"Best of both worlds": How do former vegetarians justify (re)introducing meat into their diet?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Many people go vegetarian in response to ethical, environmental, and health concerns surrounding meat consumption. However, research suggests that approximately 84% of vegetarians (re)introduce meat into their diet at some point in their lives. Understanding why people do not stay vegetarian is crucial for reducing societal meat consumption, yet literature on former vegetarians is scarce. Using an inductive thematic analysis, the present study aimed to understand how former vegetarians justify their current meat consumption. Online interviews were conducted with eight former vegetarians. Five themes were identified and discussed. Vegetarianism was constructed as a morally superior diet (1), but as an eating practice that makes socialising difficult (2). Participants also justified consuming meat by emphasising the importance of what their body needs (3), discussing how you can be an ethical meat eater (4) and how a meat diet gives you freedom (5). The rigidity of vegetarian diets constructed by participants indicated that further emphasis on reduction rather than removal of meat for health and the environment might be more beneficial for those struggling to go, or stay, vegetarian. Overall, this paper demonstrates the complex reasons why vegetarians do not necessarily stay vegetarian in the long-term. In exploring transitions out of vegetarianism, it sheds further light on barriers many people face in their journeys toward consistent meat abstention. Insights are relevant to activists, consumers and policymakers looking to reduce societal meat consumption.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusSubmitted - 2022

Bibliographical note

The first, and second authors did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. Annayah M. B. Prosser’s contribution was funded by an ESRC PhD Studentship


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