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Decline in meat sales comes from a centuries-old message

Ray Hill
Founder and Secretary of the Health Food Institute

It has taken nearly 200 years for the vegetarians and more than a hundred years for health food stores and vegetarian restaurants to witness a significant fall in the purchase and consumption of meat in its many various forms in Britain.

Not to mention the early nature cure, naturopathic practitioners and, not least, those individuals sensitive about the treatment and use of animals as a source of food for mankind.

The news came in a small piece in The Times under the heading, 'Vegans and cost of living squash meat consumption'. While agreeing with the heading, it does miss out the organisations and individuals above whose pioneering objectives over those years have made it possible to have so many 'no meat' alternatives available.

Credit must go to the Vegetarian Society whose promotional work began after its formation in 1847 and was responsible for its member James Henry Cook opening England's first health food store in Birmingham City Centre in 1898, hence the vegetarian food principle still operating in health stores today.

It would appear home consumption is down by 12.5%. It is beef, pork and lamb which are decreasing faster than other meats. In fact, over the past 10 years these meats have fallen by 26% whereas chicken and other meats have fallen by just 11%. Overall, meat consumption is down by 14% compared to 2012.

Interestingly, people are also buying fewer meat pies, kebabs and burgers from takeaways – about half what it was in 2012. This substantial fall may be the result of the pandemic.

The average person, whoever that might be, has also contributed to a fall in fish consumption, indicating a reduction of nearly 9%.

Polling by YouGov suggests that one person in eight is now vegan or vegetarian. There are some fairly obvious reasons for such a significant change in animal consumption. The first is giving up meat for health reasons, as the public begins to be persuaded that eating meat could be the cause of some of the more serious health issues.

The second, a realisation by the more sensitive thinking people among us, is that killing animals by subjecting them to the slaughterhouse is not a particularly pleasant scene as the animals wait patiently for their turn!

Since the numbers above date from 18 months ago there is a thought that any figures provided in the near future may reverse the trend due to a recent slowdown in sales of vegan meat alternatives.

Notwithstanding the above, experts do want more people to give up eating meat in order to help the government's aim to achieve a 35% cut by 2050 to help achieve a net zero result.

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