I am so excited to share the findings of my study 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. Here is the final report, designed specifically for campaigners, policy makers, advocates, and activists interested in promoting reduction:
This report includes findings from online surveys tracking the dietary habits, goals, perceived barriers, and motivators for participants in seven reduction and vegan campaigns in the UK over a six-month period. This includes the largest sample of meat reducers, pescatarians, vegetarians, and vegans (veg*ns) in any research project to date (n=1,587) and also includes findings from participant focus groups (n=33) and interviews with campaign staff members (n=13).
- Most participants (57%) were meeting their reduction goals at six months, including 12% who had surpassed their initial goals.
- 71% reported eating less or no meat at six months.
- Those with the strictest goals (i.e. vegans) were the most likely to be meeting their reduction goals (78%), while meat reducers were the least likely (39%).
- Most meat reducers (54%) were temporary reducers, whose reductions did not persist after the first month, while others became long-term reducers (35%) or abstainers (10%).
- Those in vegan campaigns tended to reducer more and were more likely to exceed their initial reduction goals.
- Most reduction campaign participants were meat reducers, while those in vegan campaigns were mostly vegetarians, pescatarians, or meat reducers.
- Reductions tended to be gradual and follow The Reduction Hierarchy, emphasizing red then white meat, dairy, fish, and eggs. For planned abstention, fish tended to precede that of dairy or eggs. Many participants also planned to eat more fish and eggs.
- Campaign populations were lacking in diversity, with participants extremely likely to be female, university educated, and middle to high-income.
- Vegan campaigns tended to draw a greater proportion of younger participants, while reduction campaigns tended to include more men.
- Participants generally described barriers as unobtrusive (i.e. as opportunities for dietary transition).
- Social barriers emerged as particularly impactful, especially for new vegans, who could experience stigma, negative reactions from friends and family, and feelings of unease when seeing others consume animal food products (AFPs). Conversely, veg*n communities could present important sources of support, skills, and knowledge.
- Continuing consumers (i.e. reducers) tended to struggle more with forming veg*n habits, potentially due to their maintenance of omnivorous norms and routines.
- Animal protection emerged as the most impactful motivator, leading to greater reductions and meeting of reduction goals than other motivators.
- Those motivated by animals could experience a vegan mindshift, where animal-based foods came to embody suffering and death and were thus considered completely outside of the realm of potential food items.
- Environment and health motivators were also prominent, but were most effective as secondary motivators when animal protection was a primary motivator.
- Dietary transitions were ultimately highly individual and context-dependent, suggesting the potential for more tailored campaigns that address individuals’ current level of motivation and dietary habits.
Within this sample, it appears that campaigns can serve a variety of purposes. For instance, while some vegan campaigns drew a majority of participants who planned to become vegan, others didn’t. In addition, despite vegan campaign participants being more likely to meet their reduction goals, some reducers seemed unlikely to consider a vegan campaign or may have struggled with a more drastic dietary change. Reduction campaigns may be most effective when using a clear goal and stepped approach leading to future abstentions. Ultimately, successful dietary change is likely to be related to changes in unconscious habits and dietary norms, where transitioners don’t just eat fewer animal-derived foods, but actively embrace a new way of eating.