Meat eaters who engage in campaigns such as Meat Free Monday (MFM) over a longer period of time are more likely to change their diet to vegetarian or vegan, according to a new study by Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) and MFM published in the journal Appetite. More than 30% of those who engaged with the programme for five years or more stopped eating meat, with a corresponding 20% of those who engaged for three to five years.
Meat Free Monday aims to encourage and support people to reduce their meat consumption, initially by having a plant-based day each week, in order to help slow climate change, conserve precious natural resources and improve their health.
Paul McCartney, co-founder of the campaign, said: “By skipping animal products one day a week, the environmental impact is substantial. For example, if every person in Great Britain skipped meat for one day, it would reduce our carbon footprint by more than if every car was taken off the road for a whole day! For those people who end up moving to a completely veggie diet, there is obviously an even greater environmental impact.”
Dr Richard de Visser, Reader in Psychology at BSMS and lead author, added: “Our study showed that behaviour change campaigns like MFM are most effective if they can maintain people’s active engagement. We now need to work on developing the best ways to keep this engagement, through providing the kind of support, information and advice that participants want.”
One of the participants of the study, Nick, said: “We did it a few Mondays in a row. And then it turned into sort of most weekdays and then all weekdays. And then all weekdays and most weekends. And then, even when I was eating out, I was just choosing not to eat meat as well.”
Another participant, Adam, said: “You don’t start taking up jogging and run a marathon straight away: you break yourself in gradually. I think that’s possibly the way to do it, and it certainly was to me.”
The study involved a mixed-method exploration of the behaviour and beliefs associated with reducing or eliminating meat consumption. An online questionnaire was completed by 655 people registered on the MFM website as meat eaters, followed up by 18 in-depth interviews.