A new study out of the University of California, Davis, found that the number one reason people give for ditching meat is for their health. But those who do it for the environment or animal reasons are more likely to stick with it. The study was published today by UC Davis, from a study of 8,000 people conducted by researchers in the Department of Psychology. For more on how to start eating a mostly plant-based diet for your health, read this Getting Started guide on The Beet.

What's the motivation for giving up meat? Here is what the survey of 8,000 found:

The most common reason for going vegetarian in western cultures is health, the environment, and animal rights, in that order. But how compelling are these different factors, the researchers asked? Delving deeper they found a paradoxical twist: They surveyed 8,000 people of various ages and ethnicities, in two languages, here in the US and also in Holland, and found that those who gave up meat for environmental and  motives are also the most committed to sticking with their meat-free.

"The most common reason people say they would consider being vegetarian has to do with health," said Christopher J. Hopwood, professor of psychology and co-author of the paper. However, he added, "people driven primarily by health motives may be least likely to respond to vegetarian advocacy, in general." This creates a challenge for advocacy movements, he said: As in, What motive should they target?

What is the difference between those motivated by health vs climate change?

One possible solution would be to target different motives in different groups of people, the professor suggests. Those who are driven by health motives are also most common in men, who associate closely with "conventionality" according to the researchers. Whereas people who cite environmental or animal rights motives for giving up meet were characterized as  "curious," or open to new experiences. The survey also found that this group is more likely to volunteer and be interested in the arts.

(Note from The Beet: this is their research, at UC Davis, so please send your angry letters to the professors, not us; we are just reporting on this study.)

To read the full paper, "Health, Environmental and Animal Rights Motives for Vegetarian Eating," published in PLOS ONE on April 2, please click through to the UC Davis site. 


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