A survey of British men and women found widescale support for veganism, most viewing a completely plant-based diet as more “ethical”, “better for the environment”, and “healthy”. However, despite the overwhelmingly positive attitude, the same people also found veganism very challenging and inconvenient. The main barriers that kept them away from forgoing meat and dairy products dealt with taste, price, and convenience.
The analysis was published this week in the journal Sustainability by a team of researchers at the University of Bath in the UK.
Researchers surveyed 1,000 participants who were recruited online through Prolific, a surveying platform, about their beliefs about vegetarianism and vegan diets. All the participants were meat-eaters with an average age of 34.
According to the results, 73% of the surveyed participants thought veganism is “ethical”, 70% considered it was good for the environment, 60% found it “socially acceptable”, while 50% said it was “healthy”.
“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,” Chris Bryant, lead author of the new study and a psychologist at the University of Bath, said in a statement.
If that’s the case, why are they still eating meat? On follow-up, 80% of respondents said that they did not think transitioning was easy, 77% said it was “inconvenient”, and 60% thought it was not “enjoyable”. Perceptions of vegan diets were significantly more negative than perceptions of vegetarian diets on most aspects.
“That many people agree with the principles of veganism is one thing, but in terms of changing behaviours we need to acknowledge that for many it has been seen as too expensive, inconvenient and a sacrifice in terms of taste,” Bryant said.
Although most of the respondents perceived cutting meat out of their diets as overwhelmingly positive and considered it too hard to do, it’s actually never been easier than ever to be a vegetarian or vegan.
For instance, the common argument that a vegan diet is expensive is simply no longer true. While a vegan menu will be significantly more expensive than a conventional, meat-based menu in most restaurants, things are changing fast. Companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat in the United States are now making plant-based products that not only taste and look like meat, they’re also similarly priced to meat-based products.
In the UK, fast food bakery Greggs just launched a vegan steak bake, right on the heels of Subway’s vegan Meatball Marinara sub and KFC’s vegan burger.
“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,” Bryant concluded.