The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) has rejected a proposal to designate dining halls specifically for vegan diners in all of the nation’s airports, freeway rest areas and railway stations, saying that most of the transport hubs already offer vegetarian food.
The proposal, posted on Aug. 2 by a woman surnamed Lin (林) on the National Development Council’s Public Policy Participation Network Platform Web site, said the nation has about 3.3 million vegetarians.
However, they can only purchase vegetarian instant noodles, crackers or low-nutrient food at freeway rest stations, which lowers their interest in traveling domestically, Lin said.
It is not enough for the government to only promote a halal-certification system for food served to Muslims, as other religions observe different dietary regulations, she added.
“The government has budgeted funds to subsidize stock farmers and encourage the consumption of high-carbon-emission food. Not only would this erase all efforts made to protect the environment, but it would also encourage carbon emissions. However, we do not see a comparable amount of subsidy and promotion going to the vegetarian food industry,” she said.
Lin said the government should stipulate laws requiring the nation’s airports, freeway rest areas and railway stations to designate dining halls to serve vegan customers.
The food served at such facilities should be labeled as vegan or Muslim-friendly or if it can be consumed by Hindus, Buddhists or Tibetan Buddhists, she said, adding that the government should encourage restaurateurs to sell vegan food by providing them with subsidies, waiving their business taxes and giving them discounts on rent.
The proposal garnered 5,847 signatures by Sept. 2. The platform’s policy requires the ministry to offer an official response to proposals within two months after they garner more than 5,000 signatures.
The Civil Aeronautics Administration rejected the proposal, saying that all restaurants in airport terminals managed by the agency already serve a wide variety of vegetarian food for people to choose from.
The agency is not legally required to have such facilities inside airport terminals, it said.
“If the government stipulates a law to make a vegan-friendly dining area a must-have facility in airports, there would be similar proposals for designated dining areas for Muslims, Hindus and others. Airport terminals have limited space and cannot possibly meet every dietary demand,” the agency said, adding that it could suggest restaurateurs improve the labeling of vegetarian food they serve.
Taoyuan International Airport Corp, the operator of Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, said that it met with restaurateurs at the airport on Sept. 4 to discuss the feasibility of the proposal, adding that restaurants serving vegetarian food agreed to put up clear signs at the payment counters to show customers that they can purchase vegetarian food there.
Vegetarian dishes on the menus would be labeled as being suitable for vegans, ovo-vegetarians, lacto-vegetarians, ovo-lacto-vegetarians, pesco-vegetarians, semi-vegetarians or vegetarians who do not eat green onions, leeks, garlic, Chinese scallions or onions, the company said.
The Freeway Bureau said all 15 freeway rest areas in the nation sell vegetarian food, adding that it would ask contractors managing the businesses at the rest areas to add more signs for restaurants serving vegetarian food at the food courts.
They would also use the internal broadcast system to tell customers that vegetarian meals are available.
The bureau would comply if the nation has a law requiring each freeway rest area to have a vegan dining area, it said.
The Taiwan Railways Administration said that vegetarian food is part of a wide selection of food that it serves to its customers.
Bakeries and restaurants inside the railway stations already offer vegetarian foods, it added.
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