While commercial marketing has a powerful influence over our choice of foods, the North American Vegetarian Society (NAVS, founder of World Vegetarian Day) use a more personal approach to share the ethos of vegetarianism.
The NAVS encourages us to “help create a better world” through “influencing those closest to you”. Their 4-step plan to influence your family and friends includes: (a) letting them know that October is Vegetarian Awareness Month, (b) explaining why vegetarianism and its benefits are important to you personally, (c) encouraging them to explore recipes online, and (d) telling them they can add to the fun by asking others to join them in exploring this new way of eating.
“Word-of-mouth is very powerful because we trust family and friends much more than commercial sources of information,” Breda says. “The 4-step product challenge, similar to the notion to ‘go vegetarian for a week’, could help people to change their routines and develop new habits.”
More effective than the word of a friend, though, is the ethos of vegetarianism. The NAVS states that participating in vegetarianism will “help people, animals and the earth”.
“This is certainly true,” Breda says. “Medical research highlights the health problems associated with the excessive consumption of meat. Appealing to people’s egoistic values or self-interests is a good way to persuade us to reduce our meat consumption.”
In addition to health, there is the impact of meat production on climate change, environmental degradation and animal welfare. “People tend to forget the link between meat and animals.
People don’t really want to think about where meat comes from — the live animals from which the meat is extracted. Food advertising won’t show animals, although there might be pictures of Australian cows or Australian farmers to tap into the ‘buy local’ sentiment and the desire to support the farming community.
“A key strategy for vegetarian brands is to emphasise the human connection with animals in order to grow their customer base. A similarly effective strategy is tapping into the wellness trend and a renewed interest in fitness, nutrition, organic lifestyles, and mental and physical wellbeing.”
“Pro-environmental behaviour is linked to altruistic and biospheric values, which reflect a concern for animals, other people, the environment and an awareness of the costs or benefits of our choices to our ecosystems.”
JCU Senior Lecturer Breda McCarthy