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REPORT: Chewing It Over: Public attitudes to alternative proteins and meat reduction in the UK

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Although policymakers are reluctant to engage with the idea of meat reduction for fear of sparking a political backlash, the public are much more comfortable with it. Interest in meat reduction is motivated by health, environmental and animal welfare concerns, with the latter being widespread – 61% have some discomfort with the way animals are treated on farms.

SOCIAL MARKET FOUNDATION: Whereas vegetarianism and veganism were once relatively fringe, interest in reducing meat consumption – whether on animal welfare, health or environmental grounds – is on the rise. This report, the second of three in a series on the impact of alternative proteins on animals, investigates public attitudes towards meat reduction and the role of alternative proteins in these societal shifts.

SUMMARY:

  • Although policymakers are reluctant to engage with the idea of meat reduction for fear of sparking a political backlash, the public are much more comfortable with it:
    • 57% of the country believe that most people should eat less meat, while only 16% disagree.
    • 58% of people have taken steps to eliminate or reduce their own meat consumption.
  • Interest in meat reduction is motivated by health, environmental and animal welfare concerns, with the latter being widespread – 61% have some discomfort with the way animals are treated on farms.
  • The public have limited understanding of the extent of animal welfare issues in the UK, but are very supportive of tougher animal welfare standards: 59% endorse a ban on all factory farming, and 66% say they would be willing to pay more for higher-welfare meat.
  • There is less consensus on whether the government should get involved in meat reduction – 43% believe the government should encourage people to eat less meat, but 34% disagree.
      • The public tend to support softer policy interventions like public education and labelling – 74% would support government-mandated animal welfare labels on meat products.
      • While 58% support subsidising plant-based meat alternatives, 69% are opposed to an equivalent meat tax.
  • The public can be divided into four groups based on their attitudes towards animal welfare and meat reduction:
    • 19% are ‘Meat Lovers’ – they tend to view animal products as healthy and environmentally problematic, though with some concerns about welfare;
    • 12% are ‘Animal Lovers’ – 96% of them have made some effort to avoid or limit meat and 58% are vegetarian or vegan;
    • 32% are ‘Animal Sympathisers’ – only 6% are vegetarian or vegan, but 83% have tried to reduce meat consumption and they tend to have pro-animal views;
    • 37% hold no strong views.
  • Although some remain wary, particularly of cultivated meat, the public are open to alternative proteins:
    • While only 26% are satisfied with the existing products on the market, 52% would be open to eating them in future.
    • More people find plant-based meat alternatives convenient and tasty than not, but only 28% find them affordable.
    • Only 39% would try cultivated meat, but Animal Sympathisers were the group most likely to try it, suggesting they appeal to ‘swing’ consumers.

The first, published in May, explored the current state of animal welfare in food production in the UK.18 It concluded that the most practical and tractable way to think about animal welfare is to identify factory farming – the use of highly intensive methods – with lower welfare.The third report, still to come, will look specifically at how alternative proteins can help to improve animal welfare in the UK – how likely they are to displace meat consumption, what sort of consumption they displace, and how supporting alternative proteins compares to more traditional animal welfare measures. SOURCE…

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