I have been vegan for the past 7 years, vegetarian since 21 and animal lover all my life. During those years, I came to realize how my own actions — and the way I was taught to think and act — hurt my most beloved creatures in the world, hurt the planet, hurt our health. It wasn’t easy, but I was slowly able to reduce animal products from my diet.
We came a long way since those days. Today, the vegan movement is speaking loud and clear and information is more accessible than ever: articles, movies, celebrities, research, social media, photos, videos — it seems like veganism is everywhere these days. And yet, it seems perception of what becoming “vegan” actually entails has not changed much. Going vegan is still considered hard. Very hard. Vegans are thought to be giving up all good things in life, giving up what they love to eat and drink. To make things worse, vegans are often perceived as aggressive in their attempt to convince others. I’ve had many friends saying the rhetoric of the vegan community simply puts them off. This seems to be in part do to how passionate vegan activists sometimes get in debates. But it mostly has to do with one simple fact: the images are all disturbing.
People don’t enjoy seeing images and videos of slaughterhouses while having their breakfast. Even if truthful (truth food companies pay billions of dollars to hide from the public), this tactic usually achieves the exact opposite: it numbs people. They no longer look at the images and simply feel under attack.
After years talking about veganism friends and family, I’ve realized we vegans were missing out on one more important way to influence people. Think about it: how did the milk and meat industry ever made us feel like it was ok to use animals the way we do? Simple: with harmless, sweet and fun campaigns. Think happy cows, smiling kids (with a milk mustache) and laughing porks. Industry giants made these products an important part of our childhood and family moments. No wonder thinking differently about them is so difficult.
I realized all this by pure accident. About a year ago I was looking to learn more about good protein sources for vegans. Everything I found online was either too boring or too complicated. That’s when I decided to put my illustration skills to the task make my own resource:
I then posted it on Facebook. What happened next was definitely not what I had expected: It went viral! This poster reached more than 1 million people from all over the world — and it’s still being shared on social media as we speak. Quickly after, people started asking me for information. First about iron and calcium sources and then about pretty much everything that had to do with a plant-based diet.
That’s when I realized I can turn this…
The more illustrations I published, the more positive feedback I got — from people that didn’t even think about going vegan.
Changing the conversation
As the months passed, it became a full-time job for me: I launched my website simplehappykitchen.com, and continued to produce fun, illustrated resources. I quickly noticed there is one thing both vegans and non-vegans are interested in: understanding what we put in our mouths. By “what” I mean, what is food made of exactly? Producing simple and relatable information about ingredients, nutrients, their sources and their effect on our health and the planet, allows more people open up, listen, and adopt new ideas.
Simple Happy Kitchen proved to speak to more people than other methods I’ve seen.
Working on Simple Happy Kitchen helped me identify the problem: vegan activists are doing a wonderful, priceless work, and there’s room for all kinds of activism. But — and that’s a huge but — it’s not one size fits all activism. Sometimes explaining things in people’s own words works better than preaching.
These days I get thank you messages from young mothers, educators and fitness enthusiasts saying how helpful my work is. I don’t ask if they are vegan or not. I know that with the right information, delivered in the right manner, more people will happily adopt a vegan diet and lifestyle.
And if you, vegan or not (no judgment), would like to download the Protein, Calcium and Iron printable posters too, you can get them right here :-)
*You can also now get the new book “Simple Happy Kitchen: an illustrated guide for your plant-based life”.