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Feelings of disgust toward meat have been researched for at least 30 years, but so far the causal relationship that may link meat disgust and meat consumption has remained elusive. Two possible pathways have been proposed in previous literature: the more common pathway seems to be that meat disgust is developed after a transition to vegetarianism, potentially via the process of moralization and recruitment of (moral) disgust. Other accounts suggest the existence of a second pathway in which disgust initiates the avoidance of meat and this can be explained by existing theories of disgust functioning as a pathogen avoidance mechanism and meat serving as a pathogen cue. However, the evidence base for either relationship remains thin and to our knowledge no research has examined whether temporary meat abstention can lead to increases in meat disgust, as the first pathway suggests. We measured meat disgust and meat intake in n = 40 meat eaters before and after attempting a meat-free diet for 1 month (while taking part in the annual vegan campaign Veganuary). Although most participants lapsed to eating meat during this period, we found that reductions in meat intake during the month were predictive of increases in meat disgust afterwards. This supports the view that meat disgust is expressed as a result of meat avoidance in meat eaters. Implications for theoretical understanding of the relationship between meat disgust and meat avoidance, as well as the development of disgust based interventions are discussed.

Original publication




Journal article


Frontiers in nutrition

Publication Date





Psychology Department, University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom.