In March, the VotesforSchools community voted on whether or not they would consider becoming a vegetarian in the future. Over 7,000 of our 4-19 year olds voted online and the results are worth digging into.
According to Public Health England, 2% of both adults (19+) and children (1.5-18) reported they were vegetarian in a survey in 2012. That figure appears to have been relatively stable from the early 2000s through to 2012 (government surveys have been conducted regularly from 2000-2012 with dependable sample sizes and consistent approaches to testing).
And yet, newspapers and interest groups have declared a tidal wave of vegetarianism currently sweeping through the UK. In February of this year, the BBC reported a notable increase in people consuming vegetarian meals with an increase of 15% in sales of vegetarian ready meals between 2017 and 2017 and an increase of 16% in sales of Quorn, a meat substitute.
While it is wise to be sceptical of predictions about a vegatarian revolution, our recent voting results hint at the possibility that this diet could well increase significantly as our young people grow up.
10% of college students (16+), 23% of secondary students (11-18) and 43% of primary students (4-11) that voted said they would at some point become a vegetarian. While there are ambiguities about whether this indicates a permanent change to vegetarianism or simply trying out a new diet, the data demonstrates an increasing willingness to consider a vegetarian lifestyle.
The downwards trend from 43% of yes's to 10%, could either suggest that as young people in the UK age, they have a tendency to prefer meatier diets. Or it could suggest that the youngest generation is currently the most open to vegetarianism maybe due to parents and teachers talking or advocating about the idea.
Unfortunately, we do not have the means to find out whether, through some odd aging process, our meat-eating instincts do not kick-in until later life, or whether our children are becoming more and more likely to turn into vegetarians. But the stable 2% of vegetarians in 2012 for adults and children alike, might indicate that the latter theory could be more likely.
Either way, we are continuing to gain new and interesting insights from our young people. We will return to vegetarianism within the year and across a few votes, we hope to learn whether we are looking at a vegetarian future.