Researchers know that people are motivated to become vegetarians for a variety of reasons — the most common in Western culture being health, the environment and animal rights. But how compelling are these various reasons for non-vegetarians?
Researchers from the University of California, Davis, Department of Psychology surveyed 8,000 people of various ages and ethnicities in both the United States and Holland to help determine why non-vegetarians decide to become vegetarians.
A paradox for advocacy efforts
The results show that non-vegetarians’ main motivation for becoming vegetarian is health, while environmental and animal rights motives are less common. However, those most committed to a vegetarian diet were most motivated by the environment or animal rights.
“The most common reason people say they would consider becoming a vegetarian is related to health … However, people driven primarily by health motives may be less likely to respond to vegetarian advocacy in general,” says Christopher J. Hopwood, professor of psychology and co-author of the paper. This poses a challenge for advocacy movements, he said: What objectives should they aim for?
Should advocates target specific groups?
One possible solution is to target different objectives for different groups. The researchers found that health motives were associated with conventionality and masculinity, whereas people who cited environmental or animal rights motives tended to be curious, open to experience, volunteer, and interested in the arts. Based on these findings, advocacy groups can target specific types of people — perhaps advertising health benefits at a gym or church service, but an environmental or animal rights perspective at a museum or concert, Hopwood said.