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Going green for the greater good

Veganism as seen through the eyes of three advocates

25 Jun 2020 / 13:03 H.

AS the world moves towards sustainability, an increasingly vocal group is speaking out in support of sustainable eating, particularly vegetarianism and veganism, both of which affect various issues including poultry farming, carbon emissions, and of course, personal health.

To understand the practice of vegetarianism and veganism locally, theSun spoke to three individuals who are advocating these lifestyles through their social media accounts and careers: Chef Boey Yin Yin (also known as Raw Chef Yin), Gan Yee Huan and Kasthuri Jeyapalan.

A certified vegan chef, author and TEDx speaker, Boey has travelled all over the world teaching others to make delicious, raw vegan food through talks, workshops, demos and pop-up dinners. She even has several courses and ebooks.

Chef Boey Yin Yin says becoming a vegan has opened her eyes to even more amazing, cruelty-free dishes. – Courtesy of Raw Chef Yin
Chef Boey Yin Yin says becoming a vegan has opened her eyes to even more amazing, cruelty-free dishes. – Courtesy of Raw Chef Yin

Gan, who was mentored by Boey, is a content creator, activist and author who creates vegan food content on the Good Life with Gan channel on Youtube, Facebook and Instagram. Her Korean Cooking Made Vegan ebook was released in May.

Posting under @fooditelan on Instagram, Kasthuri’s page was initially created to share her experience of dining in various places, which then evolved into a platform for her to experiment and share both vegetarian and vegan recipes for those looking to part ways with meat.

For better health

Though she began moving away from meat in the early 1990s, Boey continued consuming seafood. When she began transitioning towards vegetarianism and then veganism, her health was positively affected.

Gan Yee Huan says a vegan diet helped her overcome an eating disorder and several medical conditions. – Courtesy of Gan Yee Huan
Gan Yee Huan says a vegan diet helped her overcome an eating disorder and several medical conditions. – Courtesy of Gan Yee Huan

“I discovered raw vegan food in 2014, and my eczema started clearing up and I was convinced! Later I found out about the horrors of animal agriculture and also how being vegan makes a positive impact on the environment, and I was convinced that being vegan is the right thing to do. I have never looked back since,” she explained, pointing out that she also does not miss meat.

Around the same time, in 2015 to be precise, Gan was struggling with emotional stress and binge eating which stemmed from an obsession to lose weight. She was also suffering from hormonal imbalances, and developed ovarian cysts twice.

In her quest to improve her health, Gan discovered plant-based diets and their benefits.

“I started off as a vegetarian (still taking milk and eggs), but as I did more research and gained further understanding of animal cruelty and the impact of the meat industry towards the environment, I went vegan completely,” she said.

“Veganism has taught me to have compassion for animals, the environment and most importantly, myself. Over the past three years, I have recovered from binge eating, hormonal imbalances and digestion issues.”

Though not a full vegan yet, Kasthuri Jeyapalan is slowly transitioning towards a plant-based diet. – Courtesy of Kasthuri Jeyapalan
Though not a full vegan yet, Kasthuri Jeyapalan is slowly transitioning towards a plant-based diet. – Courtesy of Kasthuri Jeyapalan

Not just salad

A common misconception when it comes to making the choice to go vegetarian or vegan is that there are limited options when it comes to what to eat.

“People usually associate vegetarian food or vegan food with eating salad for each meal (or eating grass, which is the term I have heard a lot of times),” said Kasthuri, who has made it her mission to share the multitude of vegan/vegetarian food options on her Instagram profile.

On the other hand, Boey explained that vegetarianism is easier for the general populace to understand compared to veganism, which would require some educating.

The diversity and possibility to experiment with entirely plant-based cuisines can be seen with how Gan managed to turn contemporary Korean-recipes into something vegans can get into.

“As a loyal Kpop fan, I love Korean food very much. It wasn’t easy to find authentic Korean food in Malaysia, not to mention the vegan options. I am driven by my passion for Korean food,” said Gan, whose Korean Cooking Made Vegan ebook resulted from extensive research.

“(There are) endless possibilities out there for vegans, that can be tailored to anyone’s taste buds. You don’t have to sacrifice on taste to be a vegan,” Kasthuri affirmed.

Gan Yee Huan believes the compassion that we practise in veganism should extend beyond animal cruelty. – Courtesy of Gan Yee Huan
Gan Yee Huan believes the compassion that we practise in veganism should extend beyond animal cruelty. – Courtesy of Gan Yee Huan

Not without challenges

As she only became fully vegan within the last four years, Gan pointed out that one of the challenges for new ‘converts’ would be the lack of vegan-friendly restaurants.

Gan then explained that in vegetarian restaurants, food can be customised to be vegan through proper dialogue with the staff, and claimed that she is noticing that more restaurants are providing options for both vegetarians and vegans.

On the subject of vegan ingredients, Kasthuri said that sourcing them can be a challenge, as vegan recipes found online originate mainly from Western countries, and use ingredients primarily found there.

“Initially, I was following a few recipes and realised that I could only find certain ingredients in high-end grocery stores,” she said.

“This is also the reason why I have started to create my own recipes to cater to the Asian market and budget. I try to use ingredients that we can get from any supermarket.”

Kasthuri Jeyapalan hopes to convince more people that a plant-based diet can be just as appealing as a meat-based diet. – Courtesy of Kasthuri Jeyapalan
Kasthuri Jeyapalan hopes to convince more people that a plant-based diet can be just as appealing as a meat-based diet. – Courtesy of Kasthuri Jeyapalan

Cause and effect

A plant-based lifestyle transcends merely improving the health of the consumer, and seeks to help animals and by extension, the planet itself.

“Veganism is a philosophy and a way of living. A vegan seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals for food, clothing or any other purpose in his or her life,” said Gan.

“Veganism is not merely a fad diet, nor a new lifestyle trend. The change in lifestyle is the manifestation of the compassion towards animals. If there’s a goal to it, I would say the ultimate goal of veganism is to end all forms of animal cruelty.”

Instead of lecturing on the positive effects that going vegan has on animals, Kasthuri makes a different case for going vegan: the taste of vegetarian and vegan food.

“I have numerous non-vegans messaging me to tell me that they never knew there were so many vegan options, and that they wouldn’t mind trying the recipes because they look delicious.

“That is my personal goal. To be able to tempt even non-vegans to try vegan food because they believe it tastes good.”

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