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FW: [aapn] (CN) Meet the Vegans

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  • John Wedderburn
    ... From: aapn@yahoogroups.com Sent: Saturday, December 11, 2010 8:34 AM To: AAPN List Subject: [aapn] (CN) Meet the Vegans Global Times
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 10, 2010
      -----Original Message-----
      From: aapn@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Saturday, December 11, 2010 8:34 AM
      To: AAPN List
      Subject: [aapn] (CN) Meet the Vegans

      Global Times

      Meet the vegans

      * Source: Global Times
      * [17:16 December 09 2010]

      By Michael Gold

      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

      "After reading Animal Liberation, I realized that animals can suffer and
      feel pain even if they are not sent to the slaughterhouse," Rowland said,
      whose veganism came to her as a highly calculated decision aimed at reducing
      misery. "I still eat some seafood since I don't believe mussels, shrimp and
      other sea life have complex enough nervous systems and brains to consciously
      experience suffering. However, I might eventually cut out fish from my diet,
      because some interesting research has come out in the past few years that
      seems to show fish do feel pain, can learn and have longer memories than we

      Beyond a purely moral justification, many vegans point to the environmental
      cost of an animal-based diet. Yu Li, founder of the Vegan Hut, billed as the
      first-ever wholly plant-based restaurant in Beijing, said that recent UN
      studies have indicated that livestock is a greater producer of heat-trapping
      gasses than all forms of transportation combined.

      "From the methane emissions from cow farms to the rainforests cleared to
      make pastures, meat and dairy production is extremely pernicious," he said.
      "In 2008 the UN-chartered Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gave
      several recommendations on how to combat climate change, and at the top of
      their list was to eat less meat."

      Health concerns are often also a significant motivator.

      "Pesticides are magnified up to 15 times in meat than in the plants the
      livestock consumes," Yu claimed. "You may think you're reducing this risk by
      eating meat, but in fact it's far worse."

      Likewise, American Tayler Cox said that she became a vegan after witnessing
      the palliative effect a raw vegan diet had on her mother's debilitating

      "When I first tried it I had such huge cravings," she said. "After a while I
      realized that we have such a dependence on processed food, and there's no
      doubt that meat is highly processed, even if it may feel like a 'natural'

      Cox said that she's not a dogmatic vegan in Rowland or Barden's ethical
      sense of the word, but that she's intrigued by an overall more natural
      approach to her diet.

      "I'm interested in the so-called 'paleo' diet, like what the
      hunter-gatherers ate, which includes cutting out grains," she said, though
      she doesn't admit to being able to adhere as strictly to such a diet as
      she'd like. "I definitely fall along a spectrum - I try to do what I can,
      but it's hard."

      Hard indeed, and all the more so for being in Beijing, a place with not only
      a strong meat-based culinary history, but also a place where ideas of
      ethics, both moral and environmental, and health concerns are not
      particularly salient concerns among the largely poor populace.

      "My grandmother is a Buddhist, so she's a vegetarian, but she raised my
      father to eat meat because 'that's what men do,'" said native Beijinger Chao
      Bai. "I cut out meat because I just decided that I didn't like it, but I
      think it's a shame that so much culinary creativity goes toward meat when
      there are so many ways you could bring out the great natural flavors of
      vegetables, too."

      Both Cox and Rowland said the reactions they get from Chinese people when
      they express their dietary preferences range from understanding to confusion
      to confrontation.

      "The father of a student I was tutoring in English kept going on about how
      unhealthy [being vegan] is," Cox said. "I know they're not trying to be
      disrespectful, but the concept is really still in its infancy here."


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