The “Ethical Eating Day” campaign is a global effort initiated by Tzu Chi volunteers to reduce carbon emission through vegetarianism. Appeals are made to public members to observe a vegetarian diet on January 11 each year to create awareness on the impacts of eating habit on environment.
On January 8, 2017, Tzu Chi Melaka organized two sessions of New Year’s Thanksgiving Gala, with 189 tables in total. Contributions for the dinners will go towards the building fund of Tzu Chi International School Melaka.
The hosting of such vegetarian banquets also serves to encourage enterprises and civic organizations to adopt a modest celebration with vegetarian delights, to conserve Earth’s resources and combat the effects of global warming.
Volunteer Pang Wan Ying of the Programme Team shared that the performances of sign language, Chinese New Year songs and dances, lion dance, “God of Prosperity”, as well as, the screening of video footages, were arranged to not only liven up the joyful celebrations, but also to act as a wake-up call for concerted effort in saving the ailing Mother Earth.
Corporate participation in the transmission of Great Love
Two “lions” dancing to the rhythm of thundering drum beats welcomed employees of various companies, who were ferried to the venue in buses. Volunteers were at both sides of the entrance to warmly greet and usher the guests, comprising many foreigners and non-Chinese, to their seats.
Fetta Auto Part Industries (M) Sdn Bhd responded with 28 tables. The company has been providing vegetarian lunch twice a week to promote vegetarian diet to its employees. On this occasion, Tan Poh Hong, the Company’s Director, also invited staff members from three subsidiary companies to attend the Thanksgiving Gala. She shared that the parent company had celebrated with vegetarian meals for the past four years. This year, she invited participations from subsidiary companies to experience vegetarian and halal dishes, thus this event was also appropriate for Muslim staff. “There are really good programmes here. Hopefully with help from Tzu Chi team, we could further transmit goodness of mankind among the staff,” said Poh Hong.
Chua Khek Yong, Production Manager of a subsidiary company, shared that although non-vegetarian dinners had been organized in the previous years, most of his colleagues were happy to try and give a positive response to the vegetarian banquet.
Poh Hong said, “Climate change and the damages done to the environment are felt by all. Going vegetarian is the best way to protect the environment, and it saves lives too.” She felt that as personal effort is limited, we need the efforts of all to prevent the deterioration of Mother Earth. Furthermore, the event also raised funds for the building of Tzu Chi International School, thus without reservation, the company offered its support.
Change the way of celebration to spread kindness around
Tee Kai Tian, owner of a seafood trading company, and wife, Ong Siew Ping, came with some 40 family and staff members. As this was the first time their staff were treated to a vegetarian banquet, Siew Ping was initially worried about the staff’s acceptance. But a statement from her husband – “Don’t be bothered by how everyone feels about it, just do what is right.” – had eased her mind. At the same time, she knew that they were doing good deeds and protecting Mother Earth.
Siew Ping got to know Tzu Chi better when her daughter attended Da Ai Kindergarten. She had wanted to introduce Tzu Chi to her staff so instead of having the usual ‘do’ at the factory, she took the opportunity to join the Tzu Chi banquet. By so doing, she hoped to show the staff Tzu Chi’s charitable missions worldwide, and the unending natural and man-made disasters, thereby reminding everyone to care for the environment and appreciate their blessings of having a steady and peaceful live. She particularly hoped that the foreign staff will bring back Tzu Chi’s missions to their respective countries of origin, and let kindness to propagate further.
Kai Tian remarked, “It is commonly recognized that a vegetarian diet promotes good health, and it has become increasingly popular. Other than delicious dishes, there were fabulous programmes. I have not found out how my staff felt about it, but I believe they appreciate the festive mood of New Year celebration.”
A new experience of vegetarian dining
Moayad Abu, a software programmer with AFA Technologies, came with his family of three and some colleagues. A Palestinian, he has stayed in Malaysia for nine years, but it was his first attendance at a banquet rich in Chinese cultures. He was especially impressed with the lion dance performance, and the vegetarian dining experience was new to him. He said, “We have vegetarian dishes back home too, but they are cooked differently. I find the food quite good and I am happy to give them a try.” Although his wife and daughter were not used to the cooking, the family particularly loved the winter melon soup. Moayad even requested the wife to learn how to cook the soup.
When he learnt about the Ethical Eating Day campaign, he pledged to participate and observe a vegetarian diet on January 11. He reckoned, “Actually vegetarian food is good for health and environment.”
Learn from different food cultures
Siti Nur Rahmah bte Samihah, Zulkifri Hamzah, and Purma Bahadur from Nepal, are staff of volunteer, Yo Bee Kiow. As halal food are seldom prepared in vegetarian style, the trio, who are receptive to vegetarian food, had the chance to taste something different from their usual meals. They loved some of the dishes and Purma planned to cook them in his hostel. On the other hand, Zulkifri hoped to share with his Muslim friends that vegetarianism is the way to environmental protection. Bee Kiow often shares with them the positive impacts of a vegetarian diet on health and environment. Thus, they were happy to participate in the Ethical Eating Day campaign.
Foreign and Muslim staff occupied 14 tables. Some only realized that they would be served halal vegetarian food when they arrived at the venue. They found that the food tasted alright but the texture was different from what they usually have. Salmiah bte Karim finished all her food and repeatedly said that they were delicious. She especially liked the chili king oyster mushrooms and exclaimed that she had never thought the mushrooms could be cooked that way.
A special family gathering
Fong Feli Yok, who had previously participated in Tzu Chi’s vegetarian banquet, took the opportunity to invite her family members to the Thanksgiving Gala. She said smilingly, “I learnt that proceeds from this banquet will go towards the building fund of Tzu Chi International School Melaka. Since we can do good deeds, savour good food and enjoy some performances, we might as well make it a family gathering.”
She was happy to see her children enjoying the vegetarian food, and shared that she especially enjoyed the “poon choi” with a combo of vegetables, mushrooms and lotus roots in delicious broth. When the children responded to the call to participate in the Ethical Eating Day campaign, she gleefully shared that she had registered herself online, and was thrilled that all her family members will now be observing a vegetarian diet together on January 11.
Warm birthday celebration with a thousand people
Wee Ah Yin and her family members also attended the Thanksgiving Gala, occupying seven tables. The family of four generations had chartered buses to the event, where they celebrated Ah Yin’s 70th birthday.
Ah Yin smiled from ear to ear as she shared, “I am exceptionally happy to celebrate my birthday this year with a thousand people here. Besides eating, I am also doing good deed. Everything – the people, the food, and the programmes – are good. I could feel the volunteers’ mindfulness in organizing the event. It is indeed an extraordinary birthday celebration.” Hearing that, the son further commented, “My siblings agreed in unison that to celebrate our mother’s birthday at Tzu Chi’s vegetarian banquet was the best option. How fantastic it is to celebrate with so many people here today!”
In fact, Ah Yin’s children had suggested to celebrate her birthday with vegetarian meals a few years ago. However, the idea was not well received by Ah Yin, who felt that celebration was not grand without a sumptuous spread of food. She admitted that it was not easy for everyone to accept vegetarian meals, and she only accepted it after a few years of vegetarian celebration arranged by her children. After watching a video footage on the East Coast flood, and having understood the concepts of vegetarianism and the pressing need to protect the Earth at the event, she started to encourage everyone to respond to the vegetarian appeal with actions.
The pleasant evening ended with mutual greetings and blessings, and a surprise birthday song from the volunteers as Ah Yin made her move home. She grinned in surprise and kept thanking the volunteers while waving them goodbye. Her children too responded with, “Thank you all, thank you for your blessings, and may you be blessed too!” The words of gratitude and blessings warmed the hearts of all.
Venerable Fa Liang, who graced the event at volunteers’ invitation, commended the volunteers’ efforts in bringing people of different religions and races together, and pooling kindness from all. The Venerable said, “Tzu Chi has been promoting vegetarianism. This event specially organized to call on non-vegetarians to observe a vegetarian diet on January 11 each year is a good start.”
With one person having three vegetarian meals a day, carbon dioxide emission could be reduced by at least two kilogrammes. On that day, some 2,000 people had gathered for the vegetarian banquet, and more than half had pledged to participate in the Ethical Eating Day campaign. If everyone could play their little part in carbon reduction, there is hope in saving the Earth.
Proceeds from the 189 tables at the vegetarian banquet will be channelled to support the construction of Tzu Chi International School Melaka. [Photograph by Tan Lian Hee]
Tan Poh Hong (left), Director of Fetta Auto Part Industries (M) Sdn Bhd, hoped to promote goodness of humanity among her staff through Tzu Chi. [Photograph by Tan Lian Hee]
Chua Khek Yong, Production Manager from a subsidiary company of Fetta Auto Part Industries, treated his staff with a vegetarian banquet for the first time. It was well received by the majority of them. [Photograph by Tan Lian Hee]
Moayad Abu from Palestine had his first experience of attending a vegetarian banquet rich in Chinese cultures. [Photograph by Chin Fook Kuen]
Besides giving their support to Tzu Chi’s Education Mission, family members of Wee Ah Yin (centre) also celebrated her 70th birthday at the banquet. [Photograph by Hong Geok Hui]
Siti Nur Rahmah (centre) and her colleagues pledged to participate in the Ethical Eating Day campaign. [Photograph by Quek Kah Hoon]
Tee Kai Tian (back row, 4th left) and wife, Ong Siew Ping (in red shirt) attended the banquet with some 40 family and staff members. [Photograph by Quek Kah Hoon]