We all know that China is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to vegan advocacy, but what is the status of advocacy there? Join us as Jian Yi sheds light on his work with The Good Food Fund and China Vegan Society.
ABOUT OUR GUEST
JIAN Yi (简艺/簡藝) is an independent filmmaker and food activist. He is currently a Visiting Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Animal Law and Policy Program (2022-24) and the founder and president of Good Food Fund, a leading initiative in China’s food systems transformation, whose Mama’s Kitchen project was named one of the ten global Top Visionaries by the Rockefeller Foundation’s 2050 Food Systems Prize. In 2021, Jian served on the Core Leadership Team of Action Track 2 of the United Nations Food Systems Summit and led its Work-stream on Food Environments. He founded the China Vegan Society in 2021 and is at the forefront of the nation’s plant-based movement.
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- Jian Yi on LinkedIn
- Jian Yi on Facebook
- Jian Yi on Twitter
- Zodiac 12 Film Website
- Good Food Fund Website
- Good Food Fund on Facebook
- Good Food Fund on X
- China Vegan Society Website
- China Vegan Society on X
- China Vegan Society on Facebook
Mariann Sullivan: Welcome to Our Hen House, Jian Yi.
Jian Yi: Thank you. Thank you for inviting me.
Mariann Sullivan: It's a pleasure to have you. I've heard a lot about your work. You're really highly thought of within the animal rights movement. And, you're talking about a topic that we all know it's enormously important, but I think so many people in the West feel that they don't really know as much about how China differs from the Western relationship to animals and veganism as they should, both the differences and the similarities. So really a fascinating topic for all of us.
Of course, we want to get into your own work, and that's really important, and we're going to do that, but before we do that, I want to talk a little bit about veganism and about animal rights. And in some ways, these are related topics, but not in all ways. So maybe we can start talking about veganism because there's a really interesting history within China that doesn't exist in the West when it comes to veganism. Could you give us a little of that background?
Jian Yi: Yeah, to start with, strictly speaking, we didn't have those two terms, animal rights or veganism. We do have a very long history of eating plant based, especially in the Buddhist community. But in China we have a word called su, which can mean both plant based or vegetarian or vegan.
And in the Buddhist context, you eat plant based because you have a compassion for animals. So in that sense, you turn to vegetarian or vegan diet because you care for the animals. So in that sense, it's similar. But the origin was different. The origin in the Chinese context was that you wanted to cultivate your body and your mind so that you can be mindful of your living.
And eating plant based is part of that, is a vehicle for you to achieve mindfulness and better living. So animal is not the end. Caring for animal is part of how you cultivate that mind and body.
Mariann Sullivan: Yeah, and I think that way of thinking actually does resonate in other cultures as well, because even in modern veganism, you hear people talking in those terms. And of course, there are the health benefits as well as the mindfulness benefits. It's good to keep in mind that people are coming from such different directions and the history, that there is this history, at least in Buddhist culture in China, of not eating animals, and then there's the fact that the cuisine is in large ways, plant based, as so many cuisines around the world are.
And this history seems like a really positive thing for the future. I've had people tell me that there are drawbacks to it as well because not eating animals is sort of seen as a very old fashioned kind of thing, not a bad thing necessarily, but just kind of part of the past. Is that true?
Jian Yi: That's right, that's right. So, we did have that amazing legacy, from our ancestors, that we have so many amazing ways to prepare vegetables and mushrooms and fungi. So, we have really amazing dietary culture around eating plant based, but there are a few things that we need to bear in mind when we look at modern China.
Number one, plant based eating has been a long time being associated with Buddhist cultivation. So on one hand, that's a historical legacy. On the other hand, it's historical baggage because people tend to associate that with religion. Although many Buddhists don't think it's a very religious practice, but, in many ways, it has been very strictly associated with Buddhism.
And number two, I think, one of the most important reasons we, our ancestors, and people in other cultures have been mostly eating plant based predominantly is that our ancestors knew that our natural resources were finite. So you should use the most precious agricultural resources like your land, your water, and other things, and your energy, your time to feeding humans rather than feeding animals and then using animals to feed humans, right?
Of course, as we know now, it's a very inefficient way of feeding the population. So that's why I think, in most cultures, we were predominantly plant based, traditionally. But, as we move to a modern life today, you go into a supermarket... I think that's one of the biggest sins of supermarket is that when you walk into a supermarket, it gives you the fantasy that resources are infinite, right?
Because everything is there for you to take, the only thing that is finite is your money. So, you walk into the supermarket and you think everything is infinite. In that way, people living in modern China, they feel like plant based eating is an outdated thing, because that's a thing that's associated with the past, with poverty, with a lack of resources.
That's why people would like to eat more meat, because that tends to be a more modern kind of lifestyle.
Mariann Sullivan: Yeah, no, that makes total sense. And I haven't heard it expressed exactly like that before, that there's obviously the tradition in many cultures, but China, of course, until recently went through periods of substantial hunger and that tradition, kind of, encourages the idea that meat is a luxury food and once you can afford it, this is a sign of success. This is a step forward.
But I hadn't thought of that exactly in the way you connect it to hunger as a global issue. Like you go into the supermarket, it just creates this impression that now we can have everything, so why not have meat? It's not just that it's a sign of prosperity, it's just that there's an infinite supply of everything, so why not? That's a really interesting thought. Yeah.
Jian Yi: And also precisely that meat takes more resources to raise, to produce, that becomes a symbol of prosperity. Because, look, now I can assume something that consumes more resources, right?
Mariann Sullivan: Yeah. And think of that individually and even culturally now we have arrived, we're living in the future, now our whole country can eat whatever we want, and the world can eat whatever we want because we've won, which is exactly the opposite of what's happening.
Jian Yi: Right. Right, and there's also a cultural nuances there, that for hundreds of years, Chinese people, our ancestors, didn't really make much of a distinction between animal based food and plant based food. It's not very binary in people's minds. So they always try to seek, what they call a balance.
So, mostly plant based, a little bit of meat, and meat is used as a flavor. So, we ended up not eating too much, but we somehow had it everywhere.
Mariann Sullivan: Yeah, it's a little different than in the West where we just eat way too much of it. There's certainly been no moral distinction between these two foods, but unfortunately, we just ended up eating really a lot of meat and we'll have to move back from that.
Can you talk a little bit, you alluded to this in the beginning, but before we leave this subject, I really want to talk a little bit about the language. And I know that trying to get into Chinese language issues with an American audience might, might get a little too complicated, but there is a big language issue, isn't there?
You mentioned there's no word for vegan.... like. Until something is something in the language, it's hard for people to get their heads around it.
Jian Yi: That's right, that's right. So, as we said, we had a long tradition of eating plant based, but, we have to look at two different contexts there, the context of Buddhist and the context of non Buddhist. And the context of Buddhist, especially monks and nuns, they are very strict, vegans, okay? So they don't eat any animal based food. But for people who are in the non Buddhist context, when they use the same word, su, which for the monks and nuns means vegetarian or vegan, it actually means food that makes your body and mind lighter. So it doesn't have to be plant based. Anything that makes your mind and your body lighter is su.
And that's the only word we have that is closest to the meaning of plant based or vegan or vegetarian food. Only recently, we have been focusing more on the distinction between animal based food and plant based food. So today, in the context of Chinese language, when we say su, it means plant based food that excluded animal based products.
Mariann Sullivan: So people accept, I mean, that's widespread acceptance that that word's meaning has shifted, or it's something you're trying to encourage.
Jian Yi: Gradually, there's a gradual process. So actually starting from a hundred years ago, some of the most notable revolutionary figures like Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the father of the Chinese nation, he himself was actually a advocate for vegetarian diets for the Chinese population because he thought that it will make the Chinese nation great because with that compassion, with that healthy diet, we would be a great nation. Since then, the concept of focusing on plant based, part of the su, so it's not just making your heart and mind lighter, but it's also bringing in that compassion, that health aspect to it.
Mariann Sullivan: Interesting. And I had not realized that Sun Yat-sen was such an early, really kind of a founder of modern veganism within China. Would that make sense?
Jian Yi: He was, he was. There was this amazing Hong Kong University based historian, Angela Leung. She actually wrote a very good article about that, in the 1910s, how Dr. Sun Yat-sen and his fellow revolutionaries, they were advocating for vegetarian China. And he was especially, he was a big fan of tofu, he was very particularly proud of tofu.
Mariann Sullivan: Him and me, like tofu is the mirror. I love tofu so much. I can't understand like there are some people who don't like it. It's just my favorite food.
Jian Yi: Count me in, yeah, for that.
Mariann Sullivan: In one way, China is so far ahead of everybody else when it comes to veganism because of the tofu. So, that kind of brings us up to the present, what about now?
Is there this link between veganism and animal protection, or is veganism more focused on this kind of general purity concept or and health concerns? What are the motivations behind people either going vegan, but even if not going vegan, thinking about eating vegan food and thinking of that in a positive way.
Maybe I shouldn't use the word vegan, but it's the only word I've got.
Jian Yi: I know. We actually came up with a Chinese character, which we think is a perfect word to be used for vegan in the Chinese context. So what we did was a few years ago, we had an online contest and we had an open call inviting people to send in one Chinese character, which they think best represents veganism.
Only one, one character. And so we had about 10, 000 people participating, and we ended up having about a few hundred candidate characters, and we chose one of them. And that character hasn't been used for centuries, so it's like a obsolete word. But the beauty of the Chinese language is that you don't even have to know, I didn't know when I saw that character the first time, I didn't know how I could pronounce it, but the beauty of the Chinese language is that you don't have to know how to pronounce it, you can just tell by... it's like a picture, right?
You can tell how it looks. So that character is, is mang. It actually has four grass in it. So, it means a lot of grass, a lot of vegetation, and also means vitality.
Mariann Sullivan: Oh, that's great. What a perfect word!
How do you know how to pronounce it now if you didn't know? Did you make it up how to pronounce it? Like, how did that happen?
Jian Yi: Well, there's this thing called dictionary, right? So we can go to a dictionary that has tens of thousands of Chinese characters. Most of them actually are now obsolete. And they will tell you, the dictionary will tell you how to pronounce.
But it's very, very...
Mariann Sullivan: That's so cool.
Jian Yi: Yeah, it's a very cool word, I would say, because nobody uses it anymore, but we somehow revive it.
Mariann Sullivan: Well, it is funny. I mean, there is something funny about it because people sometimes make fun of vegans as just, they eat only grass. So, it kind of does go along with that image that we all eat is grass, but I love the fact that it's married to the word vitality. I guess it sees grass as a more global, not just inedible grass, but like wheat and grains and that's a beautiful word.
I love it. How is it pronounced? Mang?
Jian Yi: Mang, M A N G.
Mariann Sullivan: That's so cool.
Jian Yi: Yeah, when I said grass, I didn't mean like, you know, grass, grass. I mean, like, vegetation.
Mariann Sullivan: That's great. Yeah. All right. So, you talked a little bit about how meat abstention is related to but not directly connected to caring about animals, and that differs for different people. So what about now? Is there a strong recognition between people who are embracing veganism and animal protection?
Jian Yi: To answer your question, I'd like to put that into the context of modern Chinese society. Today, people who are advocating for veganism in China and people who are advocating against it, they are actually fighting for the Chineseness of what they are advocating for or against. Why is that? People who are arguing for veganism in China, saying that, this is the way to go because it's much healthier way, will make the population much healthier. It's good for the environment. It's good for the animals. So all these same reasons that you say here in the U. S. or elsewhere in the world. And people who are arguing against veganism in China saying that this is something that's imported, that's not something that's Chinese, right?
Like in China, we don't talk about animal rights. You talk about animal rights because you're influenced by Westerners. So this is a kind of a very strange kind of phenomenon. So both claim to be more Chinese than the other, right? People are advocating for veganism. And they say, look, traditionally we have been mostly, largely vegan, that's very Chinese, right? We have probably one of the most amazing plant centric culinary culture in the world. So, why are you saying this is foreign, this is Western? But then the other side, you're sort of saying that, look, because you're quoting animal rights, you're quoting climate, you're using exactly the same discourse as these Western advocates.
So, you are influenced by Westerners. Therefore, this is a Western agenda to undermine China. When China started to talk about climate issues, there were people saying, Look, this is the Western agenda. Same here in the U. S. You know, this climate deniers say, Look, the climate issue is a Chinese agenda to undermine the U. S.
Mariann Sullivan: Yeah, it's frustrating in particular when you think of what a small influence animal rights has in Western countries. It's not like everybody's going vegan in the United States. Uh, so it really makes it feel like just the usual. Coming up with a reason, but as a result, I would imagine that it's very important as a Chinese advocate to try to put things in a Chinese context.
Jian Yi: It's very important, otherwise it'll backfire. We have so many lessons of that. This backfire, it actually, in a way, is very detrimental to the whole movement because then you're associated with the special kind of... cult thing, you know, cult like thing, or a special kind of Western dominated agenda.
So we have to be very, very careful of all this political, economic, social context that we're working in.
Mariann Sullivan: Tell us a little bit about the current animal protection movement in China. What does it look like?
Jian Yi: I don't think we have a movement there yet, precisely for the same issue. We have a very different political context. So that's why I don't think there is a movement. And when you say movement, you mean that people somehow, are able to talk about these issues in the public, and to be able to form formal or informal alliances, and try to push it into the public agenda. I don't think that that is happening in China. There are fragmented things happening. For example, there are people trying to protect wildlife. People trying to work on companion animals. There are people like us who try to advocate for more plant based and reducing animal based food, but I don't think there's something that you can call movement at the moment.
Mariann Sullivan: But there are... I've always said that no matter where you go in the world, no matter where you drop down in the world, you will find some people who care about animals. It's not everybody by any means, but it's not cultural, I mean, this feeling, this feeling of they matter. That they're important and that they matter and that we should be kind to them. So, I'm just going to go back to one thing. Like you said, that rights are a difficult topic to talk about. But with animals, it's not really just rights, is it?
It's also compassion. Is it easier to talk about compassion for animals than it is to talk about it as a political issue?
Jian Yi: Yeah, if you can somehow connect that to Chinese traditional thoughts, if you could try to connect that to, for example, Taoism, or Buddhism, or Confucianism, then you can more publicly talk about that.
Mariann Sullivan: Yeah, and I think that caring about animals and seeing it as a global issue, this is such an important fact that it can't be imported, but these traditions I think exist everywhere in some way. I really do.
Jian Yi: Oh, sure, sure. I mean, that's human nature, right? I mean, I have a nine year old. He loves animals, right? He grew up loving animals. I can't forget the first time he saw a living animal. I think he was, like, two years old or something. His eyes was, like, Wow. You almost feel like he saw a fairy or something.
It's like, think about that, as a baby, when you first see a living animal, like something that moves, right? Something that has eyes, who has, somehow has something that's like some kind of a spirit like you, right? It's not just a table, or a desk, or a toy, right?
There's something there that connects us, as living beings, as sentient beings. And I think babies, they can sense that, right? They're much more sensible than we thought they are, and they can feel that.
Mariann Sullivan: Much more sensible than adults, by and large, yeah. And it's why you look at any children's literature, it's all full of animals because the animals are just so important in their consciousness.
Jian Yi: But unfortunately, some of the children's literature, they're terrible. You know, I can give an example. When my son was three years old. I found this, actually US published, children's book talking about this little pig, he wakes up in the morning with his father. They go to the supermarket to buy groceries. And what they did... They buy pork,
Mariann Sullivan: Oh my god!
Jian Yi: They buy beef, they buy chicken, you know, like, what!? Like, how can pigs buy pork?
Mariann Sullivan: Yeah, I don't want to go too far down that road into one of my topics that drives me crazy. But I think that I alluded to children's literature because I do think animals are used within children's literature to try to connect with children, but then it's so often that the animals in children's literature are not real.
It's kind of a way to enculturate children to something because they're like people. I mean, they act like people and they're just substitutes for people. So there's something going on there, but I've never seen that one. That's particularly horrifying.
So what do Western animal advocates get wrong about China? Should Western animal advocates just stay out of China and not try to affect the outcomes at all? Maybe except for products or even products might be problematic.
Jian Yi: I would say yes, unfortunately. I mean, the food system here, there's so many issues, right? And the food here is largely so unhealthy. But what I really like about this country is that there's so many people who are so passionate and so professional, and they're working to change the status quo.
So, there's so many people in this country that I look up to. But when we talk about China, and influence in China, I would say let the Chinese people figure out themselves. I don't think criticism from outside China would help at all because then people in China would just become more and more defensive.
And they were also right, saying, you know, look, in the U. S., your per capita consumption of meat is much higher, right? And your factory farming is terrible as well. So why, you know...
Mariann Sullivan: Yeah, I can see how a lot of efforts would have the potential to backfire.
I would say that most people in the West don't really know about how bad factory farming is, mostly because they don't want to know and they close their eyes to it, but still they are somewhat blind to it. Would you say the same is true in China, that the average person who's not at all involved in farming, or the average person who lives in a city, is kind of unaware of how ugly factory farming is and is becoming in China?
Jian Yi: That's true. That's true. Like everywhere else.
How many people have seen a real pig in their life, right? If you count them, we have many more farmed animals, in terms of numbers, than companion animals, right? Dogs and cats. But, when you walk out of your door, most likely you will see a dog somewhere on the street. But, you never see a pig. Where are they? You never see a chicken, where are they? So these animals are actually hidden from us, and people just don't have any idea what kind of life, I hate to use the word life, because they don't have a life....
Mariann Sullivan: Yeah.
Jian Yi: For lack of a better word, what kind of life they have.
It's very unfortunate. I mean, it's our natural tendency, right? When we see unjust things like that, we want to speak out, we want to expose it, we want more people to know about it.
Mariann Sullivan: Yeah. I mean, there are so many similarities and so many differences, but the level of secrecy and how embedded the system is in both societies is obviously very similar. All right, I said that we were going to talk about your own work, and we spent a lot of time just talking about the problem, but you're doing a bunch of things and I want to talk about them all, but I really want to talk about this movie, Zodiac 12, because it is the way in which you are approaching a lot of the difficulties that you've addressed, right?
And can you tell us about it?
Jian Yi: Yeah, so I became aware of this issue, in 2009 when I went vegetarian. I went vegetarian because I saw a friend who is vegetarian. He lives a very mindful life and I somehow felt like maybe I should try that. So my wife and I, we started going vegetarian. And then I made a short documentary called What's for Dinner. That documentary actually explored the environmental impact of meat production. And that became the last straw for me, in terms of meat eating. Because I was a meat lover, I didn't know anyone who ate more meat than I did.
Years after I became a vegetarian, I still got emails from my previous classmates, who said, you know, please eat less meat. That's not good for your health, things like that. So since 2009, I've been thinking how we can talk about animals, without ruining the opportunities to talk about it. How can you even bring up animals in our conversations?
Mariann Sullivan: I think that is so well said. That is the big problem, isn't it? I was working on an article recently and I wanted to call it, there are none so blind as they who will not see, which is a Western saying, and I think that you've really perfectly encapsulated that.
How can you talk about it in a way that people won't stop listening?
Jian Yi: Yeah. I think it's very common everywhere, right? So my idea, my thought, was how could we talk about this issue in the Chinese political and cultural context? And somehow I came up with the idea of zodiac because I was thinking back in my own life and I thought that the animal that I felt closest to was rabbit because I was born in the year of the rabbit.
I was born in 1970s and China was a very poor back then, we didn't have Lego, we didn't have anything like that. So the only toys that I had were rabbits.
So I feel like I was so close to rabbits that I would never hurt them. So even though I grew up eating meat incrementally, like, when I was really young, I didn't eat much meat because we couldn't afford, but then as I grew up, I began to eat more and more meat, but I never ate rabbit because I feel like, it's so strange. Like, if I ate a rabbit, then I would feel like I was eating some part of myself. And culturally speaking, the zodiac animals are very, very important.
People in China, they will look at zodiac to tell their fortune, to even decide which year they will get married, or who they will get married to, and which year they will give birth to their child. For example, there are more popular years, like the year of dragon.
You know, people prefer having their children born that year, because that will bring good fortune, and, ironically, the year of the pig is also very popular, because people think pigs are very fortunate, because they can just eat and lay there and don't have to work... maybe we'll talk about that later. So culturally speaking, zodiac animals are very, very important. So could we talk about animals through the lenses of these 12 animals? Because they're so close to us, they are this important cultural icon.
Then I happened to have this meeting with Peter Singer and we talk about that. So I visited him in Princeton in 2018 and then we discussed this, and he liked the idea, and he even recorded a message to support the film. And also he invited me for a little tour of Princeton campus, where artist Ai Weiwei is actually exhibiting his artworks, Zodiac 12, at that moment.
So basically the idea is that I will talk about how we relate to non human animals in our modern world through the lenses of these 12 zodiac animals, and they just happen to represent a wide range of ways people use and abuse animals. So they are farmed animals, there are animals used for fur, there are animals used for experiments, there are animals used for sports, there are wildlife, there are animals used for entertainment, there are animals used for dairy. So yeah, we just happen to cover almost all the areas.
Mariann Sullivan: It really is fascinating. I'm familiar with the Chinese Zodiac, as most people in the West are, but only very vaguely and really not familiar with, as you're talking about, this deep cultural resonance that this feels very Chinese to people, important part of the culture. And recognizing all of these different animals and all of these different kinds, it's really fascinating. So, tell us where you are with the film and what your current plans are.
Jian Yi: I have been using a few years doing research for the film for two reasons. One is that I try to find the best way to tell the stories, as any filmmakers would do. And secondly, particularly in the past few years, things back in China changed so much, right?
Like COVID, with other issues. We are living in a very different country now, in China, so I have to be very, very, mindful of all the changes to decide how the stories will be told. So at this stage, I'm still researching.
Mariann Sullivan: It sounds very complex. And then there are the complexities whenever you're making a movie about what's happening to animals, you have to find that line between showing people what the truth is, and giving them more information than they can manage and they just don't want to watch it.
So many things are happening to animals that are so horrible that, as we all know, people just shut down if you tell them about it. And showing them is even worse. So, there are the political complexities and then there are the emotional complexities of making a movie like that.
But I think it's just a brilliant idea. I also want to talk about the other work that you're doing. You also have the Good Food Fund and the China Vegan Society. Sounds like they're doing really important work. Can you tell us about the ethos of both of them?
Jian Yi: I will say one more thing about Zodiac 12, and then I'll talk about Good Food Fund. So in China today, there is not a single book or a single documentary that talks about sufferings of animals in our modern world. Let's not talk about animal rights, right? Let's talk about animal suffering, then you can probably make your own conclusion. Whether you support animal rights, whether you support animal welfare, whether you support that we should stop abusing animals.
Mariann Sullivan: Exactly.
Jian Yi: So there's not a single book or film that talks about this issue. So I hope that by making Zodiac 12, I would fill that vacuum. That at least we can find a way to engage people to talk about animal suffering. And that should be the start of any positive change that could happen. If you can't even talk about the issue, how can you expect positive change could happen?
Mariann Sullivan: Yeah, yeah, that's an excellent point and it's also a subject about which people are very happy not to know anything. So, if there's nobody talking about it, you're not going to have a lot of people saying, please let me know what's really happening to animals. It has to happen as a result of somebody's intent.
So I'm really, really happy to hear that you're working on it. I really hope it comes to fruition. But let's go back to the question I had asked you about what actually is going on and probably some plans for the future with both the Good Food Fund and the China Vegan Society.
Jian Yi: Yes, as I said, in 2009, I was invited by Brighter Green, a New York based NGO, to make this short documentary called What's for Dinner that explores the environmental impact of our meat consumption and meat production. And after that, I've been advocating for the same issue on social media. And then in 2017, eight years after I made the short documentary, I decided to found the Good Food Fund because I wanted to work on food issues. I want to work for issues that can help farmed animals. But I didn't want to work vegan movement up front, because I feel like this issue has to be contextualized before we can have any meaningful engagement. So in 2017, I decided, instead of starting something that's focusing on the vegan movement, I started the Good Food Fund, working on the larger food systems issue. So we were the first one in China that focused on food systems issue, meaning that we are not a vegetarian or vegan advocacy organization.
We're not an organization that advocates for better farming. We're not advocating only for reducing food waste, we're advocating for the transformation of the food systems. In that way, we actually put plant based in that context. So we were quite successful in the sense that we were the first one to talk about, to focus on food system issues in China, and we have a summit every year.
And this year we just finished our seventh edition, which was also virtual, we have had the summit virtual since the outbreak of COVID 19. So this year we also had it virtual, and we had about 450, 000 views of our livestream. So that's our annual summit. So our annual summit is a way for food systems activists to get together every year to talk about issues. And we also, every year we publish a good food report, which we collect the best practices in Chinese food systems, which include people or organizations who promote plant based diet, who promote animal welfare. And of course, that will try to reduce food waste and improve our farming practices.
So we have that annual highlight, but we also have been building what we call Good Food China Action Hub, trying to break silos and bring everyone together. So the Good Food Summit is this annual highlight that happens once a year, but then during the year, we have the Good Food Action Hub that engages everyone year round.
And of course we have particular subjects like the Mama's Kitchen Project, which we won Rockefeller Foundation's 2050 Vision Prize, which is one of the most prestigious global prize on food systems. So we were the only one who won the prize from East Asia. Here in the US, Dan Barbers, Stone Barns, and Blue Hill, they also won the same award.
So that's Good Food Fund. Then in 2021, five years after I founded the Good Food Fund, I feel like that we have built enough social capital through the Good Food Fund to talk about empowering the vegan movement.
So in 2021, my colleagues and I, we started the China Vegan Society. And we have a summit every year, which is coming up very soon in November. And we have a vegan festival, we have vegan markets, so we do a lot of things, and we also published China's first vegan food certification system.
So, you'll be surprised that we have had halal certification for years, but with this amazing vegetarian vegan tradition, China has never had a vegan food certification system until we published it last year.
Mariann Sullivan: Wow, it's really exciting work. It shows how long it can take to make these kind of changes, but they are happening.
It always strikes me whenever you talk about anything going on in China, the numbers, the numbers of people are just mind blowing. It's easy to just think of it as another country and it's not just another country. It is an enormous, enormous part of the world, and it's so important.
And, thank you so much for all you're doing and for telling us about it today on Our Hen House. We really appreciate it. It's really fascinating. How can people stay on top of what you're doing? I assume the normal social media channels, anything in particular?
Jian Yi: Yeah. Thank you for having me, first of all. To keep updated of what we've been doing, we have a website, so the Good Food Fund has its own website, and China Vegan Society has its own website. We also use Twitter and all apps, as they call it now, and Facebook and other social media as well.
So, visit our website or our social media. We need a lot of support, we need a lot of support from around the world.
Mariann Sullivan: I want that movie to happen too, it sounds like such an exciting project. So, thank you so much for joining us today, Jian Yi. It's really been enlightening.
Jian Yi: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
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This episode is sponsored in part by The Culture & Animals Foundation, which sponsors artists, scholars, and activists in our collective efforts to understand our fellow species more deeply and to further their rights. CAF provides annual grants, an arts prize, a lecture series, and a fellowship. Visit cultureandanimals.org for more information. The Culture & Animals Foundation: Think. Create. Explore. Celebrate.
This episode is brought to you in part through the generosity of A Well-Fed World. A Well-Fed World provides the means for change by empowering individuals, social justice organizations, and political decision-makers to embrace the benefits of plant-based foods and farming. Learn more at awfw.org.