There has been a lot of news reporting research about vegetarians and vegans going back to eating meat. What they report here is that 84 percent of vegetarians and 70 percent of vegans end up going back to eating meat. They also report that most go back to noshing down on meat within one year. So why is this happening?
It's been over 19 years for me and I have come across many people who say they "were" veg at one point and no longer are. I have also seen people go veg and then go back to eating meat within a short time.
Well, in my opinion it comes down to the motives for why someone goes veg in the first place. This new research correlates with some I read a while back that reported why someone went vegetarian or vegan has a lot to do with whether or not they stayed veg long term. That research, I recall, had suggested those who go veg for health reasons tend to go back to eating meat at a high rate, while those who go vegetarian or vegan for altruistic reasons (e.g., the animals or the planet), tend to have a much higher rate of staying veg long term.
This makes sense to me. I see vegetarianism and veganism touted all the time as a health gimmick in the news and in various forms of media. I cringe when I see that. It gets people interested, but I know that it's generally a short term interest. Most people don't stick with diet "fads" and that's what they see it as. It is completely possible to live a long good life while still eating meat. My grandfather lived to be 85 years old and was a meat eater!
In the local veg society where I do outreach work I have learned over the years that the vast majority of people are not interested in the information when it's for altruistic reasons. Most people are interested in the health info when it comes to eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, but they don't care about the animals, ethics, or the environmental aspect. If we show a movie with a health theme there will be a good turnout. If we show a movie with an altruistic theme I will (sadly) get 3-5 people attend.
There's another issue at hand here that I think is contributing to this backslide, and that's the impact of the "vegan police." In my 19 years of not eating meat I have seen in the last couple of years that the "vegan police" have become relentless. It's no longer veg people trying to get ominivores to stop eating meat, now even vegetarians are consistently lambasted by vegans, who pressure that if they don't go vegan or are not living a perfect vegan life that they somehow suck as human beings. I see it everywhere and even for me it's become annoying. I can see how it would make a lot of people who are interested in vegetarianism go the other way, because they fear they will never live up to the high standards for vegan perfection that are being constantly put out there. The vegan police need to lighten up and help people make changes, even if they are gradual. All of those positive changes will add up to good things happening for the animals and planet!
Hopefully, those who go back to eating meat will at least make more veg options. Hopefully they will have reduced the amount of meat they eat. At this point, until the research starts showing something better, that's about all I can hope for...