30 Million U.S. Adults Have Tried Vegetarianism Or Veganism
It’s been a busy week at Faunalytics. Our latest study on vegetarians and vegans went viral — there’s obviously a lot of interest in plant-based diets and related trends! Some of the coverage about the study has focused on how many people go back to eating meat — along with some ill-founded conjecture as to why. But there’s actually a lot of good information for farmed animals in our research and in other recent studies.
Some of the coverage about the study has focused on how many people go back to eating meat — along with some unfortunate spin and ill-founded conjecture as to why. But there’s actually a lot of good information for farmed animals in our research and in other recent studies. And where we’ve identified challenges, we also see opportunities for the movement to use these insights to adjust our approach to increase effectiveness.
Here’s some good news…
Nearly 30 million people in the U.S. have tried vegetarianism or veganism. That’s a staggering number and it means that roughly one out of every eight people is or has been a vegetarian or vegan (more than estimated in previous studies). Vegetarianism has a positive reputation; the survey showed that some people like to identify themselves as vegan or vegetarian despite not following the diet 100%. There are twice as many people who say they were a vegetarian or vegan than actually ate a 100% vegetarian/vegan diet at the time.
A quick comparison of our data with other surveys indicates that people are more successful sticking to vegan diets than weight loss diets or attempts to quit smoking. The numbers indicate that vegans are up to 2.5 times more likely to stick with plant-based foods than those on weight loss diets are likely to maintain them. Additionally, new vegans may have five times the success rate of people who try to quit smoking. (Note: these comparisons are based on surveys of somewhat different sample populations)
Here’s what else we learned from Faunalytics study:
- More than a third of former vegetarians and vegans are interested in readopting the diet.
- More than three quarters of former vegetarians/vegans had no concerns about the impact that their veg diet was having on their health.
- The biggest challenges faced by people who lapsed as a vegetarian or vegan are lack of social support and taste preferences, though both of these should improve as high-quality vegan food becomes more commonplace.
- Health is the most common reason that people give for trying vegetarianism and veganism, but…
- 68% of current vegetarians/vegans and 27% of former vegetarians/vegans say that protecting animals was part of their motivation for eating the diet.
There’s even more evidence that people are eating less meat and animal products:
- Meat consumption is declining for all major types of meat
- The number of farm animals killed for food is also going down
- In the U.S., it’s widely believed that we reached “peak meat” years ago
- People are drinking less cow’s milk and eating fewer eggs than they used to
- There is growing awareness that raising farm animals is the leading cause of climate change
In the United States, more than a third of adults are obese, factory farms are polluting our air and water, and billions of animals are slaughtered for food every year. It is no wonder that interest in vegetarian and vegan diets is strong. As a tool of public health, plant-based eating is more likely to be sustained than weight loss diets while having a positive impact not just for one’s own health, but also for the planet and for farmed animals.
Bottom line: Advocates should take heart — there’s a lot of positive news for vegetarian advocates in our recent study. Many, many people are taking the first step by reducing the number of animal products they consume. Many are also becoming vegetarian/vegan; that some go back to eating meat is to be expected. Our report has recommendations for advocates to help overcome that trend.
We’ll be exploring more of the positive trends and detailed findings from the research in future blog posts and reports. Thanks to the new research, we have important insights into how to help people sustain a vegan or vegetarian diet. We believe this is crucial information for the animal protection movement.
- “Faunalytics Study of Current and Former Vegetarians and Vegans,” Faunalytics, 2014
- “Long-term weight loss maintenance,” American Society for Clinical Nutrition, 2005
- “Quitting Smoking Among Adults—United States, 2001–2010,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011
- “Food Availability (Per Capita),” Per Capita Consumption: Economic Research Service, USDA, 2012
- “Farm Animal Statistics: Slaughter Totals,” Humane Society of the U.S., 2013
- “Peak Meat: U.S. Meat Consumption Falling,” Earth Policy Institute, 2012
- “Tackling climate change through livestock,” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2013