Animal Protection > Actions > Taiwan - Index
EVANA Interview with Patrick, founder of the online magazine VegTomato
'the most important and far-reaching consequence of being a vegetarian is the growth of our compassion for the animal and for our world'
Lain-Juh, Patrick, Shih is the founder of the first monthly online magazine dedicated to advocate vegetarianism in the Taiwanese and Chinese community.
He has been a vegetarian for 19 years. We asked him about his personal motives for this compassionate way of life and the veg* situation in Taiwan in general.
EVANA: Patrick, why and when did you start VegTomato?
Patric: Both my wife, Vivienne, and I are Buddhists, and we learned that if one wants to be a real Buddhist and improve one�s meditation quality, one should start by being a vegetarian and to learn how to love every being selflessly and clean one�s body. We started by having veggie food in the morning, then gradually shifted to full vegetarianism in 1993. After having been vegetarians for eleven years, we were wondering what else we could do to benefit others. Finally, we decided to set up a non-profit and non-commercial website dedicated to advocate vegetarianism. So, VegTomato was then established in May 2004.
Can you tell us a little bit about this project?
While every hard copy magazine constantly designs new covers and inside layouts, this is generally not the case for online magazines. We wanted to change that. At the time, we knew nothing about html language and there was no blog or other easy help for setting up a website. So my wife decided to attend evening classes and study all necessary webpage applications so that we could promote vegetarianism, offer recipes and information on health matters, Chinese traditional medicine, comics, Zen and spiritual growth.
It seems that Taiwan is very veggie-friendly. Just last October even your former Vice President Annette Lu invited the public to adopt a vegetarian diet. Do other officials and VIPs share this uplifting attitude?
Well, other officials and VIPs also adopted the vegetarian way of life, namely the chairman of Asus computer Chong-Tang Shih, TV program host Jia-Syun Sie, actress Man-Ning Si, legislator Hongchi Lin, and many others.
Has the system of �Meatless Mondays� or something similar, already been launched in Taiwan?
Yes, the system has been widely adopted here in Taiwan via different aspects. For instance, a Meatless Monday platform was established in September 2009 by two vegetarian authors Su Xiao-huan and Hsu Jen-hsiu.
A survey conducted by the Ministry of Education in October 2010 showed that 86% of the schools have responded to this campaign.
Among 3517 schools, including High Schools, Junior High Schools and Elementary Schools, 2318 schools offer weekly vegetarian meals, 676 every two or four weeks, 46 schools serve two and 3 schools three vegetarian meals per week. Some Kindergartens provide only vegetarian food.
According to the latest report dated 2011, 93% of schools have joined the Meatless Monday campaign.
Judging by the impressive range of veg* products on offer in Taiwan there must the great public interest in this compassionate lifestyle. Do you have information about the percentage of vegetarians?
In 1997, a research report �Nutrition and Health Survey in Taiwan� showed that a tenth of Taiwanese citizens between 19-44 years are vegetarians. The population of Taiwan is around 23 million.
Certainly vegetarians visiting Taiwan will find sufficient choices in restaurants and hotels. However, is there anything in particular tourists should look out for? Do you have any recommendations?
In addition to restaurants and hotels offering vegetarian/vegan options, you can easily find lots of vegetarian/vegan restaurants in all cities. Though the names are only in Chinese, you still can look out for restaurants with the Chinese characters 素食 (s�sh� which means vegetarian). These restaurants will exclusively serve vegetarian/vegan food. You may want to check out this website to get more information about the vegetarian food in Taiwan.
Even though a record amount of meat is consumed in China and the demand is still increasing, there seems to be a timid but growing interest in vegetarianism at the same time. Are you familiar with the situation, and are you cooperating with vegetarian organizations over there?
I believe the interest in vegetarianism is rapidly growing in China. The number of websites, blogs and cyber vegetarian groups dedicated to vegetarianism has increased a lot in the past ten years. In large cities like Beijing and Shanghai there are also more vegetarian restaurants. Is is estimated that three percent of the population is vegetarian, which is a very promising start.
I am not member of any vegetarian organization in China but I have a lot of contacts and regular cooperation is taking place.
You may be familiar with the European V-Label scheme, which offers great assistance in finding suitable vegetarian products and avoiding foods containing hidden animal ingredients. Is such a system available in Taiwan, or is something similar planned?
Honestly speaking, there is no such official V-label in Taiwan to guarantee that the products you purchase are vegetarian and without hidden animal ingredients. We have organic chain stores selling only 'clean' vegetarian products, and the government makes spot checks to make sure that vegetarian products do not contain unwanted ingredients. However, it would be very helpful to introduce such a V-label scheme here because it would make shopping so much easier and safer.
From all the beneficial facets of a vegetarian way of life, which would you classify as the most important ones with the most far-reaching consequences?
I think the most important and far-reaching consequence of being a vegetarian is not the health benefit or the protection of the environment, but the growth of our compassion for the animal and for our planet. This compassion is not just for others, it is for ourselves as well because then one will choose to live and eat healthily, and vegetarianism is the only way.
Do you think that Buddhism facilitates the vegetarian path?
Well, not every Buddhist is vegetarian but I think that this compassionate way of life can be very helpful in learning how to resolve our suffering and to reach enlightenment.
Something more down-to-earth: What is your favored dish?
Wow, a tough question. I am a gourmand and like to have exotic food. After trying so many different dishes, I favor Indian, Thai, Japanese and Chinese meals: Curry and Chinese for all seasons, Thai food in summer and Japanese hot pot in winter.
What is the legal situation about dog-and cat meat in Taiwan?
It is forbidden to sell dog and cat meat in Taiwan by the Animal Protection Act. Anyone found dealing with dog or cat meat will be fined US$7,730.
Each year we hear the terrible news about the �God Pig� contest which involves fattening pigs to ridiculous sizes and then sacrificing them. Even though this animal cruelty is widely condemned it�s continuing. What can the international community do to help?
Different from the goose liver paste issue, the �God Pig� contest is a kind of religious tradition and goes much deeper than just a culinary aberration. It is hard to convince the older generation to stop this custom but we can educate young people to replace it with something better. We need patience.
Do you have a message for EVANA website readers from around the globe?
What makes humans different from others is that we can think. And that is the key to live a healthy and happy life. So think before you eat or act. Enjoy every meal you eat!!
Patric, thanks for having taken the time to answer our questions. We wish you good luck, continued success for your work and thank you in advance for keeping EVANA updated about interesting �V�-developments in your part of the world.
Let me say that we are very honored to have a good connection with EVANA, which enables us to offer news in English to our visitors. We are glad to have such platform!
Meatless Monday: Nourishing The Planet One Person At A Time
Link: Quote: 'We are supposed to forget but a piece of meat was once part of a living being'