Plant-Based Diets: Exclusive Interview With Davina Goh
KLEFF: Could you begin by telling us a little about yourself and your path to veganism?
DG: My life has been quite colourful— I’m an overall performer but I’ve dabbled in many other things such as event management, broadcasting, writing as well as teaching. My plant-based journey began during my childhood days. Even though I loved animals, my environment made me believe that eating meat was just a cruel necessity of life. As I grew older, I began researching for the Whys and the How’s of vegetarianism, and subsequently, omitted meats from my diet bit by bit, in order of animal size. It has been 17 years since I’ve eaten beef or mutton. Seafood was the last meat form I was still eating by the time I’d decided to go vegetarian in 2012. That coincided with a PETA demonstration I participated in. I’ve been a vegan since early 2016.
KLEFF: What influenced you towards a vegan lifestyle, and how long have you been vegan?
DG: For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a huge fascination with nature and animals. I read a lot of wildlife books as a child. Naturally, my first reasoning for pursuing this lifestyle was compassion. Once I started really educating myself on the different perspectives of vegetarianism like health, politics and the environment; it made a lot more sense to partake in the lifestyle. When I made the full vegetarian transition, my health improved drastically. My energy levels soared and I was able to focus better in my workplace. The health aspect is now the strongest influence on my being a vegan.
KLEFF: What is your philosophy on veganism?
DG: The journey to self-love starts with a mindful meal.
KLEFF: When did you become a vegan? And how did you find the reaction of your family and friends to your “coming out” as a vegan? Was it largely positive?
DG: My family, particularly my parents, believed undoubtedly that a balanced diet had to include meat. At 17, I told my parents of my intentions to be a vegetarian. They didn’t allow it. As a college student, I was granted permission to eat whatever I wanted outside of the house but with the family, I had to eat meat. It was a very painful compromise to make, but I’m now glad that it happened that way as it gave me the time to do all the research I needed to be more knowledgeable, confident and prepared 12 years on. It took a few years for my mother to accept my lifestyle, but now she sees how much good it has done for me. We go on vegan outings together and she loves my cooking too!
KLEFF: What was the reaction of your friends and family? Have you managed to change their minds?
DG: The reactions to the lifestyle have improved greatly over the years. 15 years ago, the awareness of the lifestyle wasn’t quite there so there was still some kind of stigma attached. I was teased frequently by friends and family. I was likened to a Hare Krishna devotee, told that God had put animals on earth to be eaten and that it was such a “womanly” thing to go vegetarian. Now, with the lifestyle being a lot more present in pop culture and mainstream media, I’ve sensed a great attitude shift. There is a lot more curiosity and open-mindedness. At kungfu school in China, when I met the classmate who was to become my future husband, he already had the intention of eating more plant-based food. He just needed a little boost. Once I showed him the documentary Forks over Knives, he immediately knew that he was ready for it. He showed the documentary to his mother then she went vegan too. I can’t change anyone’s minds about changing their diet. I can only provide tips and guidance to make it easier for someone to do it, should they choose to. That said, as a plant-based lifestyle advocate, I think it’s a fabulous choice!
KLEFF: What have you found most difficult about adopting a vegan lifestyle?
DG: For me, the process of transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle was easy because I really took my time with it. I had 12 years of research and preparation behind me before I made the full switch to vegetarianism and lived that life for four years before I fully dropped all animal by-products (like milk and eggs) to become a vegan. I think the level of difficulty is a matter of mind-set. If all I thought about were the obstacles to being a vegan then, I might not even be one today. Instead, I looked on the optimistic side—the benefits to me, my community and my environment. That made me look forward to it! A positive attitude makes all the difference.
KLEFF: Do you feel like there has been a shift in people’s perceptions of veganism recently? And what do you think the future holds for veganism?
DG: I definitely think that there has been a shift in perceptions. With the onset of sweeping modern-day epidemics namely: diabetes, hypertension and heart disease as well as the moral and public health implications of the industrialisation of animal agriculture, I think the concept of a plant-based lifestyle is more relevant now than ever. What do I think the future holds for veganism? I believe that veganism holds the future! It is already changing the world as we know it.
KLEFF: What advice would you give to those starting a vegan diet?
DG: Take your time to do your research. Mentally and physically prepare yourself for the switch. Do it only when you’re ready and once you do switch, don’t look back. Instead of thinking about what you’re missing out on, think about what you’re gaining. It has been a life-changing experience for me and I hope it will be for you too. Also, live by your own rules. You don’t need to be a strict vegan in order to create positive change inside and out. If you still want to allow yourself the occasional ice-cream, by all means do so! No one should dictate what you should or should not eat. Do what works for you. I’m always sharing ideas and tips on my social media platforms. Do feel free to follow me on Instagram at @ImDavinaGoh and drop me a line if you have any questions!
KLEFF: You are outspoken on the adverse effects on the environment posed by the consumption of animal products. What is your advice for people who want to do something to help counteract these effects?
DG: Have the want to know about these issues. Read, watch, discuss, and share. Don’t be afraid of the truth. It is painful but it will help you understand the importance of why something as simple as changing your diet can move mountains.
KLEFF: How did you get to know the folks and KLEFF and how are you collaborating with them this year?
DG: I opened my first food booth at the EcoKnights Green Market back in March. I shared it with my sister who runs Borneo Addict which sells teas, local handicrafts and Borneo Virgin Coconut Oil. My offerings were fresh falafel wraps, tempeh temaki and lemongrass ginger biscuits which all sold out! We had an incredible experience and have been invited to return as vendors for KLEFF. I am also invited to be a speaker at the Sustainable Farming Forum which I’m very honoured to be a part of.
KLEFF: When is KLEFF? And can you share with us what’s in store?
DG: The 10th KL Eco Film Festival happens from the 23rd to the 29th of October 2017. I’ve attended the festival for two years running and have walked feeling grateful for the more in-depth knowledge gained on environmental issues. I’m sure that this year will introduce even more eye-opening documentaries, great eco-friendly items at the Green Market, thought-provoking discussions at the forums and not to be missed, mouth-watering vegan bites at my food booth!
KLEFF: What exciting projects do you have planned for the future?
DG: I’ll be appearing in my first Malay film, Safari Mall due out in cinemas next year. It’s a small role but I had heaps of fun with it. Also, I’m currently working on getting a book published on my Shaolin journey. I’m very excited about that!