So many have been motivated to change what they are eating purely for environment reasons
Commutes have been cancelled, offices closed and social plans put on hold.
For all the disruption and devastation Covid-19 has brought, for some it has granted more time to consider their lasting legacy on the planet. It could provide some positives for the environment in the long run.
New research from The Vegan Society has found a huge number of people in the UK have reduced the amount of animal products they consume since the pandemic first hit our shores more than a year ago.
The two surveys, focused on changing consumer habits over the last 12 months, discovered one in five people have reduced the amount of meat they are eating, and twelve percent say they have cut down on their eggs and dairy intake.
Encouragingly, seven percent revealed they have reduced all three. Overall, this means that one in four have actively cut back on some form of animal products since the UK first went into lockdown in March 2020.
The motivation behind these decisions is also quite telling, with twenty-one percent saying they were motivated by animal rights issues, thirty percent citing it was down to the environment with health concerns (35 percent) topping the poll. Other motivations included animal products being too expensive (eight percent) or not being available in shops (five percent).
The latest findings mirror the results of a similar survey conducted by The Vegan Society last year. It discovered that one in five people in the UK had cut down on meat consumption while fifteen percent had reduced their dairy and egg intake.
Of those who had reduced the amount of animal products they’re eating, forty-three percent did so out of concern for health, environmental or animal rights reasons while forty-one percent did so due to their preferred product not being available on the supermarket shelves.
That is thirty-six percent higher than the findings from the most recent survey, although the initial data was released at a time when supermarkets revealed certain products were under pressure from panic-buying shoppers.
For those who have minimised the amount of animal products they’re consuming, what are they buying instead? Well, over half of survey respondents revealed they bought meat alternatives for the first-time during lockdown with an impressive seventy-eight percent saying they will buy them again in future.
Plant-based milks also proved popular with thirty-six percent of respondents trying oat milk for the first time and of those sixty-seven percent saying they’ll purchase it again post-lockdown.
When it comes to vegan staples such as pulses, including lentil and chickpeas, 32 percent bought them for the first time in the last 12 months and of those, seventy-four percent said they will get them again in future.
This was the highest percentage for future repeat purchase, suggesting that whole plant foods remain an appealing option for those cutting back on animal products.
Veganism has long been associated with concerns over the treatment of animals, so it is encouraging, yet not surprising, to see that rank highly in both the 2020 and 2021 surveys.
It is a similar story when we look at personal health concerns as a motivation – particularly considering that, at the time of writing, over 3.4 million people around the world have died since the first reported cases of SARS-CoV-2 in Wuhan, China.
It is natural that a global pandemic, in which no sex, age group or race seem to be immune, is going to get people thinking twice about their own personal health journey and how they are treating their body. This often starts by looking at the food they are consuming.
However, perhaps the most inspiring finding is that so many have been motivated to change what they are eating purely for environment reasons.
On top of the thirty percent that ticked that box, almost a third revealed they’re now consciously thinking more about their personal impact on the planet.
This follows separate research conducted by The Vegan Society earlier this year in which thirty-two percent of respondents stated they believe the government should be promoting vegan and plant-based diets to address the current climate emergency.
Of the 2,000 who said they supported this approach, sixty-one percent said they would back public awareness campaigns on the health and environmental benefits, and sixty percent believe there should be at least one plant-based, healthy meal on every public sector menu.
While many would argue Covid-19 has brought nothing but negativity, there is no denying that due to the numerous travel bans, lockdowns and restrictions on movement, it has also had some positive effects on the environment.
Several reports show air quality has improved in many areas, while others have witnessed a reduction in water pollution.
Across social media, people have shared pictures of animals and birds, previously unseen in heavily populated areas, moving freely through empty towns and cities while others have seen life in lockdown as the perfect excuse to give veganism a go.
Of course, these trends are positive – for animals, human beings and for the planet. However, there is much still to be done to ensure this growing interest and excitement around the vegan lifestyle remains at the forefront of people’s minds when life returns to normal.
Rather than seeing the last 12 months as an anomaly, let’s hope instead it serves as a template for what’s to come. To give veganism a go sign-up to our seven-day challenge on our website.
Francine Jordan is media and public relations officer at The Vegan Society. She can be found on Twitter @francinejordanh.