Giving Up Meat: Can The Transition Be Easier?
People may decide not to eat meat for a variety of reasons, including health concerns, mitigating environmental impacts, or for animal welfare. However, people often report facing barriers to reducing their meat intake, including nutritional concerns, lack of access, and missing the taste of meat products. Campaigns to help people overcome these barriers and make the switch have popped up all over the world. Meatless Monday, Veganuary, and Donderdag Veggiedag have all encouraged people to eat less meat — but are these campaigns successful and why?
This study aimed to determine how people feel about “meat-free diets,” why certain people changed their diet to include less meat products, what helped or discouraged them to make this dietary change, and what parts of the Meat Free Monday website were most helpful. Data were obtained through Meat Free Monday, a campaign which started in the U.K. in 2009. They sent out a questionnaire to 655 people who were registered through the Meat Free Monday website and conducted 18 phone interviews with participants from the questionnaire. The survey included questions about the benefits and barriers of not eating meat, the attitude about becoming vegetarian, and an evaluation of the Meat Free Monday website. Respondents ranked each question using a five point scale (strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, or strongly disagree) and marked whether they were a meat-eater, non meat-eater, or some meat-eater. To evaluate the website, they marked each category (News, Recipes, About, Get Involved, Supporters, and Schools) on a five point scale of usefulness (Extremely useful to not at all useful).
The results showed that people who reduced their meat consumption while starting Meat Free Monday had a better attitude about not eating meat, used the Meat Free Monday website more, and stayed engaged with the campaign for longer. Over 30% of people who were engaged with Meat Free Monday for more than 5 years had become vegetarians. This shows that the longer someone interacts with a campaign, the more likely they are to change their diet and attitude. The data also showed that the recipes section of the website was the most useful, with 76% of respondents saying they used it. The interviewees explained that the recipes section was most important to them as well. Researchers hypothesized that this was because people need the right tools in order to facilitate their behavioral change.
The Meat Free Monday campaign helps people to change and maintain their diet and encourages them to create long-term behavior changes. For campaigns like this to be most useful, they should aim to keep participants engaged and active, and make the transition easier by providing accessible recipe ideas. Campaigns like Meat Free Monday can be the key to success for many people who are looking to reduce their meat consumption, and advocates can keep refining their effectiveness to make even greater change.