Three in 10 Britons are meat-reducers

Survey shows Meat Free Monday message is capturing Britons’ imagination, with 29 per cent heeding anti-carnivorous call in past year

Different fruit, veg, nuts, seeds, etc. in white heart-shaped bowls

Proving that the meat-reducing message is getting through to the man and woman on the street, 3 in 10 Britons say they have cut back on the amount of meat over the past year, and 1 in 10 say they are considering making such a change – or even giving up meat entirely.

Those are just some of the findings of the British Social Attitudes survey, produced by the independent social research institute NatCen with questions commissioned by the Vegetarian Society. The results tally with a YouGov survey commissioned last year by Meat Free Monday, which found that a third of people are cutting back or considering cutting back on their meat consumption.

The Veg Soc survey reveals that 29 per cent of people have reduced the amount of meat they ate over the past 12 months, while 9 per cent are thinking about doing so or cutting meat from their diets completely. In fact, in thought or deed, almost half (44 per cent) of those who responded to the survey are involved in the fight to curb the adverse health and environmental impacts associated with meat eating.

There were distinct differences between the sexes and generations, with older people and women more likely to take positive steps to change the way they eat for the greener. More than a third of British women (34 per cent) and two-fifths of people of both sexes aged 65 to 79 (39 per cent) said they ate less meat over the past year. Just under a quarter of men (23 per cent) and a fifth of 18 to 24-year-olds (19 per cent) had cut back also. There are now also more British women cutting back on their meat intake, thinking of cutting back or giving up meat entirely than not.

The Vegetarian Society said it had commissioned the survey because there was little academic evidence to support its experience that more and more people were engaging with the drive to cut back on their meat consumption, influenced by a recent spate of health scares around meat – including the horse meat scandal and BSE – as well as a growing body of scientific evidence that eating red and processed meat is dangerous to human health, as well as bad for the environment.

Chief executive Lynne Elliot said the report reflected the day-to-day experience of the organisation: “There is an increasing awareness of the issues relating to our food choices, and that has resulted in a large number of people reducing the amount of meat they eat or cutting it out altogether. Vegetarian options are an easy, healthy and tasty way to eat – and it’s clearly an option being enjoyed by a large section of the population.”