Moises Mehl, who became a raw vegan (a vegan who does not eat any food that has been heated to more than 46 degrees Celsius) three years ago, shops online for animal-free products. “It’s very convenient and cheap when you order in bulk,” says Mehl. More and more online vegan shops offering a wide range of animal-free products, from shampoo to pet food, have opened in recent years. Many also offer low international shipping costs for imported products.
Despite these conveniences, being a vegan is challenging. Vegans not only have to make an extra effort over apparently minor details in their daily lives and adjust accordingly, they also have to deal with the misconceptions people have about them.
One common misconception is that vegans do not eat. Andrew, who has been a vegetarian for 30 years, since he was ten years old, sees the issue from a different perspective. “I think, to a certain extent, vegetarians/vegans are the real creative eaters as we pay attention to the taste, texture as well as nutrients of the food,” says Andrew, as he grinds some cucumber into pasta and tops it with a tomato basil sauce in his kitchen. Andrew likes preparing different vegan dishes at home, such as Vietnamese rice paper rolls, organic green salad and energy bars with dried fruit and cereals.
For Wing , socializing has been the greatest obstacle since she adopted a vegan diet 10 years ago. Wing’s mother had told her that she would die if she did not eat meat. “When I first started taking the vegan diet, my parents did not understand it at all. They were very traditional. To them, eating meat is a must, as well as a symbol of wealth,” Wing recalls, laughing gently.
Wing emphasizes how misconceptions about veganism come from ignorance and a lack of direct experience. She says her parents’ views changed once they experienced for themselves the vegan diet that she was adopting. She once prepared a vegan meal for her parents and they became more receptive to her chosen lifestyle after they found the food surprisingly tasty.
Rania Hon, who now works at Loving Hut, also acknowledges the importance of direct experience in increasing public acceptance of veganism in Hong Kong.
According to Hon, Loving Hut wishes to encourage non-vegans to try vegan food by offering affordable fast-food that fits the city’s quick pace of life. The opening of five Loving Hut restaurants in Hong Kong in the space of just a few years may say something about the growing market demand and how veganism is being received by society today.
Sharing a similar view is the managing director of Life Café, Moosa Al-Issa. Life Café is a vegetarian café that also offers vegan options on its daily menu. “Most of our customers are not vegetarian. Our clientele is 50 per cent local and 50 per cent expat. The greatest growth in interest in vegetarian food in the last couple of years has come from the local community,” he said. Al-Issa is positive about the future development of vegetarian and veganism in Hong Kong.
Even though vegans in Hong Kong may continue to be a minority group in the near future, they have never thought of imposing veganism on their family and friends. They would rather live actively and happily as “living proof” against misunderstandings from society.
As Andrew, the only vegetarian among seven siblings says, “It’s a personal choice. It’s great if you want to be a vegetarian or a vegan and I’d love to help you through it, but it’s also okay if you are not ready to give up meat.” Andrew says that he respects the choice of those who do not give up meat, but adds, “Just when will you respect mine?”