The main reason for eating less or no meat and dairy products is out of empathy for animals, followed by sustainability reasons, according to a survey of Spanish flexitarians, vegetarians and vegans.
Social networks and documentaries are found to be the biggest drivers of this dietary change.
The survey involved 2,749 people and was carried out by food awareness organisation ProVeg Spain, and VeganaGal, a vegan and sustainable fair in Galicia.
“The data resulting from this survey not only helps to gain an in-depth understanding of why people reduce or cut out meat altogether, but it also makes it easier for governments and the private sector to better create and direct their actions to meet the needs of this increasingly relevant segment of the Spanish population who are revolutionising the food system,” Verónica Larco, communications director of ProVeg Spain, said.
In general, the survey found that the veggie population in Spain is young, but not as young as one might think.
Some 44 per cent of the flexitarian population is between 25 and 34 years old. The second largest age group (27 per cent) is aged 35 to 44.
Also, 44 per cent of the vegetarian population is also concentrated in the age range of 25 to 34 years, but the second largest group (29 per cent) is aged between 18 and 24 years.
Within the vegan population, the group between 25 and 34 years is also the largest (again 44 per cent).
Surprisingly, the second largest group (25 per cent) is older, being aged between 35 to 44 years.
People between 18 and 24 years old only account for 17 per cent of the vegan population.
The Spanish flexi and veggie population is still predominantly female – 83 per cent of flexitarians, 87 per cent of vegetarians and 79 per cent of vegans.
Although it is generally thought that eating a plant-based diet is something modern and for “city people”, the survey reveals that the veggie population in Spain is proportionally highly represented in the rural environment.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA), only 16 per cent of people living in Spain do so in a rural environment.
According to the data collected in this survey, 21 per cent of flexitarians, 23 per cent of vegetarians and 26 per cent of vegans live in towns or villages.
“It is wonderful to be able to break the myth that a plant-based diet is only a thing for city people and to see that eating a healthier, more sustainable and animal-friendly diet is possible regardless of the environment,” says Tamara Alonso, representative of VeganaGal.
The Spanish flexi and veggie population is quite secular compared to the general society.
According to the Ferrer i Guàrdia Foundation and its report on the evolution of religiosity and secularism in Spain, non-believers account for 37.1 per cent compared to 58.8 per cent who considered themselves Catholic and 2.5 per cent believers of other faiths.
Taking this data into account, it may be surprising to see that 77 per cent of flexitarians are non-believers, as are 84 per cent of vegetarians and 82 per cent of vegans.
Of those surveyed, 30 per cent of people had been following their diet for 1-3 years, 25 per cent for 3-5 years and 20 per cent for 5-10 years.
A total of 17 per cent of survey respondents said they changed their diet less than a year ago.
Among vegetarians, 22 per cent had previously had a flexitarian diet. Among vegans, 42 per cent had previously adopted a vegetarian diet, and 13 per cent a flexitarian diet.
Therefore, ProVeg believes the Spanish vegan and vegetarian population will grow in the near future.
When asked if they consider adopting a vegan diet as a goal, more than half of the people who follow a flexitarian diet and vegetarian answered in the affirmative.
The biggest driver when making the decision to eat a more plant-based diet is social networks and the information found on them.
The second biggest factor is documentaries, movies or series, with third, but a long way behind, being the influence of family and friends.
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