British study finds that one third of vegetarians eat meat when drunk

A file photo of two diners. Source: NTV Archives

A team of researchers in the UK has found some surprising results after polling over 1,700 vegetarians about their eating habits. According to the results of the study, 37% of those polled reported to eat meat after having too much to drink.

While the majority of those surveyed reported that they were able to avoid eating meat “no matter how much they had to drink”, it was a surprising outcome that over one-third of respondents did admit to eating meat while intoxicated.

In addition, over 50% of those who admitted to eating meat while drunk reported that they ate meat on every occasion when they drank alcohol on a night out.

One of the most interesting part of the study was asking vegetarians who “cheated” with meat whether they would reveal this to their friends or not. The results revealed that 70% kept it a secret, and would never tell their friends or family that they consumed meat.

This study appears to backup the results of research conducted in the US in 2014, which found that 84% of American vegetarians eventually start eating meat again at some point in their lives.

Looking back further, to a 2003 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, revealed an even more-surprising statistic: people who claim to be vegetarian actually eat a lot of meat – on average, at least one serve per day.

The 2003 study polled over 10,000 Americans about their eating habits, and researchers were shocked to find that those who identified as vegetarians reported eating approximately 7 ounces of meat within an average 48 hour period. While that’s still 40% less than the amount of meat eaten by non-vegetarians, it’s still a significant amount for someone identifiying as a vegetarian.

Studies from other countries also reveal a high level of meat consumption by people claiming to be vegetarian. A study conducted by Canada’s National Institute of Nutrition revealed that 60% of Canadian vegetarians do eat chicken, and 32% eat red meat.

Asked to comment on the unusual findings of the British survey, a psychologist shared his views on the phenomenon. “Probably a greater percent of those who have fallen off the wagon are health vegetarians.

“Ethical vegetarians tend to have more reasons for why they’re avoiding meat and why they don’t eat meat in the first place and probably have a stronger commitment to it. “If you’re a health vegetarian, it’s just a matter of self-control or self-regulation. It would be the same as anyone who is trying to eat a healthy diet.”

Considering the situation from this perspective, it almost makes sense that some of the so-called “health vegetarians” report eating meat on occasion. After all, if you are choosing a diet purely for health benefits, it’s not surprising that on occasion – particularly when under the influence of alcohol – you may stray from that diet.

The studies do raise another question, and that relates to what being a vegetarian really means. If someone avoids meat from the majority of their meals, but still has the occasional slip up, can they honestly say they are vegetarians? Or does eating meat when drunk mean that they can’t use the vegetarian title?

“Ultimately, people can call themselves anything they want,” said one of the researchers in the British study. “You can tell other people anything and they’ll probably believe you; what’s most important is what you tell yourself.”