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.
The decision to reduce and the reduction process can vary widely between individuals. For some, it may be “all about the animals” (vegan VI1), global environmental issues” (pescatarian BL4), or a desire to be healthier (meat reducer LO1). While a commitment to animal protection was linked to the greatest levels of reduction and reduction successes for most of the sample population, varied social and physical contexts can have a significant impact on barrier perceptions, motivating factors, and the nature of one’s dietary transition.
By better understanding the motivations and needs of their participants, campaigns may be able to maximize effectiveness. Within this sample participants described signing up to campaigns for a variety of significant and non-significant reasons, including:
- Campaigns could be something fun to try out or a challenge, with one then-vegetarian, now-vegan signing up to Animal Aid’s Great Vegan Challenge “as a bit of a whim. … I was just bored and thought, ‘No, I can do this’” (LO3).
- One participant described signing up as a way to influence others: “I can share [Viva!’s 30 Day Vegan] on social media and I’m like, ‘Guys, look at this! Everybody join in!’ … Last year five people did it with me” (vegan BL6).
- Some could not recall which campaign they had participated in, suggesting this may have not been a significant factor in their transition.
- Campaigns could be used as a tool or a step toward a particular goal for those who may want to change their habits but perhaps “don’t know where to even begin” (meat reducer LO1).
- Participants may turn to campaigns as sources of essential information to assist in their transition. For example, Viva!’s 30 Dady Vegan campaign provides four recipes a day during the vegan challenge month.
The use of varied, targeted strategies may help reach a greater proportion of the population and provide information most relevant to individuals’ lifestyles, values, and attitudes. However, the wide variations in reduction journeys and dietary characteristics between individuals suggests that a generalized reduction campaign without a specific target audience is unlikely to be the most effective approach.
Goals are a key component of any behavior change model  and while meat reduction can present a dietary goal, this may need to be clarified, as meat reducers were more likely to consume the same or more meat than to consume less or none after six months. For those who may not currently be interested in campaigns that include a veg*n goal, a clear meat reduction goal or stepped approach, with increasing goals leading to a fully vegan diet may be most effective. This may also increase the potential for participants to later pursue such a goal.
Make sure to check out the full report for more information: Meat Reduction and Vegan Promotion.
 Michie, S. et al. (2005). Making psychological theory useful for implementing evidence based practice: a consensus approach. BMJ Quality & Safety 14:26–33.
Michie, S., Atkins, L. and West, R. (2014). The Behaviour Change Wheel: A Guide to Designing Interventions. UK: Silverback Publishing.