The Popularity of Plant-Based Diets: A Comparative Analysis of the Attitudes and Perceptions of the Irish Population Towards their Dietary Choice
As a country with a historically high rate of meat consumption, Ireland has a significant dependency on our agriculture and meat exports. Given the rise in vegetarian and vegan diets globally due to the perceived health and environmental benefits, it is relatively unknown as to whether Ireland is following similar trends. In this dissertation, the Irish populations’ attitude and perception towards plant-based diets are fully explored and assessed.
A survey was used to collect qualitative and quantitative insights from the Irish population during February and March 2022. The survey collected the responses of a total of 139 adults (69% female, 31% male) above the age of 18 years old living in Ireland to understand the attitudes and perceptions the population have towards plant-based diets, their meat consumption preferences, and the motivations behind their respective diets.
Irish respondents generally identified themselves to be omnivores, consumed meat daily, and considered it highly unlikely to eliminate meat from their diet. Nonetheless, a willingness to reduce meat consumption existed - likely influenced by the Irish population’s perception of plant-based diets as healthy, ethical, and sustainable and the rise in popularity of less restrictive plant-based diets i.e. flexitarianism. Irish people demonstrated a good awareness of plant-based diets and there is a generally positive attitude towards them.
Health, the environment, and animal welfare were key concerns and core motivators for moving to a plant-based diet, much in line with other Western countries understanding the effects of high meat consumption. There is a continued positive relationship with meat observed in Ireland due to taste, tradition, and availability, but also an emerging curiosity and acceptance of plant-based diets and meat alternatives which can potentially be nurtured through knowledge.
In conclusion, to help further improve the perception of plant-based diets in Ireland, campaigns and education on the diet would be recommended as well as an improvement in taste, quality, and cost of meat alternatives to further encourage a reduction in meat consumption. Plant-based diets are perceived positively in Ireland and therefore have a role in the future of Irish and global diets as a means of combating food scarcity, unsustainable food production, and damaged public health. In this case, knowledge is both power and the key to unlocking new traditions in the Irish diet.