Ribs, resistance and radical change

Why is eating less meat so challenging? This project focuses on resistance in societally transitioning towards reduced meat consumption. Instead of solely aiming to understand what enables a transition, we shift our focus to what inhibits social change. Resistance goes in this regard much beyond protest and demonstration. What happens in chefs’ kitchens? How flexible are our meat-based traditions? What are dynamics between people who do and don’t eat meat? These are the type of questions we aim to answer.


Given current global issues of decreasing (non-)human and planetary health, scientists indicate a societal shift is needed from animal-based to plant-based consumption (i.e., a protein transition), which is characterized by a low frequency of meat. The path towards such healthier and more sustainable forms of consumption is steep and rocky. While resistance against eliminating meat consumption goes back to ancient centuries, it is currently also omnipresent in the context of transition and reduction of meat.
The main goal of the project is to better understand resistance in transitioning towards plant-based consumption through addressing it as part of social processes, and therefore, as something dynamic and changeable. Better understanding resistance can aid governments in developing strategies that further climate change mitigation through a protein transition.

Project description

In current consumption research, humans are often studied as rational beings, and in transition research, the focus lies on front-runners and niches. Moreover, group dynamics are often overlooked. Therefore, alternative approaches are needed, in which food consumption is understood as deeply embedded in social activities, practices, and relationships, and in which hesitation is not interpreted as lagging behind or reactionary, but acknowledged as people’s attachment to things like values, place, or tradition.
We understand resistance from a socio-cultural perspective, studying diverse topics, such as backlash against meat curtailment policies, chefs’ restaurant practices, and eating rituals related to Holidays; applying a range of theoretical concepts, such as ideology, craftsmanship, and tradition; and using various qualitative research methods to better understand resistance in specific settings, such as interviews, emotion networking, photo elicitation, and ideological discourse analysis.


In our first study, we studied backlash against meat curtailment policies in online discourse. We understood resistance as rooted in ideology, and used the method of ideological discourse analysis by Teun van Dijk. The results revealed that three ideologies – carnism, neoliberalism, and populism – are expressed, and interlocked, in online Facebook discussion about Dutch policy aiming for an average meat consumption of no more than two times per week. Especially the finding of populism was striking, as that dimension was still absent from literature about meat reduction policy.

More results will be added soon.