Veganism is on the rise in the UK, with more and more Britons choosing to abstain from eating any food products derived from animals. Vegetarianism is also gaining popularity, a similar practice wherein individuals do not consume any meat, though still eat other animal products like dairy and eggs. In the latest poll by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, we asked the British public about veganism and vegetarianism and its adherents’ reasons for keeping such a diet.
We find that the overwhelming majority of Britons do not consider themselves vegan or vegetarian: 87% of respondents said they are not vegan, and among them, a further 92% said they are not vegetarian either. 13% of respondents said they are vegan, while 8% of those who said they were not vegan said they were instead vegetarian. Altogether, 20% of respondents said they were vegan or, if not vegan, vegetarian.
The rate of veganism among respondents decreases with age, ranging from 24% of 18-to-24-year-olds to 4% of those aged 65 and over. Vegetarianism follows a similar pattern.
The reasons why individuals choose to be vegan or vegetarian vary and often overlap with one another. When respondents who identify as vegan were asked about their main reasons for being vegan, 55% said they are vegan for environmental reasons. A further 44% of respondents said they are vegan for personal health reasons, while 39% said for religious reasons and 34% for ethical reasons. A quarter (26%) of respondents said they are vegan for taste preference reasons.
Interestingly, respondents who identify as vegetarian varied in their main reasons for being vegetarian: 50% said they are vegetarian for ethical reasons, while 37% said for environmental reasons and 36% said for personal health reasons. Therefore, ethical concerns appear to be most important for vegetarian respondents, and the environment—while still a main factor for over a third of vegetarians—is the biggest reason why vegans follow the diet.
Among respondents who said they do not consider themselves to be vegan or vegetarian, just 16% said they would ever consider becoming vegan or vegetarian. 65% of respondents said they would not consider becoming vegan or vegetarian, while 19% don’t know.
Once again, younger respondents are significantly more likely than older respondents to consider becoming vegan: 27% of 18-to-24-year-olds said they would consider it, compared to 9% of 65-and-overs. Still, the majority of respondents in all age groups said they would not consider becoming vegan or vegetarian.
For those who said they would consider it, 64% said they would consider becoming vegan or vegetarian for environmental reasons. 56% said they would become vegan or vegetarian for personal health reasons, while 46% said it would be for ethical reasons.
Environmental reasons are clearly one of the most important reasons individuals are, or would consider becoming, vegan and vegetarian, given the significant greenhouse gas emissions produced by livestock. Yet 47% of all respondents said they do not think climate change would be slowed or stopped if more people decided to become vegan or vegetarian. 29% do think climate change would be slowed or stopped, while 23% don’t know.
Like veganism and vegetarianism themselves, the proportion of respondents who believe climate change would be halted if more people switched to these diets decreases with age: 44% of 18-to-24-year-olds—compared to just 18% of 65-and-overs—said they believe climate change would be slowed or stopped if more people became vegan or vegetarian.
A small plurality (30%) of respondents also said they believe there would be more animals alive on the planet if more people adopted veganism or vegetarianism, whereas 24% believe there would be fewer animals. A quarter (24%) of respondents said there would be no more nor fewer animals alive on the planet and 22% said they don’t know.
The only age group to have a plurality of respondents say there would be fewer animals alive if more people adopted veganism or vegetarianism is those aged 65 and over (35%).
Veganism and vegetarianism are still far from being the mainstream diet, and Britons are largely unconvinced that widespread adoption of the practices would make any impact on climate change. Still, for those who do choose to be vegan or vegetarian, the environment is an important reason behind their choice, along with concerns about the personal health and ethical implications of eating animal products.