Two-thirds of men in Britain say they would rather die five to ten years early than give up meat, according to a new survey.
More than one in ten said giving up meat would make them feel less masculine, and a third said they believed humans were meant to eat meat – compared to one-quarter of the women surveyed.
The survey of 2,000 people, conducted by OnePoll for the charity campaign No Meat May, found both men and women viewed diets that excluded meat as more feminine.
More than one in 20 men surveyed also said they would rather go to jail than stop eating meat, rising to 11% for those aged 25-34.
However the survey found that many men and women would consider a plant-based diet in exchange for certain health benefits.
A total 18% of men surveyed said they would stop eating meat if it improved their sexual performance and 35% if it improved their health.
The survey also found increasing numbers of young people following meat-free diets, in a trend that has been eagerly adopted by British supermarket and popular food chains chains in recent years.
Around half of Brits surveyed said they have at least one female friend who is vegetarian or vegan compared to 38% who have a male friend following the diets.
For those aged over 65, that reduces to just 15% who have a vegetarian male friend, and 6% who know a man following a vegan diet.
Women told the survey that health implications were the main reasons they would consider switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet.
A total 38% said they would stop eating meat if it improved their health, 36% if it reduced their chance of developing certain cancers, and 33% if they lost a stone or more in weight.
While 76% of people surveyed said they cared about the environment, just 26% would stop eating meat to reduce their environmental impact.
And a staggering 39% said they would prefer not to date a vegan.
Women were less likely than men to date a vegan – with 39% telling the survey they would prefer not to have a partner who followed a plant-based diet, compared to 37% of men.
People of both genders aged 25 – 44 are also far less likely to date a vegan than those of other age groups, with 54% of 25 – 34 year olds and 46% of 35 – 44 year olds saying they would prefer not to, according to the survey.
That compared to 27% of those aged over 65 – as older generations appeared to be more open to dating vegans despite being less likely to follow the diet themselves.
More than 100,000 people globally are expected to take part in No Meat May, which encourages people to try eliminating it from their diets for 31 days for health, environmental and social reasons.
The campaign charity noted around 90% of sign-ups this year are women, emphasising a “major disparity between the sexes in their attitudes towards adopting a meat-free diet. “
Dr Shireen Kassam, founder of Plant Based Health Professionals UK, added: ‘This survey highlights a real disconnect between the science and public attitudes relating to meat consumption.
“Given that eating meat, particularly red and processed meat, is a leading risk factor for some of our commonest chronic illnesses, it is quite alarming to learn how entrenched some myths and beliefs about a vegan diet actually are.
“This is undoubtedly a result of decades of effective marketing and PR by the meat industry.”