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New survey data in the U.K. shows that a record number of people are now planning to switch to a meat-free diet in 2021, driven by rising concerns about health and sustainability. Research also shows that support amongst the British public to ban factory farms has increased to new heights, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to raise awareness about the link between intensive animal agriculture and zoonotic pandemics.
Recent polls have found a staggering increase in the number of Britons choosing to go meat-free and backing calls to ditch factory farming, in line with global trends that have seen consumers flock to plant-based alternatives more than ever before over the past year. In a survey commissioned by fintech service Finder.com, a staggering 6.5 million people in the U.K. have plans to go either vegan, vegetarian or pescatarian and ditch meat altogether in 2021.
The survey, which involved more than 2,000 participants, suggests that if all of its respondents follow through with their 2021 “diet intentions”, more than a quarter (26%) of the entire British population will no longer consume meat by the end of the year – though experts say that displacing meat for seafood may prompt a major freefall in ocean fish stocks, which are already under enormous strain from unsustainable consumption.
These predictions mark a continuation of the plant-based trend seen throughout 2020, which saw 470,000 people in the U.K. transition to a meatless diet, marking a 100% uptick from the year before. Veganism in particular saw a 40% increase in 2020, driving a huge surge in plant-based food sales across the country, especially on delivery platforms like Deliveroo amidst the ongoing coronavirus-related lockdown measures. Dedicated plant-based delivery services like Manchester’s Get Vegan Grub have also seen skyrocketing sales in 2020, prompting plans to rapidly expand operations this year.
The scientific evidence could not be clearer. When you farm animals intensively you risk increasing the chance of mutation and spread of dangerous viruses.Dr. Justine Butler, Senior Health Researcher
Another survey, commissioned by vegan charity Viva! and conducted by independent market research firm OnePoll, revealed that almost 9 in 10 people (85%) in the U.K. are now in favour of an immediate ban on factory farming. Most respondents cited concerns over emerging infectious diseases as the main reason for their support of such a ban, suggesting that the coronavirus pandemic has been a major trigger for mainstream consumers to consider drastic changes to their consumption habits.
The link between intensive animal farming and zoonotic pandemics has been widely reported over the past year, with scientists from the U.N. and multiple other global institutions naming the industry has one of the biggest drivers of past and future health crises. Many experts have also called on the government to enact bans on factory farms in order to prevent the emergence of deadlier viruses to come.
“The scientific evidence could not be clearer. When you farm animals intensively you risk increasing the chance of mutation and spread of dangerous viruses,” explained senior health researcher Dr. Justine Butler.
Viva! director Juliet Gellatley believes that the latest statistics prove that the majority of people are now aware of and understand the dangers of the meat supply chain.
“Whitehall is playing Russian Roulette with the lives of millions of Britons by continuing to permit farmers to cram thousands of animals together in despicable conditions,” said Gellatley. “Today the Great British Public has spoken. It’s time to end factory farming before it ends us.”
Lead image courtesy of Vegan Bible.