This is the first post of a three-part series on veganism. The series will cover the following:
- Veganism in Britain today: Seven key facts
- Animal welfare & the ethics of meat eating
- Are vegetables our future?
In recent months some observers have pointed to a global dietary shift away from animal products. Sky News recently reported that “each year, more and more people are going vegan”.
The vegan diet, which involves ditching products that are wholly or partly derived from animals, excludes many everyday items such as milk, eggs and honey, and of course meats. The diet is becoming increasingly popular among the rich and famous, with celebrities and fitness gurus praising the benefits of a plant-based diet.
Naturally, celebrity endorsements often result in changes in societal habits so an increase in uptake of the vegan diet is, to some degree, expected. However, what has made most heads turn in recent months, is the scale of this uptake. The Vegan Society estimate there to be at least 542,000 vegans in the UK (2016), which equates to around 1% of adults. This might not sound like much, but it is around three and half times the number just a decade earlier, and the society describes the uptake as one of the fastest growing lifestyle movements in the UK.
This year there were reports that more than seventy-eight thousand self-professed carnivores signed-up to ‘Veganuary‘, a campaign that encourages people to commit to the vegan diet for the month of January. A record year for the campaign and more than fifty times the number who signed up to the campaign just four years ago.
In light of the hype, BMG Research has polled the nation to find out more. We surveyed a representative sample of 1,507 adults living in Great Britain asking key questions to help us get a deeper understanding of the growing trend and where it might go.
BMG Polling presents 7 facts about Veganism in Britain today…
- Almost one in eight meat eaters say that they would consider going vegan
When asked whether they would consider switching to a vegan diet, some 12% of those who currently eat meat say they would “definitely” or “potentially” consider changing to a vegan diet. Among vegetarians and pescatarians this figure increases dramatically to between a fifth and a quarter (21% of vegetarians and 25% of pescatarians). Overall, 16% of British adults not currently on a plant-based diet say they would consider taking one up.
- A third of meat eaters wouldn’t continue if they had to kill the animal themselves
While 90% of Brits say that they still eat meat as part of their diet, the prospect of getting your hands dirty appears too much for many to stomach. A third of current meat eaters (33%) say that they would give up meat if they had to kill and prepare the animal themselves, with a further 23% saying they are unsure.
Interestingly the gender divide on this question is one of the widest on the subject, with nearly half (47%) of meat-eating women saying they wouldn’t continue if it meant having to kill the animal themselves, compared with just a fifth of men (20%).
Almost two-thirds of Ukippers (62%) say they would be happy to kill and prepare their meaty meals themselves!
Despite the hype, the vast majority of Brits continue to eat meat
While veganism is on the rise, it is important not to overstate the popularity of meat-free diets. Nine in ten Brits continue to enjoy meat as part of their diet (90%). In-line with Vegan Society figures, we also find that just 1% of adults living in Britain say they follow a vegan diet. Meanwhile, vegetarian and Pescatarian diets between three and four times as popular, (Vegetarians = 3% & Pescatarians = 4%).
Not only do most Britons continue to eat meat, but the overwhelming majority do so most days a week. Some 81% of meat eaters do so either everyday (43%) or every two to three days (38%).
- …but many Brits say they are now eating less meat than they did last year
Self-reported meat consumption appears to be on the decline. While three in four meat eaters say that their consumption has “stayed about the same”, almost a fifth (18%) say that it has decreased. That’s almost 9 million Brits eating less, compared with just 6% (less than 3 million) saying their meat consumption has increased over the last 12 months.
- Meat eaters would miss Chicken the most
If you had to go vegan, what would you miss the most? When asked for their top three, Chicken came out on top with 40% saying they would miss the versatile bird. This was followed by Beef (21%) and then Fish (11%).
Interestingly there is a clear taste divide across the generations. Baby boomers (those aged 55+) are three times as likely to say that they’ll miss Lamb (12%) than millennials (those aged 18-34 = 4%).
When respondents were asked about specific meat products, millennials are nine times more likely to say that they’d miss burgers (19%) than baby boomers (2%). Baby boomers are almost three times as likely to say that they would miss Roast Beef (30%) than millennials (12%).
- Health benefits are the main motivator
Interestingly it is not animal welfare or the environmental impact of meat production that is the main reason people consider cutting out meat from their diet. While vegan and vegetarian diets are commonly associated with ideas of environmental conscientiousness and the welfare of animals, more than two in five Britons (41%) said that ‘health benefits’ were the number one factor for considering a switch. Just 15% said that that it was to help reduce the environmental impact of meat consumption, and only 22% said it was to help improve animal welfare.
- A taste too good to give up
Most people say that they are unlikely to consider switching to a vegan diet, when we asked them why, the explanation was simple – taste.
Of those who said they would be unlikely to consider cutting meat from their diet, two thirds (66%) said it was their love for the taste of meat that was the main reason why. While health reasons were the most commonly cited factor for those who would consider going meat-free, just 14% of meat eaters cite health implications as the main for sticking with meat.
Methodology, fieldwork dates, and a full breakdown of these results can be found here.
For a more detailed breakdown of results from this poll, or any other results from our polling series, please get in touch by email or phone.
0121 333 6006
Dr. Michael Turner – Research Director & Head of Polling – BMG Research
Robert Struthers – Senior Research Executive – BMG Research