By Lisa Rimmert, Donor Relations Manager
Animal suffering. The environment. Human health. Workers’ rights. World hunger. There are many reasons – and many benefits – to going vegan. But did you know these motivations can affect how long vegans stick with the diet?
A recent study, published in the journal Appetite and written about on Time.com, examined specific food choices and behaviors of people who are vegan either for health or ethical reasons – the two most often cited reasons for going vegan. The authors wanted to find out if these motivations affect how vegans live and what specific vegan foods they eat. It turns out, they do.
Vegans who made the switch because of health motivations reported eating more fruit and fewer sweets, whereas those who went vegan for ethical reasons reported more frequent consumption of soy, foods rich in Vitamin D, and vitamin supplements; and – here’s the really interesting one – being on the diet longer.
Other studies have found similar information. In another 2014 study, a majority of the former vegetarians sampled reported having become vegetarian due to health reasons. Only 27% of former vegetarians said they had become vegetarian because of a concern for animals. There’s evidence to support the claim that people who become vegetarian or vegan for ethical reasons stick with it longer.
Another, not necessarily contradictory, explanation for the findings in the Appetite study, is that ethical vegans become vegan sooner than health vegans. In other words, concern for animals prompts a change more quickly than does concern for health. It could be that the greater disgust with meat and more intense emotional reaction to meat consumption reported by ethical vegetarians, motivates a quicker transition to vegan eating. This would cause ethical vegans to report having been vegan for a longer amount of time than health vegans. If this is the case, then ethical motivations would appear to prompt people to become vegan sooner.
More research is needed to come to a solid conclusion, but the findings reported here make me even more confident in Vegan Outreach’s approach. Our booklets focus on the suffering involved when people eat animals and their products – an appeal to ethics. I hope what the studies suggest is true – that this argument makes people more likely to go – and stay – vegan.