Canadians reluctant to give up meat for climate change, cabinet poll finds

The federal cabinet has conducted a private survey to gauge Canadians’ willingness to eat a more plant-based diet for the sake of climate change. The results show that most Canadians are not keen on reducing their meat consumption, despite the environmental benefits.

Cabinet seeks public opinion on personal climate actions

The survey was part of a series of questionnaires by the Privy Council called Climate Change Mitigation Behaviours, which were obtained by Blacklock’s Reporter through access-to-information legislation. The questionnaires were designed to measure Canadians’ attitudes and behaviours towards climate change and the actions they are willing to take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the questions asked Canadians, “In the last two months, how frequently or infrequently have you made efforts to eat a more plant-based diet?” The survey found that 36% of respondents said “not at all”, while only 13% said “always”. The rest said they ate a more plant-based diet “sometimes” or “often”.


The survey also found that women, younger people, and those with higher education levels were more likely to eat a more plant-based diet than men, older people, and those with lower education levels. Additionally, those who had a strong willingness to mitigate climate change and believed that their personal actions could have a positive impact were more likely to eat a more plant-based diet.

The documents did not reveal who in cabinet requested the survey or why. However, the survey was conducted in 2022 and 2023, around the same time that the federal government announced its plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and introduced a carbon tax.

Plant-based diet has environmental and health benefits

Eating a more plant-based diet has been widely recognized as one of the most effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. According to a 2018 report by the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5% of global emissions, more than the entire transportation sector. The report also stated that shifting to a more plant-based diet could reduce emissions by up to 8 gigatons per year.

Moreover, eating a more plant-based diet has health benefits as well. Numerous studies have shown that a plant-based diet can lower the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. A 2019 study by Harvard University estimated that a plant-based diet could prevent 11 million deaths per year worldwide.

Cabinet’s poll contradicts public support and evidence for pharmacare

The cabinet’s poll on Canadians’ meat consumption contrasts with another poll that the cabinet conducted on Canadians’ support for a national pharmacare program. The poll, which was also obtained by Blacklock’s Reporter, showed that 79% of Canadians supported a national pharmacare program that would cover the cost of prescription drugs for all Canadians.

The poll also showed that Canadians believed that a national pharmacare program would improve access to medication, reduce health care costs, and increase fairness and equality. The poll was conducted in 2022, before the federal government announced a deal with the NDP to introduce a pharmacare program that would cover diabetes medication and contraception.

The pharmacare program, which is expected to be legislated by March 1, 2024, is based on evidence and research that shows that providing universal coverage of prescription drugs would save the health care system money and improve health outcomes. A 2017 report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that a national pharmacare program would save $4.2 billion per year in Canada.

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