Promoting Veg*nism: Struggles & Successes – Trent Grassian | CARE-2017

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CARE-2017 provided a three day platform for those active in the animal rights movement to present and exchange their work and ideas. VGT hosts an animal rights conference every three years.

Motivators and Barriers for the Promotion of Meat Reduction, Vegetarianism and Veganism

Substantial, widespread reductions in the consumption of animal food products (AFPs) are essential to achieving future environmental, health and global sustainability. With over 50 billion land animals and trillions of aquatic animals killed annually for AFP production, 70 to 98 percent of whom are in intensive conditions, reduction holds the greatest potential to alleviate the immeasurable suffering experienced by non-human animals used for human food. Even though reduction appears to be spreading in many High-Income Countries (HICs), AFP production and consumption are still increasing and are projected to continue increasing globally. This ongoing growth is directly at odds with pledges made by many governments to reduce overall consumption (e.g. a 2016 commitment by the Chinese government to reduce meat consumption by 50 percent). Reduction campaigns in HICs, where AFP consumption may have already peaked, can assist Middle and Low-Income Countries in slowing – or even stopping – this ongoing growth. Resultantly, research is urgently needed to better understand the barriers inhibiting and motivators enabling transitions from normalised omnivorous habits.

Research has been conducted in conjunction with UK-based non-profit organisations — one of the key players in the promotion of meat reduction, vegetarianism and veganism, using a longitudinal survey (n=1,900) and semi-structured focus groups (n=36) with participants from nine different reduction campaigns. In addition, data is further triangulated using interviews with campaign organisers (n=10) for further insight into the planning and execution of these initiatives. The results of this research will help to improve understandings of the effectiveness of these campaigns, as well as participants' motivations and perceived barriers to dietary change. These individuals represent an important source of information about who is reducing, how successful they are and why they are transitioning their diets. This research also addresses important questions about the links between the promotion of reduction, vegetarianism and veganism. Consumptive changes are analysed on an individual level through the work of Michie and Atkin's (2014) Behaviour Change Wheel, in conjunction with a broader conceptualisation of cultural and social norms explored within the fields of Ethical and Sustainable Consumption and the Sociology of Consumption.

Preliminary findings suggest that for those embracing reduction, physical and individual supports for transition may be adequate, but that habits may form a key barrier to change. Within a social setting (i.e. focus group), social barriers emerge as substantial negative influences, particularly for vegan participants and vegan transitioners. Individuals who are reducing their AFP consumption may feel rejected by those still following cultural omnivorous dietary norms. Research findings will also be used to make broader recommendations for campaigners promoting animal protection. For instance, as environmental, health and animal welfare motivators are most prominently reported by participants, multiple mechanisms may be important to promote widespread reduction. As the largest sample of reducers ever conducted (to the best of the researcher's knowledge), this project presents important insights for policy makers, non-profits and individuals interested in reducing or eliminating the exploitation of non-human animals.

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