The same YouGov study also found that what most compelled Americans towards vegetarianism was the associated health benefits. 55% of people placed those above moral (29%) or environmental (27%) concerns about eating meat.
Friend or food
The survey also revealed the factors that Americans consider when deciding which animals they believe are acceptable to eat. Topping the list was whether the animal is rare or endangered, but more generally the "pet factor" was a pretty good indicator of whether people feel comfortable eating a certain animal.
While 72% of current and former vegetarians and 89% of meat eaters considered it acceptable for other people to eat chicken, dining on dogs, cats, and guinea pigs was universally unpopular in both groups — although, strangely, more so for those who have never been vegetarian. For example, 37% of current and former veggies considered it okay for others to eat cats, compared with 15% of meat-eaters.
In fact, it was seen that consuming the more (conventionally) morally dubious animals was more strongly objected to by meat-eaters than by their vegetarian counterparts. The biggest discrepancy between what carnies and herbies considered acceptable, though, was seen for horses: 25% of meat-eaters were out-saddled by a whopping 51% of current or former vegetarians that considered horses okay for others to eat.
While it’s reassuring to know that veggies and meat-lovers can more-or-less agree on not eating dolphins, the larger question remains: what can effectively replace meat in a plant-based diet?