I’m sure we all remember a time when Veganism was a strange and unheard of concept. Now around every corner there are adverts, billboards, promotions and the increasing marketing of Veganuary.
According to The Vegan Society, the number of products with The Vegan trademark has risen to 14,262 and this includes cosmetic toiletries as well as thousands food and drink items.
But how does this fair when there is a meat paradox? What about the cognitive dissonance people feel?
What is veganism?
Veganism is described as a lifestyle choice by which an individual refuses to consume or use any products which are from an animals body, or produced by animals.
Veganism has grown exponentially over the last decade with results in 2020 indicating 41% of Brits reported completely removing or actively reducing the amount of meat in their diet.
With the rise in attraction to veganism and the growth of the Veganuary movement, many people who previously had no interest in veganism are willing to attempt the ‘Try vegan’ challenge.
What is the ‘meat paradox’?
Described by psychologists Bastian and Loughnan as being “the psychological conflict between people’s dietary preference for meat, and their moral response to animal suffering”.
To simplify, the meat paradox suggests that despite the consumption of factory farmed meat, many individuals in principal are against animal cruelty.
In behavioural science we call this cognitive dissonance. This refers to a situation involving a conflict of attitudes, beliefs or behaviours.
This process of thought causes a level of mental discomfort, and leads to an individual. altering their behaviour in order to reduce this discomfort, and subsequently restore balance.
With regards to meat consumption many individuals feel this cognitive dissonance through moral guilt. For example, enjoying a food which is produced through the discomfort of another living creature.
In turn many will make the decision to switch to veganism as a way of levelling their moral compass.
The role of technology in the meat paradox
After listening to a TED talk by Juan Enriquez about how technology changes our sense of right and wrong, the idea of moral views changing over time became quite apparent.
Juan made reference to historical events of public beheadings, and how over time this changed from being completely acceptable to no longer being appropriate.
Because of these changes in moral perception around what is right and wrong, this causes major shifts in human behaviour.
With the advancement of technology, our views can suddenly change based on the enviroments we are living in.
The influence of social media on our decisions is something that cannot be ignored, with veganism having a massive interest and following online, and especially in January.
Veganism is also one of many behaviour shifts that have caused the direction of the food and drink industry to change.
Changes in the food and drink industry
Over the last few years we have seen the emergence of major food brands including McDonalds, KFC and Burger King producing meat alternative products.
This is caused by a number of reasons that can all be related to cognitive dissonance and technology.
The increase in cognitive dissonance has made people feel they have to make a choice or be more outwardly supportive. With the constant bombardment from social media, people feel they have to pick a side and cannot be outwardly against veganism.
Due to a need to identify with a group, celebrity, or movement which seems to have the moral high ground, individuals are more willing to try an alternative lifestyle.
As food technology advances, people are looking at vegan options as being a ‘cheaper alternative’ to regular meat’. People are seeing a more economically sustainable choice which fits within their moral compass, without any apparent change in consumption.
The advancement of technology has made meat substitutes more accessible and the choice to switch to veganism much easier.
Supermarket chains are now seen dedicating entire aisles to vegan food stuffs, and providing meat substitutes which taste almost as good as the real meat.
So much so, that in many cases meat eaters cannot tell the difference. The ease of making the change is why many are opting for a vegan lifestyle which removes the mental discomfort caused by the meat paradox.
Are you vegan? What do you think of this shift in behaviour? Leave your comments in the form below: