By Angela Green, Content Executive, H&C News: National Vegetarian Week 2022: 1 in 4 considering reducing the amount of meat they eat.
According to a recent YouGov survey, more than a quarter of people in the UK (27%) are considering reducing the amount of meat they eat – with health and climate change given as the main motivations. For respondents under 34 years old, climate change was a particularly strong motivator, at almost 50%.
A fifth of people (21%) who said they were considering eating less meat gave animal welfare as their main reason. Luckily, by helping to save the planet, you can also help save some of the UK’s best-loved wildlife.
A vegetarian diet contributes to climate change significantly less than a diet that includes meat. Climate change can lead to the loss of the natural habitats of some UK wildlife, putting them at risk of extinction. Choosing veggie food can help protect animals like colourful puffins, inquisitive red squirrels, snuffling hedgehogs, and industrious bees.
When asked: “Which, if any, of the following animals, if they were to be lost through extinction, would make you consider reducing your meat consumption or giving up meat altogether?” 40% of those not already following a vegan/vegetarian diet said protecting bees from extinction could convince them. The nation also seems fond of aquatic species, with dolphins (34%) and turtles (28%) coming next on the list. This was followed closely by everyone’s back garden’s best buddy, the hedgehog (27%).
The survey is released in time for National Vegetarian Week (16 to 22 May), which this year is focused on climate change. Evidence shows plant-based food is better for the planet, has far less carbon emissions than meat, and for households on tight budgets it can also be a cheaper, healthy choice.
Richard McIlwain, Chief Executive of the Vegetarian Society, said: “We aren’t surprised to see climate change as a key driver for people reducing the amount of meat they eat. The government’s own Climate Change Committee suggests we should be eating 20% less meat by 2030 and the recent National Food Strategy, led by Henry Dimbleby, suggests this figure should be even higher at 30%. The good news is, if you currently eat meat every day, you can achieve a 30% reduction by going meat-free on just two days a week.”
The survey also suggests 12% of the population are already vegetarian or vegan.
Despite a growing awareness of how the food we choose impacts the planet, it appears the message could still be clearer – especially among men. Nearly half of women (48%) and almost two-thirds of men (63%) surveyed said they are not considering reducing the amount of meat they eat. Nearly a third of those not already following a vegetarian/vegan diet (32%) said they would not reduce their meat consumption, even if it meant the extinction of any animal species. So much for being a nation of animal lovers.
This all comes on the back of the recent stories in The Times, The Telegraph and on Radio 4, where the Vegetarian Society’s Chief Executive was interviewed about the rise of vegan and vegetarian dishes on menus. Richard McIlwain said: “We want to see more vegetarian and vegan options included front and centre on all menus. There is a strong argument for the inclusion of vegetarian as well as vegan options. Both are significantly better for the planet than meat dishes, but a vegetarian option is often more familiar and therefore more appealing to meat-eaters wanting to reduce their impact on the planet or reduce the amount of meat they eat.”