Q & A with Wayne Furlong
English editor at GoVeg Magazine
“We emphasise stories of people who are doing good things locally as well as overseas. We find these stories of ordinary people often tackle the common questions people have when considering a vegan diet, such as, “Will it affect my relationships with family and friends?” We have easy recipes to encourage people to try a plant based diet and of course, we cover stories of how going vegan can be personally liberating and powerful in helping to create a greener, kinder, healthier world.”
Founded in Hong Kong in late 2013 and first published in September 2014, GoVeg is a bilingual Cantonese & English digital & print magazine & is the first vegan lifestyle magazine offered in Asia.
Why was GoVeg founded? What inspired its establishment?
GoVeg formed a part of a wide ranging set of innovations – meat free meet-ups; networking; vegetarian and vegan festivals- aimed at building community links to encourage and support veganism in Hong Kong and spread the word into China.
By whom was GoVeg founded?
Shara Ng, our Chinese editor, was the driving force behind the beginning of GoVeg and remains its main enabler. She is relentlessly positive and has done more than any other person to build a vegan community in Hong Kong. Shara was supported in getting the magazine started by local actor and film producer Angie Palmer.
GoVeg is the ‘first bilingual green & vegan lifestyle magazine in Asia.’ Is it also the first vegan magazine overall (that you are aware of) in Asia?
Yes, as far as we know. I’m happy to be corrected.
Is GoVeg monthly, bimonthly, quarterly or other?
Initially we were bi-monthly but with financial pressures this is becoming prohibitive. We have a backlog of great articles and interviews and hope to get the next issue out in March 2016. This is disappointing but we will persist because the vegan message is too important, especially in Hong Kong and China. The sheer size of the population means that rising meat and dairy consumption is affecting the environment, people’s health and animal well-being on a scale that affects the whole world.
What themes does GoVeg cover?
We will cover any good news story about plant based lifestyles. There are thousands doing pioneering work all over the world and we try to give some of these people a voice. We do not want to produce a negative magazine as this too easily plays into a perception of veganism as joyless which, of course, it is anything but. So we emphasise stories of people who are doing good things locally as well as overseas. We find these stories of ordinary people often tackle the common questions people have when considering a vegan diet, such as, “Will it affect my relationships with family and friends?” We have easy recipes to encourage people to try a plant based diet and of course, we cover stories of how going vegan can be personally liberating and powerful in helping to create a greener, kinder, healthier world.
What are some of the challenges of running and sustaining a publication on veganism and related themes?
There are several challenges but they probably all come back to money. We get little in the way of revenue from sponsors. This is partly to maintain our independence so that we can be true to our central aims of supporting those pursuing an animal product free life, and encouraging others to join them.
The magazine therefore stands or falls on unpaid efforts, on people volunteering their time and in some cases their money.
This leads to further difficulties of lack of time to pursue funding, to research more articles, to produce more editions and to widen our distribution.
What was the motivation to offer GoVeg as a bilingual publication?
Hong Kong, while overwhelmingly a Chinese (Cantonese) speaking city, has a large and influential expat community and we want to reach as many people as we can. Also, English is widely spoken and read by many Cantonese speaking locals. Furthermore, publishing in English as well as in Chinese enables us to access articles, interviews and insights from people outside of Hong Kong, in their own words.
How has the reception of GoVeg been?
It has been very well received. The feedback is consistently positive. The shops where we place the magazine inform us that they are snapped up very quickly. I have personally watched at a local store that stocks three other free magazines and seen that people are drawn to GoVeg.
We had a few guidelines when we began that we have stuck to and this makes the magazine accessible: we keep the magazine positive; we limit the articles to no more than 800 words; and we concentrate on everyday people living plant based lives, rather than on celebrities. We do not write condemnatory articles or get into anything that can be seen as judgemental of others. We try to be practical and welcoming and to this end we also make a point of including recipes in each edition.
With rising interest in veganism, the landscape of vegan publications, print and digital is growing as well. Where do you see GoVeg within this landscape?
I think in two very important areas. First of all, it is critical that the positive message of veganism gets out to Chinese people and, while our platform is small at the moment, we are quite tenacious and hope to grow in our reach. Secondly, our focus on ‘ordinary’ people and good news stories is quite unique in the modern media landscape with its emphasis on negative stories and celebrity. We feel that veganism has given us joy in our lives and want others to experience that.
What needs, desires and interests does GoVeg satisfy for its readership?
The feedback we receive tells us that people want practical support with moving towards a plant based diet. They like to see an easy recipe that they can do themselves. They like to hear of a local restaurant they can visit. They like to know that other ordinary people like themselves have faced and overcome social barriers to veganism. They like stories of success, such as local vegan body builders and tri athletes, vegan mums with healthy kids, vegans of different faith and no faith who share a desire to be kinder to our environment, to animals and to ourselves.
In Hong Kong do you perceive veganism growing as a movement due to ethical concerns (animal rights), more motivated by health issues or motivated by environmental concerns (or a mix of all)?
Of course in any population there will be people who are drawn to a vegan diet by one or more of the concerns above. I would also add, in Hong Kong, a desire to be more spiritual is often a factor. There is a strong history of plant eating in Asia generally. In China, Buddhist traditions have been strong in this and many people come to veganism for spiritual reasons, to avoid foods that cause suffering. For this reason many of the vegetarian/ vegan restaurants in Hong Kong are Buddhist. This can be odd to a westerner as certain foods, such as garlic and leek, are also avoided in Chinese Buddhism. Hence one is often asked when explaining that you are a vegan, “Do you eat garlic?”
We have done no surveys but my feeling is that middle aged and older people are often drawn towards a vegan diet out of concern for their health. We often get older people at meet-ups in Hong Kong who like to eat vegan once a week for their health. Logically enough, younger people are often motivated by a concern for the environment.
Having said all that, Hong Kong people, like all people, love animals and for many people there comes a point where they see that eating animal products is incompatible with the love and compassion that they feel for animals.
So yes, all of those reasons you mentioned, plus spiritual ones.
Covers provided by GoVeg
Questions & post by Annika Lundkvist
Article: Magazines about Veganism →