In March 2020, to promote vegetarianism, a group of young Vegetarians from Hualien started using the social media trend of “Eat and Broadcast” to share the benefits of Vegetarianism. One of the creators of this movement, Yang Wen Ting, said, "In order to promote vegetarianism, we will overcome all obstacles and give it our best shot!” Forgoing Tzu Chi’s typical approach of using words of persuasion or ways to touch people’s hearts when it comes to promoting vegetarianism, the group started from Hualien through live broadcast where they encouraged Vegetarians to come forward. They had also called out to people from other cities and even countries to identify themselves.
The enthusiasm of this movement spread quickly to Singapore, where a group of young vegetarians were very inspired and eager to help grow this movement. Yang Wen Ting resigned from her position at Tzu Chi Taiwan’s Department of Editing and Compilation in July 2000 and returned home to Singapore. On September 5th, she met up with Mavis Yeow from the Tzu Chi Singapore’s Humanistic Culture Development Department to discuss about the details. When she got home that night, Wen Ting immediately set up a central communication group and a Facebook fan page for Go Veggie, while Mavis worked on the poster designs for Go Veggie’s teasers.
Six days later, the first season of Go Veggie Singapore was officially launched on September 11th 2020, with an episode a day for a continuous 30-days up until October 10th. The first episode alone garnered 4,600 reaches and 106 Likes. Across all 30 episodes, there were a total of 88 Go Veggie hosts, four videographers and more than ten editors, and the peak number of reaches was 32,000 people!
A Tug of War between Good and Evil
Standing up for Animals as One
A melting pot of Eastern and Western cultures, Singapore is a multi-racial and multi-religious society. Hawker centres and food courts across Singapore offers an array of international cuisines that include a variety of vegetarian options too. In recent years, vegetarianism has gradually become trendy due to the growing consciousness of the health benefits of a vegetarian diet and how it can help reduce the carbon footprint. As the number of vegetarians increases, so does the number of unique and interesting vegetarian F&B options.
Yang Wen Ting (image below) said that while it is very convenient to find vegetarian food in Singapore, there are still far more non-vegetarians. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the globe in 2020, Master Cheng Yen said that this is a huge disaster and a great valuable lesson for mankind, making the push towards vegetarianism even more critical. She believes, “Go Veggie, is indeed a wish for vegetarians to stand up and out to rekindle the kindness in people where they would change their diet to help alter the fate of animals. In a tug of war between Good and Evil, victory does not belong to the side with a sheer number. Instead, a chance towards victory lies in the ability to gather people who are willing to contribute!
As of many “firsts”, they are always the hardest step to make. Khor Chooi Kim, a volunteer at Tzu Chi said that even though Tzu Chi volunteers are all vegetarians, it was not an easy task to find hosts for the live broadcasts. “There was a limited pool of people who were willing to be in front of the camera, and to find people amongst this pool who can remain composed and advocate vegetarianism was even more challenging.” At the point when the first episode was launched, the list of hosts required were not fully secured yet and the team could only continue their search concurrently. Chooi Kim recounted that “it was really about using all methods to persuade and thankfully good rapport and relationships were built all these time, most people were still willing to be in front of the camera to help promote vegetarianism.”
There are daily posts on Go Veggie’s Facebook Page, featuring the broadcast’s teaser poster, related articles, and post-episode reflections. An editor is assigned to each live broadcast and they are responsible for manning the live comment section. In addition, the filming team is required to be on rotating shifts to do the live broadcast. "Go Veggie is an ongoing project and it has to deliver the required posts and an episode every day without fail. The pressure is hence huge,” shared Chooi Kim.
Mavis Yeo took charge of designing all 30 teaser’s posters while Wen Ting, Bernard Ng and the Editorial team did some copywriting for the teasers and scripts for the live broadcasts. Most from the Editorial team were young working adults who are in the phase where career typically takes precedence, hence leaving them with limited spare time. Bernard recalled that the texts for the daily teasers were thought and written during whatever pockets of free time he had such as during his daily commuting.
Not only was Chooi Kim busy looking for hosts, but she had to double-up as the videographer when the team was short-handed. "It was very challenging as during the live broadcasts. We often face unexpected problems such as an unstable network, issues with capturing the audio, or some awkward moments when the host was too nervous to speak.” Chooi Kim shared that when faced with such situations, even if she felt very anxious, she needed to maintain a cool front and not let the host sense any anxiety.” At times like this, I could only quietly inform my team to ask for backup support. It really required me to multi-task and was a test of my ability to stay composed and utilise my wisdom.”
When it comes to promoting the live broadcast, there is a role which may not be visible to many but is highly critical, and that is the editor in charge of managing the comment section. After hosting one Go Veggie episode, volunteer Teo Seok Ching realised the importance of engaging with the viewers under the comment section. As such, she voluntarily tuned in promptly every day to leave comments on the comment section. As an editor herself, she was able to listen even more attentively, “During the live broadcast, when I hear the host mentioning certain keywords, I will type it into the comments section, allowing audiences to be able to reflect on the spot. If the host happens to be very nervous, I will also immediately write something to help calm everyone down.”
Chooi Kim said that, most of the team members have no prior experience with photography, videography or even scriptwriting within the Go Veggie team. Still, they had bravely taken up the challenge and sought ways to overcome obstacles along the way, all in the name of promoting vegetarianism. There was a restriction on the number of team members allowed at the actual filming location. Notwithstanding, the rest still tuned in to Facebook, helped with engaging and providing feedback online so as to increase the reach rate. "The duration of each live broadcast though not long, was in fact a product of contribution by numerous people, working together behind the scenes. That itself is the beauty of Go Veggie.”
“A Face for a Life”
Apart from being shy, most people who were unwilling to be in front of the camera preferred to remain low-profile. Wen Ting said, “For Go Veggie to achieve its mission, efforts have to be loud! More people need to know that there are actually many vegetarians around. Being a host on Go Veggie is at most some loss of face, but to the animals, they are losing their lives!” This level of enthusiasm had since touched many hearts.
"It is (my) duty to help promote vegetarianism and it requires me seizing the opportunity, so let’s just do it!” Tai Nyeok Moi, the host for Episode 23, was touched by Wen Ting’s enthusiasm and wanted to contribute too. Nyeok Moi said, “I did think about whether it would be embarrassing, but Wen Ting shared that “face” is not as worthy as what we had imagined. I then thought and concluded that it is likely worthwhile to be able to save a life with this not-so-worthy “face” after all!”
On the day of the live broadcast, Nyeok Moi deliberately wore a new T-shirt she bought online that had a print on it which reads, “I love animals, so I don't eat them". As there is strength in numbers, Nyoek Mui gathered two of her good friends Ng Hai Boey and Sin Yuen Fook at a hawker centre’s Xiao Fu Vegetarian Food stall.
The trio made ample preparation work for this live broadcast. Not only did they share how they became vegetarians, but they also prepared a cake to celebrate Nyeok Moi’s birthday with her. They even came up with a catchy slogan to encourage vegetarianism. As they recited the slogan with a great sense of sincerity and conviction, it caught the attention of the surrounding patrons. That live broadcast received a great response and set a record of achieving a reach rate of 32,000!
At the end of 30-episodes of GoVeggie, it started a wave of enthusiasm. Not only were there loyal fans who tuned in to the daily live broadcast, it also attracted many people to give vegetarian food a try. Additionally, those stores that were featured also saw an increased number of patrons. The Go Veggie team also took the chance to advocate environmental protection to some of the stores which were initially using single-use disposable cutlery and appealed to them to make a switch. The store owners were deeply moved when they saw how the hosts prepared their own eco-friendly cutlery set. It is heartening to share that some of them have also since switched to use reusable cutlery instead!
With Go Veggie reaching our shores from Taiwan, people who share the same belief are working together in sustaining the social media platforms to promote vegetarianism. "Go Veggie Singapore 2.0 Kids Series" and "Go Veggie Singapore 3.0 Health Series" have also been launched subsequently.
A weekly live broadcast, Go Veggie Singapore 4.0 Book Series, was also launched on June 20th 2021. Not limited to featuring only new vegetarian food outlets, it also introduces one new book relating to plant-based diet and health to the audience weekly. Everyone hopes to start the practice with themselves before promoting it to people around them. Collectively, we shall continue to use our stomachs to sustain this movement and help transform Singapore into a true paradise for vegetarians.