Why some choose the vegetarian option: Are all ethical motivations the same?

  • Daniel L. RosenfeldEmail author
Original Paper


Many studies have demonstrated psychological differences between ethically motivated and health-motivated vegetarians. Adopting an ethical-health dichotomy in studying dietary motivation, however, may overlook meaningful variance between vegetarians motivated by different types of ethical concerns—namely, those related to animals and the environment. Through two preregistered studies, I compared dietary goal orientations, disgust toward meat, and dietary adherence between vegetarians motivated by animals, health, and the environment. In Study 1 (N = 361), I found that environmentally motivated vegetarians resembled animal-motivated vegetarians in construing their diets as a means of achieving more prosocial and moral, but less personal, goals than did health-motivated vegetarians. In Study 2 (N = 562), however, I found that environmentally motivated vegetarians resembled health-motivated vegetarians in reporting less disgust toward meat and lower dietary adherence than did animal-motivated vegetarians. Stronger feelings of disgust toward meat explained why animal-motivated vegetarians exhibited the most stringent dietary adherence. Distinguishing between various types of ethical motivation may reveal more nuanced insights into eating behavior.


Vegetarian Motivation Disgust Food choice 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that they has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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