Veganism's Slow March to the Chinese Dinner Plate


By Dominic Ngai, That's Mag (China)

December 29, 2017


One chilly Saturday afternoon in November, approximately 60 people gathered at Tribe restaurant in Shanghai for a talk organized by Vegans of Shanghai, an English-focused grassroots outreach platform that started off as a WeChat group in the summer of 2016.


Of the attendees, only seven were vegans strict vegetarians who consume no food (such as meat, eggs, or dairy products) that comes from animals, and who abstain from using animal products (such as leather). A term coined by the UK-based Vegan Society co-founder Donald Watson in 1944, the concept of veganism has in recent years been gathering steam in the West, with public figures like Al Gore, Ariana Grande, Natalie Portman and Venus Williams all adopting the diet for animal welfare, environmental or health-related reasons.


At the event, speakers from two animal welfare advocacy groups shared with the audience facts about gruesome industrial farming practices, including how dairy cows experience multiple forced impregnations throughout their lifetimes in order to produce as much milk as possible, and how hens spend their whole lives locked inside a cage the length and width of an A4-sized paper to lay eggs.


As someone whos neither a vegetarian nor a vegan, the shock factor momentarily pushed me to rethink my dietary habits. But, just how practical is it to live as a vegan in China, a country where eating meat is so ingrained in its culture?


Though no official statistics are available, 50 million people in China are believed to be vegetarians or vegans. While the number may seem substantial, its only about four percent of the population a miniscule proportion compared to India, where nearly 30 percent of its citizens observe a meat-free diet, according to a 2016 census report by the Indian government...