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In a new Global Vegan Index by travel agency Hotelfollower, Asian destinations took the top spots for vegans who wish to explore the world. The top 3 countries in the ranking include Thailand, South Korea and Taiwan, while Malaysia and Vietnam made the top 10 travel destinations in the index. As veganism continues on its mainstream journey, more places in Asia are clearly gearing up to provide ample vegan-friendly dining choices for travelers, from dishes that are inspired by Asia’s long-standing history and culture of vegetarian cuisine to new culinary inventions using innovative products made by a host of plant-based startups.
Analysing several factors such as the number of vegan restaurants, popularity of veganism amongst citizens and annual meat and dairy consumption, a study by Hotel Follower has created a Global Vegan Index. The index ranks global destinations in terms of how vegan-friendly they are to plant-based travelers, and Asian countries nabbed the top 3 spots on the list: Thailand came first, followed by South Korea and then Taiwan. The goal of Hotelfollower’s index is to help vegan travelers choose the most accommodating travel destinations in the world, and inform globetrotters about which countries are surprisingly vegan-friendly.
While it might come to a surprise for some people that Thailand took first place in the index, the country fares well on low milk and egg consumption, high animal welfare and incredible choice of 334 completely plant-based restaurants for herbivores to choose from. South Korea, which came in second place, scored highly on animal welfare practices with the local Animal Protection Act, which stipulates that there is a duty of care for animals and that animal cruelty is punishable with imprisonment.
In addition to these three, half of the top 10 countries for vegan travelers can be found in Asia, with Malaysia and Vietnam ranking 5th and 8th respectively. All 5 Asian countries listed scored particularly high for low milk and egg consumption and the number of vegan restaurants on offer. According to the researchers, this result could be linked to the fact that Asian diets rarely contain dairy foods such as milk and cheese, especially because according to some estimates, up to 90% of the continent’s population are considered lactose intolerant.
Another reason underpinning the many vegan-friendly rankings for Asian countries is the region’s history and embedded culture of consuming traditional vegetarian food. Many followers of Asian religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, are committed to vegetarian diets, primarily due to animal welfare and ethical reasons. Buddhism and Taoism in China and East Asia in particular, traditionally requires monks and nuns to eat an egg and allium-free vegetarian diet, which in practice is similar to an all-vegan diet since dairy did not become a part of the Chinese diet until modern times. Like strict Taoists and Buddhists, Jainism, which originated in the Indian subcontinent, requires adherents to follow a meat, fish and egg-free diet, which is also similar to a 100% plant-based diet, though some do consume dairy products.
Veganism has also grown in popularity and become more widely available in Asia thanks to heightened global attention towards environmental issues in recent years. Most recently, a study conducted by the University of Bath found that the majority of public opinion supports veganism as ethical and good for the environment. To attract the growing numbers of flexitarian and plant-based diners – local and foreign travellers alike – restaurants across Asia have been racing to add in vegan-friendly options to their menus using the most innovative plant-based meat substitutes. Impossible Foods, for instance, have had seen great success from launching products across Asia, experiencing a five-fold increase in sales in the region alone and receiving huge funding from major names like Hong Kong’s tycoon Li Ka-shing’s Horizon Ventures.
Want to know where the best vegan eats in Asia are? Check out Green Queen’s Vegan Travel Guides!
Lead image courtesy of Food Wine Travel.