The Guardian view on vegans: a dietary challenge | Editorial

A huge reduction in meat-eating is called for. No wonder carnivores are feeling defensive

Veganism, once widely seen as an alternative, if not an extreme, lifestyle, is now in the mainstream. Exactly how many people in the UK have eliminated animal products including dairy and honey from their diets is uncertain. One recent survey suggested there could be as many as 3.5 million vegans in the UK. The Vegan Society offers the much lower figure of 600,000 vegans, which still represents a fourfold increase in four years. But either way, and combined with a big increase in vegetarians and occasional meat-eaters (otherwise known as “flexitarians”), a huge shift in eating habits is under way. This week’s annual food and drink report by the supermarket Waitrose says around a third of people have either cut down on or stopped eating meat altogether.

There is more than one explanation for this change in behaviour. More than half of those surveyed by Waitrose said animal welfare was their motivation for changing their diet. The intensive farming and slaughter of livestock has long aroused feelings of regret and distaste in many people who do not object on principle to eating meat. Such feelings, along with concerns around health and sustainability, have led to rising demand for organic and free-range products among those who can afford them. The growing trend towards giving up meat altogether suggests either that the moral objections have spread, that other factors than animal welfare are in play – or, most likely, some combination of both.

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Source : The Guardian view on vegans: a dietary challenge | Editorial