67% of people would rather reduce their life expectancy by five to 10 years than give up meat, according to a new national survey.
The survey of 2,000 people, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of No Meat May, also found that more than half (51%) of British men and women associate a diet that contains a lot of meat with being ‘masculine’, while vegetarian (36%) and vegan (35%) diets are seen as more ‘feminine’.
One third (30%) of men believe humans are meant to eat meat compared to less than a quarter (22%) of women. More than one in 20 (6%) also said they would rather go to jail than stop eating meat, rising to 11% for those aged 25-34.
While 27% of men would rather give up coffee and 19% would rather give up alcohol than meat, 18% also said they would stop eating meat if it improved their sexual performance and 35% said they would give it up if it improved their health.
For women, the health implications are the main reasons they would consider switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet. 38% said they would stop eating meat if it improved their health, 36% if it reduced their chance of developing certain cancers, and 33% if they lost a stone or more in weight.
Women are also more interested in reducing their consumption of meat and animal products than men – 60% of women are either somewhat or very interested in reducing their meat intake, compared to 51% of men.
Interestingly, women are less likely than men to date someone who is vegan – 39% of women say they would prefer not to date someone who is vegan, compared to 37% of men.
54% of 25-34 year olds – both men and women – say they wouldn’t date a vegan. This compares to 27% of those aged over 65. So, are the older generation more open minded?
The research also found that the younger generation are more likely to eat meat to fit in; 21% of 16-34 year olds said they’ve eaten meat to fit in with friends or family, compared to just 8% of people over 65, and 20% said they’ve eaten meat to avoid appearing fussy when eating out, compared to 6% of people over 65.
So, what about the environment?
Although 76% of all respondents to this study said they care about the environment, just 26% said they would stop eating meat and other animal products to reduce their environmental impact.
Over a quarter of women (28%) say they would stop eating meat if it saves the lives of thousands of animals, compared to just one fifth (21%) of men, although 30% of both men and women agree that giving up meat would do just that.
Only 20% would give up meat for the benefit of future generations to leave behind a healthier more harmonious world for their children and grandchildren.
Almost half (42%) believe boring food choices would be the biggest obstacle to going vegan, while one third (32%) say they wouldn’t know what to eat and a quarter (26%) said they wouldn’t know where to get their protein.
Dr Shireen Kassam, founder of Plant Based Health Professionals UK, says: ‘This survey highlights a real disconnect between the science and public attitudes relating to meat consumption.
‘Given that eating meat, particularly red and processed meat, is a leading risk factor for some of our commonest chronic illnesses, it is quite alarming to learn how entrenched some myths and beliefs about a vegan diet actually are. This is undoubtedly a result of decades of effective marketing and PR by the meat industry.
‘The truth is that removing meat from the diet and replacing it with healthy plant foods is one of the best things you can do for your personal health. This includes lowering your risk of heart disease (the leading cause of death for men and women), type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and maintaining a healthy weight. There is even evidence to suggest that avoiding meat improves sexual function and sperm quality in men.’
No Meat May is the charity campaign that’s challenging the British public to eliminate meat from their diets for 31 days for health, environmental and social reasons.
More than 100,000 people are expected to take part in the 2021 campaign globally, an increase of 100% on last year. 90% of sign-ups currently are women, emphasising this major disparity between the sexes in their attitudes towards adopting a meat-free diet.
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