A new study by researchers from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, has looked at excuses meat-eaters use to justify their diet and found that although people are aware of the negative impact of eating meat, they still rationalise its consumption using very weak excuses based on false clichés. 

The participants of the study, mostly meat-eaters between 23 and 63 years of age, were split into six focus groups, with variations in educational levels, gender, and geography. All six focus groups agreed that a key way for people to reduce their diets’ climate impact is by eating less meat, but they came up with several justifications for not reducing their meat consumption. 

The study, titled “Bad avocados, culinary standards, and knowable knowledge. Culturally appropriate rejections of meat reduction”, was published in April 2024 in Sage Journals. Its authors found a pattern of participants describing vegans as “extremists” and hypocrites for eating avocados and “highly processed” foods. 

Kia Ditlevsen, co-author and Associate Professor from the Department of Food and Resource Economics said in a statement, “There was a tendency for them to shame avocados as being climate-unfriendly and scold vegans for being extremists.” According to the authors, this “imagined extreme vegan diet consisting only of highly processed plant-based foods and avocados enables non-vegans to deflect blame.” The meat-eaters in question tried to resolve their perception of having an environmentally unfriendly diet by problematising vegan diets, suggesting that they might not be as good for the climate as they seem.

Lead author Thomas A. M. Skelly said in a statement, “With this notion, the participants confirm to each other that their food practices are not more problematic than food practices among people who have cut out meat entirely – even though the truth is that red meat has a far greater climate footprint than both avocados and vegan products, and vegans do not necessarily eat more avocados or processed products than meat eaters.”

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Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.