Conservative Ideology And Lapsed Veg*ns
Vegetarian or vegan (“veg*n”) diets are increasing in popularity. Meatless meals and restaurants are becoming popular, if not trendy, and celebrities are openly talking about their meat-free diets. It seems that more people now want to become veg*n. But changes to diets in general can be difficult and challenging, and eliminating meat is no exception. In fact, there is evidence that many more people consider themselves “former” as opposed to “current” veg*ns.
What factors might predict lapses back to meat eating among those who have attempted to eliminate meat from their diet? A new study, based on data collected by Faunalytics in a landmark study of lapsed veg*ns, provides new insights into this question. The authors acknowledged that several factors are known to predict meat eating – men eat more meat than women, those with higher (vs. lower) masculinity eat more meat, and those with lower (vs. higher) education eat more meat.
More recently, however, research indicates that those with more right-leaning (as opposed to left-leaning) ideologies are more willing to exploit animals and eat meat. To the authors, this suggested the possibility that political ideology might predict lapses back to meat consumption among those who attempt veg*n diets.
In a sample of 1,313 U.S. adults (1,102 former veg*ns, 211 current veg*ns), respondents were asked about their political ideology (from liberal to conservative), the reasons why they attempted to eliminate meat (e.g., justice concerns; health concerns), and the extent to which several factors undermined their attempts to become veg*n (e.g., lack of social support; meat craving). The results were very interesting.
Political ideology was a strong predictor of lapsing back to meat. For every 1-point increase in a 5-point scale (liberal to conservative), there was a 26% increase in the odds that one lapsed back to eating meat (as opposed to continuing to abstain from meat). Conservatism remained a predictor after the authors statistically controlled for respondent age, education, and gender. (That is, this effect is not simply due to the finding that conservatives, for instance, tend to be older).
Moreover, the study isolated why this is the case. It turns out that those people who are more conservative (vs. liberal) lapse back to meat consumption largely because they: (a) did not adopt veg*n diets for reasons of social justice, such as animal welfare; and (b) felt poorly supported in their social circles (family and friends). It was not because they craved meat more, or worried more about their health.
These results add to a growing body of literature showing that ideology predicts behaviour other than political behaviour, such as voting. Indeed, political ideology predicts the consumption of meat, and predicts lapses back to meat among those attempting to go meat-free. The findings may be useful for animal and veg*n advocates to target their messages more effectively based on political ideology.[Contributed by Dr. Gordon Hodson, co-author of the source article]