In a recent issue of Psychology Today, Dr. Hal Herzog pursued an interesting statistic found by a CBS News survey: more people identify themselves as ex-vegetarians than vegetarians. Clearly, it is easier to make the decision to cut out meat than to stick with it. Dr. Herzog was curious as to why so he set up a website and invited ex-vegetarians to comment about their experiences cutting out meat in the first place and then going back to their old ways. Over 50% of the 78 people who responded had initially gone vegetarian for ethical reasons. Thirty-five percent claimed health decline as the primary reason for returning to meat.
One such ex-vegetarian featured in the article was a woman by the name of Staci. She was quoted as saying she had eaten raw beef livers that morning for breakfast. A little more digging in a sister article by Dr. Herzog also revealed that while she was vegetarian, Staci had struggled with an eating disorder. Unfortunately, this was not mentioned in the current article discussing her “failing health as a vegetarian” though it may have shed light on why she had felt weak and become anemic.
The remaining 65% majority of responds claimed things not related to health issues, including the hassles related to cooking and eating vegetarian, urges to consume flesh, and changes in their views about eating meat. Another reason for abandoning the vegetarian lifestyle cited the related social stigmas. I can not help but think of a former post written about this article, in which rather than summarizing an interesting article, the blogger portrayed vegan/vegetarians as uninformed, unhealthy, and tending towards processed foods...big steaming helping of social stigma, anyone?
Somewhat ironically for the blogger of that former post, Dr. Herzog himself made a point at the end of the article to say, “I believe the case against eating other creatures is strong on moral, environmental, and health grounds.” Indeed, the research (based on medical studies, tests, and comparative analysis, not informal online surveys) overwhelmingly shows that vegetarian/vegans tend to be healthier overall than meat eaters. Sticking to a vegetarian/vegan diet is certainly a challenge, and for many people, one that is not worth it for any number of reasons. It is too bad that the need to constantly defend your lifestyle choice has to be one of them.