My formal training in economics means that I’m a data lover at heart. Even more, I especially love making use of market design and analysis background in understanding what it is that leads people to make the decisions they make.
The other day, I read an interesting paper on various experimental methods that researchers hoped would lead to lower rates of tax evasion. It turns out, that appealing to people’s ethos– the moral obligation to pay one’s taxes as a civic duty—does nothing to increase tax payer participation.
This study got me thinking. What is it that drives people to make decisions about eating a plant-based diet? Is it a moral obligation to do our part in mitigating climate change? Along this larger-than-ourselves argument, maybe it is an ethical belief to value the lives of living beings as equal to our own. Perhaps the horrors of factory farming and the merciless slaughtering of animals who feel pain, happiness, and life the same we do leave us with no other choice but to follow a plant-based diet?
On the other hand, it could be all about us. The desire to be healthier and to lose weight is also an oft-cited reason in people’s decisions to turn to a veg*n diet. Animal and planet welfare is just a secondary concern, if one at all, in one’s desire to cut out meat on the path towards a slimmer figure. Juice based diets, after all, leave little room for consuming full meals. Especially filling animal products.
Surely some (like myself) are born-and-raised vegetarians who either carry on the plant-based diet out of tradition or a conscious decision to do so in adulthood. Speaking for myself, it was a combination of both.
I question plant-based eaters’ motives because surely it must have an impact on one’s long-term adoption of a veg*n diet. Once we arrive at our decision, what determines how long we’ll give up meat and/or dairy? Does the dieter, who, after witnessing unsatisfactory results in her weight loss goal switch readily to a diet less full of sugary fruit and carb-laden starches? Indeed, a paleo diet rich in meat might be the key in reaching weight-loss goals. In the veg-dieter model, eating a plant-based diet is only a means to an end.
Surely, we give up meat at a cost. When our friends insist on trying out the local hamburger joint or enjoying a fine dining experience at a steak house, we show up as the veg head ordering a salad. But we hold steady in our commitment to animals and the planet because we see no other option. The price we pay in the form of side-eyes and strange looks dwarfs in comparison to the strength we find in acting on what we believe to be fundamentally true.
Could it be true that the ethos affirming we are part of something more than ourselves be the sole driver of a devoted plant-based eater?
What do you think? If you follow a plant-based diet, what are your motivations behind doing so? What about others you know who don’t eat meat?