Study: Anti-Meat News Coverage Curbs Consumption

Media coverage encouraging the reduction or elimination of meat is found to be an effective advocacy tool.

A new study conducted by the Reducetarian Foundation found that anti-meat news stories with the terms “reduce” and “eliminate” effectively lower meat consumption. A group of 2,237 participants between the ages of 18 and 87 were divided into three groups and each assigned to read a certain news article. The first story emphasized reducing meat consumption, the second advocated eliminating meat altogether, while the third article (the control) was about walking as a form of exercise. Participants self-reported their meat consumption one week prior and five weeks after reading the article. Researchers found that participants who read about reducing and eliminating meat from their diets reported eating one less serving of meat per month while the control group remained the same. “These findings suggest that the effect of reading a news article can be sustained for several weeks, which is quite remarkable,” the study lead researcher Bobbie Macdonald says. “And one serving per month might seem like a small effect, but that’s equal to a 6.5 percent reduction in total meat servings.” The survey also drew several other parallels between the groups, including altered attitudes toward animal welfare. After reading either the “reduce” or “eliminate” articles, subjects were more likely to agree that purchasing animal products contributes to animal suffering, that raising animals for food contributes to environmental degradation, and that people would be healthier if they ate less meat. They were also able to disagree that animals raised for food have a good standard of living. Extensive research has been performed on other health and environmental-related behaviors such as smoking, electricity usage, and physical exercise, but this study is one of the first to delve into the topic of how media—particularly online news stories—affect meat consumption. Study researcher Krystal Caldwell plans to conduct similar surveys to determine the efficacy of other media tools such as video clips, books, and documentaries.

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