Vegetarianism is plagued by apostates as well as hypocrites:

[A]ccording to a 2005 survey by CBS News, three times as many American adults admit to being “ex-vegetarians” than describe themselves as current vegetarians. This suggests that roughly 75% of people who quit eating meat eventually change their minds and return to a diet that includes animal flesh. It seems that for most people, vegetarianism is a phase rather than a permanent change in lifestyle.

Hal Herzog and Morgan Childers created a small survey to find out why people abandon vegetarianism.  The results seem obvious at first: “Health” is the most common reason, followed by “hassle” and “cravings.”

vegetarian.pngNow take a close look at the smallest bar: “ethical.”  Many people become vegetarians for moral reasons, but ex-vegetarians almost never change their minds about the morality of meat-eating:

About half of the respondents originally gave up meat for ethical reasons. Yet only two of our ex-vegetarians said changes in their views of the morality of killing animals motivated their decision to resume meat consumption. In fact, most of the former vegetarians were still concerned with animal protection and the ethical issues associated with eating animals.

This result should shock anyone who thinks that moral self-deception is a big deal.  If people use moral reasoning to justify whatever they felt like doing anyway, why do ex-vegetarians cling to their original moral perspective?  A little rationalization would allow them to have ideals and eat them, too.  So why don’t they?