HRC Study of Current and Former Vegetarians and Vegans
An Animal Rights Article from


Humane Research Council (HRC)
December 2014

[Also read rebuttal article: Animal Advocacy and The Scientific Method: The Humane Research Council Study]

Short Description:

This HRC study examines key factors in people’s decisions to either adopt or give up a vegetarian or vegan diet, and the first set of findings being released compares individuals who currently eat a vegetarian or vegan diet with those who have been vegetarian or vegan in the past but now consume meat. The findings of the study offer some potentially disappointing but illuminating conclusions that could inform advocacy and outreach strategies.


In the US, the population of current vegetarians/vegans sits at approximately 2%, while approximately 10% of the population are former vegetarians/vegans and about 88% have never been veg. This study, published by HRC, looks closely at that 12% of the population that identifies as either current or former vegetarians/vegans, and tries to better understand what makes people lapse, and in turn, what factors might help keep people veg. The findings presented here offer a lot of possible avenues for new strategic thinking in veg advocacy, and how we might move the vegetarian/vegan diet from the margins more towards the center.

Though there is rarely just one reason for people adopting or giving up a veg diet, it is not completely clear if lapses are due more to social pressures (eating a diet that seems unusual or outside the norm), or based on some other difficulty inherent to the diet itself. That being said, the findings do illuminate some things that many lapsed vegetarians/vegans have in common, such as transitioning to the diet too quickly, not being involved socially with other veg folks, and not being able to address certain food cravings. The study also shows that current vegetarians/vegans have a wide range of motivations that keep them veg, which may mean that more diverse messaging and outreach could have a positive impact.

This phase of release is part of a larger study of U.S. vegetarians and vegans. You can read more about the key findings, as well as the see the tables and methodologies, in the attached PDFs

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