A lot of us do things we normally wouldn’t when we drink, like bum a cigarette or send some ill-advised late night texts. But what about eating meat? Well, that might not seem like such a big deal, but if you’re a vegetarian, it’s kind of a problem. It’s sort of surprising then that a recent UK-based study has shown one-third of vegetarians eat meat when they’re drunk.
Now vegetarianism doesn’t really seem like something you stick to only when you feel like it. It’s kind of like being pregnant: you either are or you’re not. But according to data pulled from a 2003 survey, a lot of vegetarians are far from absolutist with their meat avoidance. In fact, the study shows that the average self-proclaimed vegetarian will eat one serving of meat per day.
Wait, what? What gives, drunken veg-heads?
Well, for one, as we already covered, most people do things they shouldn’t when they’re hammed. This is due in large part to the fact that alcohol impairs the cognitive processing skills needed to control impulses and hold ourselves to our general standards of inhibition. Also, it’s been shown that those who suppress rage will likely find it comes barreling out when they’re intoxicated. The same logic can likely be applied to other desires we suppress.
Okay, but why meat? Why wouldn’t these meat abstainers drunk-dial an ex or go streaking or something of the like? Most of us have probably known some pretty die-hard vegetarians who scoff at the very mention of eating a chicken sandwich, or sneer every time they walk past a steakhouse and mutter to themselves—or whoever is within earshot—that “meat is murder.”
Well, according to one social psychologist, most of the people who cheat on their non-meat-eating regimen after they’ve had a few drinks are likely vegetarian for health reasons, not moral ones. These are the people whose doctors have told them that not eating meat would benefit their overall health (be it cholesterol levels or what have you), but who actually still like eating it. They’re kind of in the same boat as people who are told to cut out junk food in order to lose weight—maybe they’ll do it, but odds are they won’t want to. That makes cheating much easier than it would be for a died-in-the-wool moralist vegetarian. Basically, the people who cheat actually want meat, as opposed to those who find it repulsive, physically or ethically.
And don’t forget the fact that we live in a meat-centric society. According to a 2013 study, the average American consumed 71.2 pounds of red meat (beef, veal, pork, and lamb) and 54.1 pounds of poultry. And while poultry consumption has gone up while that of red meat has decreased, meat is still very prevalent. So that gives rise to another possible explanation why vegetarians cave: loneliness. Maybe they want to feel a camaraderie, like they’re part of a community—a sensation which only increases when you’re three sheets to the wind.
So next time you’re having a few alcoholic bevvies, if you look over and find your alleged-veg friend gnawing on a rib or a chicken bone, maybe go easy. We all just want to feel like we belong.