Vegetarian Week Highlights the Power of an Effective Communications Program

National Vegetarian Week 2019 runs between 13-19 May and will highlight to the wider public the benefits and pleasures of a meat-free diet. It’s also National Public Gardens week…which is sort of funny in how it further emphasizes a focus on plants – those we eat and those we just look at or hang out with – both arguably necessary for humans to thrive. At its core, the impetus for a Vegetarian awareness week stems from the success of a post war mass communications program that benefitted from PR and influencers. 

As a former vegetarian and somewhat of a garden enthusiast, I have an intimate relationship with plants. Today, I’d describe myself as eating a plant-based diet, although it incorporates seafood – a change I made a few years ago mostly because I was tired of having to explain my diet to complete strangers in social dining situations where a vegetarian option wasn’t readily available to be discretely ordered. Inevitably, the discourse went something like this: 

“You’re a vegetarian?” 

“Yes.” 

“No chicken?” 

“Correct.” 

“Wow, so no meat ever?” 

“Yes, no meat.” 

“Wow, I couldn’t do it. I mean I just love meat so much.” 

“That’s great, I’m not vocal about it It’s just a choice I’ve made for me and how I eat. No different to how you choose what clothes to wear or what kind of exercise you like.” 

“But, how do you get your protein?” 

(…roll eyes internally while desperately changing the subject…) 

Infuriating in its frequency and sad in its modern ignorance to basic nutrition, it demonstrates the ongoing power of post war mass communications programs that still resonate today. Those programs, often driven by governments, were deeply integrated in order to target housewives at multiple points through her day, focused on getting her to choose and buy certain foods for “health” (…arguably more about business sector and economic health than the public’s, but that’s another blog post…) telling her that protein comes from meat and meat is the center of a balanced diet. Full stop.  

It also demonstrates the power of word of mouth and how we tend to just believe what we’re told for things we just generally haven’t ever really thought much about or questioned even though beliefs have definitely advanced. In my case, it was my loving parents who were the first to provide this misinformation. No shade – they were just people believing what they’d been told because they aren’t scientists or nutritionists and isn’t someone else in charge of that anyway? In fact, they were my first influencers. Flawed, but I believed them anyway, and it took my own adult re-education to learn some nutrition facts and update my own food guide. 

So today, while we begin a week that hopefully sparks conversations, curiosity and maybe just a little Googling into both the negative impact of meat farming on climate change as well as the positive impact of more plants in your body, it’s worth considering the ongoing power of a strong, integrated communications program as well as the continuing power of influencers on our thinking and behaviour. A thorough, well-executed and integrated program can affect perceptions for generations.  

And that’s (vegetarian friendly) food for thought.