Around 71 percent of the UK population feel guilty about eating animal products, new research has found.
The Vegan Society asked 2,000 non-vegans questions to help understand the connection they make between animals and their food. This included meat-eaters, those actively reducing their consumption of animal products, vegetarians, and pescatarians.
It found that 49 percent of respondents felt guilty about eating meat “some” of the time. A further 22 percent felt guilty “all” of the time.
The results also uncovered a generational difference in attitudes toward meat. The research found that 80 percent of respondents aged 18-30 felt guilty. This is compared to 59 percent of people aged 50-65.
Conversely, it found that older people were more likely to say they were “very much” animal lovers, with 68 percent describing themselves as such. Only 61 percent of the younger group responded the same.
“No one wants to contribute to suffering but unfortunately most of us were raised to think of certain animals as ‘something’ rather than ‘someone’,” Elena Orde, campaign lead at The Vegan Society, said in a statement.
Shame around eating meat
The study also found that people felt differing levels of guilt depending on the animal – or “product” – being eaten.
Overall, people felt the least guilty about eating eggs. Only eight percent of respondents felt guilty “all” of the time, while 31 percent felt the same “some” of the time.
Milk consumption was also associated with a lower level of guilt. Of all the respondents, 10 percent said they felt guilty “all” the time, while 29 percent selected “some” of the time.
The reality of animal agriculture
Feelings of guilt surrounding animal product consumption can likely be attributed to the cruelty inherent in the livestock farming industry.
More than 70 billion land animals are killed each year for food, as well as around two trillion fish.
In the UK, around 85 percent of land animals are factory farmed, where they may be kept in cramped conditions, confined to cages, and subjected to mutilations.
Animal agriculture is also catastrophic for the environment, responsible for at least 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Livestock farming is also a leading cause of deforestation and biodiversity loss.