According to a new food shopping report highlighting a revolution in UK eating habits, one in eight Britons is now a vegetarian or vegan.
An additional 21 per cent claim to be flexitarian, where a mostly plant-based diet is occasionally supplemented with meat, meaning that a third of UK consumers have deliberately reduced the amount of meat they eat or have eliminated it entirely from your diet.
The Guardian newspaper reports the findings in the supermarket chain Waitrose's annual food and beverage report, as food choices take on an increasingly important role in the debate to counter climate change.
A number of influential reports have said that avoiding meat and dairy is the simplest way for consumers to reduce their environmental impact on the planet, as farmed animals are carbon dioxide (CO2) intensive processes.
"It is extremely encouraging to know how many Britons are choosing to reduce their consumption of animal products," said Nick Palmer, Head of Compassion at World Farming UK.
“Science shows that the healthiest diet is one that contains a lot of plants.
"By eating less meat, fish, eggs and dairy, and by choosing greater wellness when we do, we can all help animals, people and the planet."
The Waitrose report is based on research among buyers from all UK supermarket chains.
The retailer's executive chef, Jonathan Moore, said: “Vegetarianism has grown and evolved. More people dive and dive.
“There was a time when choosing a plant-based diet was about adopting an ethical stance based on unwavering principles.
"For many, this distinction between vegetarians and meat eaters still exists, but for others the lines have been blurred."
The number of vegans in the UK who reject all animal products, including dairy and eggs, has quadrupled in the past four years, from 150,000 to 600,000, according to the Vegan Society.
Waitrose was the first UK supermarket to install dedicated vegan sections in 134 of its stores in May.
It has also launched a range of more than 40 vegan and vegetarian ready meals.
The report on vegan food is also booming, with the Good Food Guide highlighting restaurants with dedicated vegan menus for the first time this year after many high street chains and pubs increased their dairy and non-dairy options.
Approximately 60 percent of vegans and 40 percent of vegetarians surveyed said they had adopted the lifestyle in the past five years, with 55 percent citing animal welfare issues, 45 percent for health reasons and 38 percent of environmental problems.
People in the 18-34 age group were more likely to switch to veganism, with much less enthusiasm among those 55 and older.
Waitrose's report is based on millions of grocery store transactions in stores and online, backed by a survey of 2,000 adults who shop at a wide range of retailers.
Scientific research published this year found that without the consumption of meat and dairy products, global use of agricultural land could be reduced by more than 75% - an area equivalent to the United States, China, the European Union and Australia combined, and still feed the world.
Original article (in English)