Nearly half the British public are cutting back on meat or are already vegetarian and vegan, according to the British Social Attitudes survey.
Pollsters found that 29 per cent of people had reduced consumption of meat in the past year, following warnings from the World Health Organisation that processed meat such as sausages, bacon and ham can cause cancer and red meat in general probably causes cancer, The Times reported.
Another nine per cent were considering cutting back on meat or stopping eating it altogether. About three per cent were either vegetarian or vegan.
Ian Simpson, of NatCen Social Research, which carried out the survey, said: “A significant number of people in Britain, amounting to many millions, told us that they have reduced their meat consumption over the past 12 months.
“Many people are clearly concerned about eating too much meat and the primary driver of this concern appears to be concerns about health.”
Some 58 per cent of those who were cutting back on meat said they were doing so for health reasons, while about 20 per cent said they were trying to save money. Another 20 per cent said they were concerned about animal welfare or food safety.
Emer Delaney, a dietician, said people attending her clinics had “grabbed on to the meat [health] message” and were eating pulses, beans and lentils instead.
And Catherine Collins, a dietician at St George’s hospital, London, said many people were eating less meat.
“People are eating things like fajitas or spaghetti bolognese rather than a slab of meat pork chop or a steak,” she said. “They are extending meat a lot more, using things like a sauce that doesn’t need much meat per serving because you are bulking it out with vegetables.”