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What Motivates People To Eat Animals?

Most of the countries of the world eat meat; meat consumption is closely linked to the living standards, culture and dietary habits of a country, as well as how rich that country is. The production of meat, dairy and eggs requires a lot of resources, resources that cost a lot of money and leads to an enormous amount of environmental damage in their use. Animal agriculture causes roughly 15% of all of the emissions that contribute to climate change.

Vast amounts of water and grains are needed to raise the animals, especially cattle. PETA published data that showed that one cow, used for milk, can drink up to 50 gallons of water per day and even twice as much if the weather is hot. Their calculations show that it takes 683 gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of milk and 2,400 gallons to produce 1 pound of beef. One top of this there are the enormous areas of land used to grow the crops that are fed to the animals. In terms of meat consumption, Uruguay is the country with the highest beef consumption in the world (at 308 kg per capita) and Israel consumes the most chickens (282 kg per capita). It is also the countries with the highest meat consumption that have the highest levels of heart disease. So, inversely, it is some of the poorest countries, that eat the least meat and have almost no heart disease at all.

What Makes People Eat Meat?

A study was carried out in the UK in the summer of 2021 that looked at why people ate, or did not eat, animal products. The study was small, it contained 24 participants with nine peer-to-peer interviews, conducted by the main participants, with their friends and family. The aim was to add to the data that had already been gathered by updating it and filling gaps. The group of people who took part were a mixture of people that ate meat, did not eat meat at all (vegans) and people that were cutting back on the amount of meat that they ate. The study asks people about:

  • The motivations behind the food choices that they made

  • Any gaps between their intentions and their behaviour

  • Did people make different choices when they were home, compared to when they ate out or at someone else's home

  • How culture and location affected someone's choices, i.e. eating organically, shopping at farmer's markets, etc.

  • How food labelling and terminology affected people's choices

Most people that eat meat, dairy and eggs have always done so, as a baby, they were weaned on these foods, at school they ate them. Their parents eat meat, their parent's parents eat meat, their friends eat meat. Pretty much every fast food outlet and restaurant sells mainly meat, birthdays are celebrated around cakes made with dairy and eggs. Easter is about eating a fish and then ham, a pig, Christmas is about eating turkeys. It's culture, it's habit, but it's also pleasure. People like the taste of these things and that is very hard for some people to step away from, or even reduce.

What Stop People From Going Vegetarian or Vegan?

The study also found that there was a lot of mistrust in the messages that they were receiving. Governments, animal activists, environmentalists, supermarkets, farmers, everyone has their own agenda. Each group will produce "data" to back up their point and prove all of the others wrong. This leads to an overwhelming amount of information with many people not knowing how to discern the truth. This makes it easier for people to decide to not decide and continue as they were.

There is also the social aspect to changing the way that you eat. The way that we eat is cultural as much as it is habitual and when one person decides to break away from that culture it can cause difficulties. They may struggle to eat with others when there is nothing suitable for them to eat. They may face teasing or even bullying, people trying to force them, or trick them, into eating something that they do not want. This is a really scary thing and causes a lot of people to go back to old ways of eating, of living, or to not even try to change in the first place.

Some people will have an understanding of how their diet impacts the environment, but take a view that there are other changes that they can make instead of reducing their consumption of animal products. They may decide to get the bus more instead of taking the car. They buy more second-hand items online instead of always buying new. These aren't bad things to do, but it's always good to take a look at how you are living and see if there is more that you can do, especially when the positive impact will be personal as well as for the greater good. An example is leaving home five minutes earlier to walk to the train station instead of driving, getting fresh air, a chance to look at the sky, to, maybe, get to know your neighbours. Another example is swapping cow's milk for oat milk, there's no lactose, no cow hormones or the antibiotics that animals are fed with, but there is fibre, something that cannot be found in cow's milk. In terms of taste, there are some things that you will have to adapt to, get used to, but the pay off is huge.

For those that don't believe that eating meat is bad for your health, you only have to look at hospital wards. High blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, skin diseases, gut disorders, all of these illnesses are common in groups that consume animal products and not common at all in those that don't. For me, that's enough to make me think twice.


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