Taiwan: Beacon of Veganism

“Taiwan is called a paradise for vegetarians.” After arriving in Taiwan, I heard this from many people. Smaller than West Virginia, this small island of 23 million has over 1500 registered vegetarian restaurants. Taiwan, also known as the Republic of China, was originally named Formosa, “Beautiful Island” by Portuguese navigators.

During my five-day lecture tour, I discovered a less obvious touching beauty of the island: the people of Taiwan are the most attentive, motivated, and intelligent people I have ever met. What inspired me the most was their enthusiasm for veganism and organic and sustainable living. My lecture tour was organized by local vegan education group Meat-Free Monday Taiwan and a publishing house that translated my book Diet for World Peace into Classical Chinese.

Remarkably, 93% of secondary schools in Taiwan have adopted a one-day meat-free policy, and more schools are adding a second day (more to come). A predominantly Buddhist country, Taiwan has many Buddhist organizations that, unlike those in the West, actively promote vegetarianism and veganism. I have had the pleasure of meeting and collaborating with some of these groups.

For example, Taiwan’s largest Buddhist organization, Fo Guang Shan (“Mountain of Buddha Light”), founded by Dharma Master Xing Yun, has many temples and meditation centers in Taiwan and around the world. The monks and nuns are all vegan and their retreats are also vegan (Chinese for “pure vegetarian”) and all of their restaurants are vegetarian. Fo Guang Shan sponsored a seminar at her center in Taipei where the monks and I discussed the benefits of veganism in front of an audience of monks and lay people.

Another major Buddhist group in Taiwan that promotes vegetarianism and veganism is the Tzu Chi Buddhist Movement, founded by Dharma Master Hen Yin. This organization produces several national TV programs, we recorded two episodes in their studio, focusing on the benefits of veganism and the healing power of music. Zu Chi also owns half a dozen full-fledged hospitals in Taiwan, and I gave a lecture at one of them in Taipei to an audience of about 300 people, including nurses, nutritionists, doctors, and ordinary people.

All Zu Chi hospitals are vegetarian/vegan, and some of the doctors gave opening remarks before my lecture about the benefits of a plant-based diet for their patients. Taiwan is among the most prosperous countries in the world, the whole world knows about its affordable and effective healthcare system, many even consider it the best in the world. This is not surprising given the emphasis on a plant-based diet. Both Fo Guang Shan and Tzu Chi have millions of members, and the vegan teachings of the monks and nuns are raising awareness not only in Taiwan but throughout the world because they are global in nature.

A third Buddhist organization, the Lizen Group, which owns 97 Taiwanese vegetarian and organic food stores, and its subsidiary, the Bliss and Wisdom Cultural Foundation, sponsored two of my main lectures in Taiwan. The first, at a university in Taichung, attracted 1800 people, and the second, at Taipei Technical University in Taipei, drew 2200 people. Once again, the vegan message of compassion and fair treatment for animals was received with great enthusiasm by both the general public, who gave a standing ovation, and university staff intent on promoting veganism in Taiwan. Both the president of Taichung University and the president of Nanhua University are both academics and experts in Taiwanese politics and practice veganism themselves and promote it in comments to my lectures in front of the audience.

After decades of resistance to veganism from university administrators and religious leaders here in North America—even among progressives like Buddhists, Unitarians, the Unitarian School of Christianity, yogis, and environmentalists—it has been great to see veganism warmly embraced by representatives of religion and education in Taiwan. It seems we have a lot to learn from our brothers and sisters in Taiwan!

Finally, what about Taiwanese politics and veganism? And again a wonderful example of sanity and care! I attended a press conference in Taipei with two of Taiwan’s most prominent politicians, Madame Annette Lu, Vice President of Taiwan from 2000 to 2008, and Lin Hongshi, Majority Secretary of the Taiwan House of Representatives. We all agreed on the tremendous importance of promoting veganism in society and developing public policies and educational initiatives to help people understand and embrace a plant-based diet. We discussed ideas such as a tax on meat, and the press asked intelligent questions and were sympathetic.

All in all, I am very encouraged by the progress of Taiwan’s diligent and dedicated activists who are helping to serve Taiwan as a guiding light for the rest of the world. In addition to the work done by vegan activists, Buddhist monks, politicians and educators, the Taiwan press is also open to cooperation. For example, in addition to several thousand people listening to my lectures, four major newspapers covered them in dozens of articles, so that potentially my message reached millions of people.

There are many lessons to be learned from this, and one of the main ones is that we humans can awaken in great numbers from the horror of animal exploitation, cooperate and create institutions that promote compassion for all living beings.

Taiwan is a prime example of how we can achieve this and can serve as inspiration for us.

I’m in Australia now and I’ve been swept up in a new whirlwind of lectures here and in New Zealand in a month. Attending a shark meeting on a beach in Perth that was attended by XNUMX people, I again felt joy for the devotion that we as humans are capable of, for the ability to give compassion, peace and freedom to animals and to each other. The driving force behind veganism in the world is growing, and nothing is more important than that.


Leave a Reply