When Meat Eaters and Vegans Want the Same Things

by | Nov 15, 2021 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

In the last post we identified underlying reasons people might eat meat. Now we’ll look at why people avoid meat and then crosscheck for common reasons, with a basic idea generation technique. The goal is to spark new branding ideas for plant-based industries.

Just a clarification:
While the motivations to eat meat tend to be more unconscious, reasons to avoid meat tend to be more explicit. I guess this is because eating meat is the norm, which requires less justification. As discussed in the last post on the brand of meat, many motivations to eat meat are social-psychological impression management, where someone presents a desired image through behaviour.

Motivations to eat Meat

Motivations to avoid Meat
(eat plant-based)
Nationalism / RuralAnimal welfare & Rights
Family / Tradition / ReligionEnvironmental sustainability
Rationalism Health
Self-determinism (anti-woke)
Biology / Natural / Strength
Normality / belonging
Dominance / Masculinity
Higher = less self-focussed / Lower = more self-focussed

This is brainstorming – not everything will yield a positive matching. So we’ll tabulate the negative and more neutral results too. Keep in mind this is way more heuristic than the last post, with more assumptions.

  • Red = strongly negative overlap (objection). This motivation to eat meat can’t easily be satisfied with plant-based.
  • Dark Orange = weak negative overlap.
  • Orange = neutral overlap. Possible at a stretch
  • Green = Positive overlap.

Note – the terms vegan/plant-based here are mentioned as directions – it’s used to represent any shifting towards plant-based food or vegan values, without meaning complete switches. Likewise eating meat also refers to standard omnivorous diet – not 100% carnivore.

fears animals / empathy
(not personal motivation at all – no relation to individual). Self-focussed motivations unlikely to register.

fear: suffering and partiality to it
environment / responsibility
(semi-personal motivation – vague relates to individual). self-focussed motivations more likely to register.

fear: failure in responsibilities, partiality to social ignorance, future suffering
(personal motivation, individual consequences. Self-focussed motivations much more likely to register)

fear: disease, weakness, personal failure
normal/belongingOutcast, unpopular, lower statuscaring for animals is normal, but so is eating them.environmental concern is growing in normality with time and generations.meat becoming unhealthy, plants healthier in public consciousness
lower status, being dominated, no respectempathy lackingnegativeself-focussed, but strength is different to health. vegan strong men could help.
watch out for alienating men not identifying as overly masculine.
weakness, disadvantagehealth is a self-focussed motivation while animal welfare is a very impersonal motivation, so little crossover. not just informational barriers. people doing impression management.same motivation.
rationalnot being superiorphilosophical crossover despite cultural mismatchrationalism tends to cohabit with other self-focussed motivations rather than empathetic ones. These are both self-focussed motivations, but culture blocks empathy
self-determined loss of control, rights, NWOnopeunlikely more open to information that directly affects their wellbeing.
nationalistic / rural
change, identity loss, value degradationThere are examples to highlight of animal farmers converting to plant-based product (refarm’d)or a sanctuary, but mostly animals unfortunately are there to be used when it comes to rural lifestyles and national interests.
Identifying advantages of plant-based production, as good for rural communities.

there is a large movement of subterfuge and greenwashing meat production. identifying this is an opportunity to flip the conversation.
negative. But There is potential to point out high rates of chronic illnesses that are linked to meat.
family oriented & traditionalvalue degradation, some families make this shift togetherProtecting the environment could be positioned as protecting our history and the legacy of those who came before. Plant-based is unfortunately at odds with the values of previous generations. Family members want to protect each others health but also dislike conflict among each other. Health crisis can disrupt this and change values.

The idea is that for negative overlaps, it will be hard to present plant-based options that satisfy the need. For positive overlaps, it will be easy.

Quick observations

  • The more self-focussed the reasons, the more likely they are to give a positive crossover. For example the strongest positive match is for ‘health.’ Check out this discussion between PlantCEO and Josh Tetrick (CEO & Co-Founder of Eat Just) for an example of how this works.
  • The insights get more interesting in the grey areas: notably the crossovers between environmental motivations and family, nation, and rural.

But first, these the negative overlaps prompted some really fun angles.

The flip

For each of the ‘red’ negative overlaps (objections), there is potential to flip the conversation by pointing out some kind of fallacy or hypocrisy. Warning: this might make you look bad. Even if done well, it will only work for people close to being ‘on the fence.’

Here are some example of people close to the fence who could be targeted for flipping:

  • meat-loving patients of chronic disease doing their own research
  • animal farmers looking for ways out of their industry
  • go-getting businesspeople looking for new self-improvement
  • or anyone who through situation has been forced to challenge assumptions.

But thinking along these lines, here are some possible flips:

Dominant/Masculine + animal welfare (real strength)

For those motivated by a self-focussed social dominance orientated personality, it could be posted out that “it takes strength to stand up for what’s right.” I couldn’t find a good example but I’m sure there is a quote from some masculine/dominant figure out there along these lines. I’m sure instagram is full of it.

Self-determinism (are you a sheep?)

Crossing self-determinism motivation with any vegan motivation, it seems obvious that a self-determined person would be value thinking for themselves and acting accordingly. Yet self-determinism today is more ‘not being bossed around minorities.’ When self-focussed, and combined with the desire to project as ‘normal,’ this manifests as a kind of conservative, anti-woke traditionalism.

Reverse reverse psychology

Could the self-deterministic motivation be served by veganism? Yes, with a shift away from the self-focussed value. Veganism is an altruistic, empathetic form of self-determinism and libertarianism. For example Veganism has long been an avenue for kids who refuse to ‘fit the mold’ and want a way to express an identity outside the norm.

The takeaway might be to point out that certain self-determism is really selfish, but to many that’s kind of the point and similar arguments have done little more than spark argument and ridicule in the past (‘bleeding heart vegans’). It’s more likely criticising them for sticking to norms will have an effect.

The grey area (which is orange)

The green crossovers are probably the most obvious, and we’ve talked about the red. But the orange, where motivations are not really compatible but could be at a stretch, holds a lot of interesting queues. Mostly these involve taking something widely known but on the edge of public consciousness, and bringing it to the fore.

Nationalism/Rural + Environmental sustainability

For example, if the effect of meat production on the environment in Australia was more widely understood, it would not be a stretch to connect the nationalism/rural motivation to plant-based foods. There is even an opportunity to do this – the conversation has already been opened by livestock industry bodies who have spuriously claimed a number of environmental benefits to livestock production, along with some unlikely technological solutions to ruminant methane. All that needs to be done is continue this conversation with an alternative account of livestocks’ impact, and to debunk the livestock industry’s suggestions. It wouldn’t be easy (you’d need to work with a number of different scientific professionals) but could be done with some effort. Vegans always appear to have “an agenda,” but if it were clear enough that the agenda was sustainability for rural communities and national economies, it might fly.

Summary: call out greenwashing, show how it would damage rural communities in medium term.

Health / Environmental sustainability

Whereas above we compared both semi-personal motivations, here we have a personal and semi-personal which are not directly related. However, there is a general public conception that “what’s good for the world is good for us” which could apply.

Normality / Animal welfare

As written above, animal welfare is something most people agree with, however, most people also eat animals, assumedly not knowing much about the production process. As with all the ‘normal’ motivations, it gets easier over time to present animal welfare concerns as normal. The main issue here is that the violence inherent in livestock production is still hidden, so it’s hard to spark actual concern.

Some mainstream vegan products casually refer to themselves as a ‘kinder’ option, which would be how to approach this crossover. Not seeming overly different or special, but just briefly calling a spade a spade – relying on the customer’s own background knowledge to fill in the gaps and agree with the promise.


Looking at the crossovers above and considering angles in which motivations could be satisfied by both veganism and meat, I kept hitting these objections that weren’t explicitly connected to the stated motivation, but some modern manifestation of it. I felt this is related to internal impression management, and most of the time felt like it came down to some kind of bloody-mindedness. What I think it is, actually, is a net of intertwined motivations that reinforce each other, and making them hard to analyse in isolation.

I’m happy to have come up with a couple of new ideas, and will probably refer back to this for others, but I have a daunting feeling that the motivation for many to eat meat is reinforced in a nuclear shelter. While others tirelessly work to help people see other ways of life, I tend to feel exhausted thinking about it, which is one of the reasons I like to take a more strategic approach. I had hoped this exercise would help.

Please let me know if it has helped you though!