Attitudes towards meat-eating in vegetarian and non-vegetarian teenage girls in England—an ethnographic approach

P M Kenyon, M E Barker
Appetite 1998, 30 (2): 185-98
This study compared vegetarian and non-vegetarian teenage English girls' attitudes towards meat. A convenience sample of 15 vegetarian (mean age 17.2 years) and 15 non-vegetarian (mean age 17.3 years) girls was recruited from a teenage health clinic. Attitudes towards meat were assessed in a single, tape-recorded, semi-structured interview. Eight themes of the cultural meaning of meat were identified; five were common to both groups: Animal (66% of vegetarians, 33% of non-vegetarians); Taste/Texture/Smell (66%, 60%); Flesh and Blood (86%, 26%); Colour (33%, 20%); Miscellaneous (60%, 46%). The theme Eating Well was unique to the non-vegetarian group (40%). The themes Life/Death and Health-related were unique to the vegetarian group (66 and 20%, respectively). The vegetarians generally abhorred killing animals for food, meat's sensory characteristics and ingesting blood. A meat-free diet was not particularly associated with health in either group. The non-vegetarians tended to characterize meat positively, both liking meat's sensory characteristics and associating meat with luxury and special occasions. We speculate on possible reasons for the current popularity of vegetarianism in teenage girls.

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