This blog post includes data from research into seven UK-based reduction and vegan campaigns, drawing on the largest sample of meat reducers, pescatarians, vegetarians, and vegans in any research project to date (n=1,587). Research was conducted for my PhD in Social Policy at the University of Kent, using a mixed-methods, longitudinal approach.
Participants generally had multiple motivating factors and were most likely to include animal protection (85% as a primary and 12% as secondary), followed by the environment (81% as primary and 15% as secondary) and health (61% as primary and 30% as secondary).
Despite the majority of participants being from an environmental campaign, animal protection clearly emerged as an important, if not the most important, motivator in identifying reduction trends and successes. It was also the most universal motivating factor: a primary motivator for 85% of participants and secondary for 11%. It was the highest over-all motivator, including within every animal protection campaign and only lower to the environment for one environmental campaign. Environmental campaign participants were also more likely to be motivated by animals than those in animal protection campaigns were to be motivated by the environment. In addition, it was more strongly linked to larger reductions and higher levels of successful reduction and elimination than all other motivator categories.
While previous research has generally found health to be as or almost as popular a motivating factor as animal protection, particularly amongst reducers, in this sample health was a much less prominent primary motivator (61%) than the environment (81%) or animal protection (85%). This may present an engagement gap, as few reduction or vegan campaigns focus primarily on health motivators. Amongst this sample, health motivators were most prominent amongst the Viva!’s 30 Day Vegan sample, where 85% reported that health was a primary motivator. This may be due to the food-focused element of this campaign.
While the environment and health were both prominent motivators, they were most effective as secondary, rather than primary, motivators and particularly when animal protection was a primary motivator. Both were also inversely related to fish consumption, such that those most motivated by health and/or the environment were the least likely to reduce their fish intake. Environmental motivators, in particular, suffer from the “perfect moral storm” through high levels of abstraction, dispersion, and the fragmentation of agency. Health was also a prominent barrier (see section 5), though it had the potential to be an added “bonus” for transitioners:
I eat better than I ever did before. — vegan VI2 I feel healthier. — meat reducer BL3
Findings by Motivator (from most to least popular)
- Strongest links to meeting goals and reduction amounts of all motivators.
- May lead to vegan mindshift.
- Of motivators, had greatest difference between meat eaters and abstainers.
- Most popular for women and those over 34.
- Most effective as secondary motivator and when animal welfare a primary motivator.
- Related to eating more fish.
- Relies on knowledge; consequences abstracted from food products.
- Most popular for those with degrees.
- Most effective as a secondary motivator and when animal welfare was a primary motivator.
- Those motivated only by health were the least successful.
- Related to eating more fish.
- More important that health wasn’t a barrier than that was a motivator.
- More popular for participants of Viva!’s 30 Day Vegan, men, and older groups.
- Primary motivator for 39%. Secondary for 33%.
- Only linked to reductions for eggs (this may be topical). Related to eating more fish.
- Relies on knowledge.
- Most popular for participants of Viva!’s 30 Day Vegan, people of color (POC), and those with degrees.
- Primary motivator for 16%. Secondary for 38%.
- Inversely related to reduction success.
- Only motivator that was more popular amongst meat eaters than abstainers.
- Many viewed as a barrier.
- Most popular for POC, low income individuals, those in environmental campaigns, and people under 35.
- Very uncommon. Primary for 7%. Secondary for 12%.
- Linked to reductions in all areas but fish.
- Most popular for POC and low income individuals.
Over the upcoming weeks I’ll be sharing more of my findings and what this means for campaigners, researchers, and policy makers. So make sure to click “follow” and stay tuned!
 Gardiner, S. M. (2011) A Perfect Moral Storm: The ethical tragedy of climate change. New York ; Oxford: New York ; Oxford : Oxford University Press.