“Reduce” and “Eliminate”: Two Effective Messages For Reducing Meat Consumption
Animal welfare advocates, health care practitioners and environmentalists use a wide range of appeals to encourage people to eat less meat, even though there has been little research done on the effectiveness of these appeals. A study from the Animal Welfare Action Lab aims to address this lack of research, showing that appeals asking readers to reduce or eliminate their meat consumption lead to significant reductions in eating meat up to five weeks later.
The study randomly assigned 3,076 participants to one of three groups: reduce, eliminate, or control. Each group was given a different news article to read followed by a “lifestyle and dietary choices” survey. The article given to the reduce group discussed factory farming and emphasized that a growing number of people are reducing meat consumption while encouraging readers to do the same.
The eliminate group was given a similar article that highlighted the number of people eliminating meat consumption altogether, and were also encouraged to eliminate meat from their diets. The control article highlighted the benefits of walking as a form of exercise and didn’t discuss diet or meat consumption in any way.
After reading their article, each group was given a short survey about their attitudes toward factory farming and whether they planned to change their meat consumption. Five weeks after the initial survey, participants also completed an additional survey about their current meat consumption and attitudes. Each group of participants—reduce, eliminate and control, was given the same survey.
Both the reduce and eliminate messaging strategies resulted in readers actually reducing their meat consumption (by 7.1% and 5.8%, respectively), although there was no significant difference between the two types of appeals. In addition, reading the articles also increased the number of discussions individuals had about these topics.
More research is needed, particularly to examine the effectiveness of appeals beyond five weeks from exposure and test more types of messaging. But it’s clear that reduce and eliminate appeals are effective tools for changing individual meat consumption and attitudes. Animal welfare advocates, health care practitioners and environmentalists who wish to draw attention to these issues should continue to use them.