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Animal rights movement gains traction in Taiwan

Hundreds of people turned up Saturday, Oct. 6 for march in Taipei

Protestors march for animal rights in Taipei

Protestors march for animal rights in Taipei (Taiwan News photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Over the past two years, hundreds of people in Taiwan have mobilized to promote animal welfare, and to protest the consumption of animals along with the use of animal-based products.

The concept of animal rights has gained ground within the consciousness of Western society over the past 10 years. In 2011, American non-profit organization "Our Planet. Their's Too." established the National Animal Rights Day, which is now observed in multiple countries all over the world.

The idea is still fairly new to Taiwan, however it appears to be gaining traction, with more and more people coming out each year in active protest against the maltreatment and slaughter of farm animals.

Yesterday, the 2018 Animal Rights March took place around Ximen Ding; a culmination of the efforts of several local NGOs including Taiwan’s premier animal rights organization, Vegan30. Attendees were a mixture of both locals and foreigners, dressed up in animal regalia and sporting vegan flags.

The colorful costumes and inflatable toys lent the march a convivial atmosphere, but protesters were clear and forthright with their message: for the sake of the animals, the environment and ourselves, we must stop animal consumption.

Animal rights movement gains traction in Taiwan
(Taiwan News Image)

After rallying at a site in front of the Nishi Honganji relics (西本願寺) in Ximen Ding, protesters took off on a route circling the popular tourist area, carrying signs that asserted their cause and chanting slogans such as, “Animals are not the meat upon our tables!”

Protesters then returned to the original rallying site where they were greeted by music performances and poetry readings that detailed each artist’s unique journey on their path towards veganism, sharing how they came to be proponents of animal rights.

Animal rights movement gains traction in Taiwan
(Taiwan News Image)

The popularity of the movement could be seen not only in the vast number of attendees, but also from the range of new businesses exhibiting their vegan, cruelty-free products in a line of stalls opposite the main stage. There were even guest appearances from models and social media celebrities like Mia Sabathy (白彌兒) and Barbara Akemi.

There are now also over 30 fully-vegan cafes and restaurants within Taipei, not including bakeries, night market stalls and other smaller outlets.

The first ever animal rights march in Taiwan with over 150 attendees was held in December of last year, but this year’s rally welcomed more than double that number. Additionally, almost 200 people collectively turned up at demonstrations on National Animal Rights Day earlier this year in Taipei and Kaohsiung.

Protesters marching through the streets in Taipei's Ximen Ding area

Animal rights groups are eager to dispel misconceptions that the notion of Animal Rights is a Western import—citing a long tradition of vegetarianism in Taiwan thanks to the country’s Buddhist traditions.

They say this is evidence that animal welfare has long been conferred importance by certain groups in Taiwan. However, many activists believe society ought to go one step further and become fully vegan in order to prevent the inevitable suffering caused by egg and dairy farming.

Taiwan News spoke to leader of Vegan30 and key organizer of the protest, Zhihui Wu (吳智輝), about the pressing issue of animal rights in Taiwan today:

“We organized today’s event to let the citizens of Taiwan know that support for animal rights is flourishing within our nation.

People usually say, ‘why aren’t you out supporting disadvantaged children? You should be concerned with their needs first and foremost and then focus on the animals’. But the whole course of events is rather unfortunate.

The rights of animals are fundamental. When children, or adults, learn to take care of animals, they also learn to take care of other people. When we learn to show solicitude for creatures we’re used to regarding as lesser than, and treat them as equals, the whole of humanity can learn to become equal too.

Supporting animal rights starts with changing your eating habits. When we stop consuming so many animal products, less animals have to be slaughtered, and the amount of suffering can gradually decrease.”

Veganism is not only gaining traction among the general population in Taiwan but has also been promoted in some forms by the state, with “Meatless Mondays” instituted in thousands of schools around the country since 2012. In 2017, CNN named Taipei as one of the “best cities for vegans around the world.”

As the global population becomes more and more conscious about the ecological footprint left by factory farming, many nations appear to be switching up their dietary habits, Taiwan included. Animal rights activist groups, however, hope for Taiwanese citizens to become aware of the wider implications meat consumption has with regards to animal welfare, and the right to life they believe should be afforded by society to all animals.