Hi everyone, my name is Richie Kul and I’m an actor, model and animal activist based in Bangkok, Thailand – a very recent development as of this past month!  

Why did you go plant-based / vegan?

Quite simply, because it was the right thing to do as a daily stance against violence and injustice. I think many of us profess to love animals and value compassion and peace, but too few of us genuinely reflect on what that well and truly means.  Meat and other animal products come from an inarguably brutal and unkind place, and no animal voluntarily relinquishes his or her life for our consumption.  When I made that connection between this grave injustice and my own complicity in such widespread suffering, I made it a point to begin walking the proverbial talk and using my platform to do what I could to help the most vulnerable beings on this planet.  We treat some of the most unconscionable criminal offenders far better than innocent animals that have done no wrong, all merely to sate a pleasure that is as fleeting as it is destructive to our planet and our health.  I firmly believe that most people are inherently good, and when they know better, many will do better, so I try to do my part in helping awaken hearts and minds to the innumerable health, environmental and ethical benefits of cruelty free living. 

How do you use your modeling and social media to promote your lifestyle?

There are many methods to shining a light on the virtues of vegan living, but I think one of the most effective and sustainable is being visible, transparent and setting an example through my daily actions and choices. I try as much as possible to “show not tell” and let folks see for themselves that you can still be strong and healthy without harming animals. The concept of masculinity has evolved so much in recent years, to the point where more and more people are recognizing that a “real man” protects rather than exploits the most innocent and defenseless among us, and I’m proud to help plant those seeds of awareness that we can still live fun, fulfilling lives as vegans.

What have you learnt since going plant-based and have you noticed any changes in your physical or mental wellbeing?

That in real life, the line between “good” and “evil” isn’t always so clear and distinguishable. Sure, animal agriculture is unequivocally cruel, but on the flip side, just because something is vegan doesn’t make it healthy or humane. Palm oil is technically vegan and we all know it comes at a heavy price, and even vegan staples like quinoa and avocados are questionable in terms of ethics and environmental impact.

As I am primarily driven by ethical concerns, my diet isn’t always the cleanest or healthiest, so going truly “plant-based” in the genuine sense of the word is still a work in progress. As a vegan, I don’t consume meat or animal products (or use or wear animal products) but I do regularly partake in meat substitutes like Beyond Meat, Gardein, and Impossible Foods. They’re fine to consume in moderation but highly processed all the same, and weaning myself off of that crutch and replacing them with fresh, whole foods is something I’m making a conscious effort to do more of.  

And yet despite the lack of nutritional purity, I’ve still reaped some of the benefits already.  My skin and mind are clearer, I have more energy and I recover faster from workouts. And I just have a more mindful, positive outlook on things in general. Friends and fans have picked up on that too and as a consequence, often message me to ask what I eat and what I do to stay in shape. That’s been my favorite side effect – the opportunity to inspire more people to explore the innumerable benefits of cruelty-free, compassionate living.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt on your vegan journey?

Sometimes as much as the message and messenger are on point, the person we’re engaging with has to be at the right stage in their own journey for the walls to come down.  It’s important to effectively triage a situation and identify who truly is ready for and receptive to the message and is worthy of the considerable investment of your energy, time and concern.  Peace can be something that’s very easily lost or stolen, so as activists we need to pick and choose our battles and preserve our own well-being in the process.  And sometimes that means knowing when to cut our losses and walk away.  Luckily, the goalposts are shifting and more people than ever before are awakening to the fundamental truth that animals are here with us, not for us.  

If you were to give advice to someone who was considering becoming vegan, what would you say?

My advice is to really reflect on whether our day-to-day practices are consistent with our values.  If they’re not, best to take decisive action.  Diets and fads come and go, but if we sincerely want to make this a lasting and sustained change in our lives, our motivations ought to be rooted in ethics in some shape or form, and when we establish that connection between the food on our plates and the animals who were stripped of their breath and being for it, the perceived sacrifices begin to feel very small as we shift our focus to the victims, rather than on ourselves, and realize that their lives were never ours to take.  At the end of the day, it’s about making that connection on a personal level and no longer compartmentalising and selectively dispensing our compassion.  To truly inspire meaningful change, it’s important for us to extend beyond our traditional patterns of thinking.  Imagine the impact we can collectively make when we endeavour to live our values and actively spread peace and kindness!

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