair share of adversity. Some supporters of more traditional, meat-oriented diets, seem to take pleasure in demeaning vegans, and there is of course the fairly new stereotype that the typical vegan can’t stop bragging about their eating habits. All of these cultural factors have contributed to the perception that veganism is still very much a fringe lifestyle, and that the majority of people don’t support it’s underlying message of more environmentally-friendly and ethically-conscious eating habits.

The findings of a recent study conducted at the University of Bath, however, paint a different picture regarding meat eaters’ views towards veganism. Researchers found that the majority of meat eaters support the ethical and environmental benefits of veganism and vegetarianism. So why don’t additional people switch over to such a lifestyle? For many, it comes down to “practical matters” such as concerns regarding convenience, taste, and price.

In September 2018, the research team surveyed 1,000 men and women with an average age of 34. In all, 73% of surveyed meat eaters said they consider veganism to be ethical, 70% said it is good for the environment, and 50% believe it is a healthy diet and lifestyle. Another 60% said they considered veganism “acceptable.”

Over 80% of participants also said that veganism isn’t easy, and 77% believe it is an inconvenient way of life. Additionally, 60% believe it is not as enjoyable as a more traditional diet. Across the board, participants indicated that it would be easier to adhere to a vegetarian diet than a vegan approach to meals.

“At a time of year when many people are considering switching to plant-based diets with ‘Veganuary’, this study shows that most people already agree with the ethics of veganism and are aware of the benefits of vegan diets to the environment,” says study author Chris Bryant, a University of Bath Psychology PhD student, in a release. “That many people agree with the principles of veganism is one thing, but in terms of changing behaviors we need to acknowledge that for many it has been seen as too expensive, inconvenient and a sacrifice in terms of taste.

“Interestingly, in the time since this study was conducted, these things have all changed substantially. Supermarkets, restaurants, and even fast food outlets have developed numerous high quality and affordable vegan options. Having direct replacements for the foods people know and like makes it easier for everybody to consume fewer animal products. If we are to reduce animal product consumption in the UK and around the world, the development of high quality affordable alternatives to animal products is key,” he adds.

Veganism shows no signs of slowing down in terms of widespread cultural and commercial acceptance. Popular food chains Subway and KFC have already introduced vegan options to their menus in 2020.

The study is published in Sustainability.