In Beijing, ask for a dish to be cooked without any meat products at all, and you're likely to be met with confusion, questions and half-assed compliance at best, and a whole steaming heap of rou si at worst. It's no secret that vegans, that small but growing contingent of people who consume an exclusively plant-based diet, don't exactly have it easy here, or anywhere for that matter. In discussions with a number of Beijing vegans, however, a picture emerges of a lifestyle far less akin to a diet fad than a total moral philosophy, one with significant historical, ethical, environmental and health-related underpinnings among expats and local adherents alike.
"Anyone who abstains from participating in violence against another sentient being - even if for one meal or one day or one year - is occupying a higher moral ground than someone who justifies the same violence because it 'tastes good' or 'that's just the way things are,'" said Chris Barden, an American expat and the founder of the Vegan Social Club of Beijing. According to Barden, being a vegan extends far beyond one's diet. "That humanity has claimed for itself the right to breed, mutate, enslave, exploit and kill all other forms of life is an extremely political fact of life on Earth, and is based on nothing other than 'speciesism,' a violent discrimination against and commodification of living beings justified by the mere fact they are a different species."
Similarly, American Elizabeth Rowland characterized her veganism as sparked by her university ethics courses and the 1975 book Animal Liberation by Australian philosopher Peter Singer, who Barden also separately cited as an inspiration.
-- full story: