Malaysia has one million vegetarians and the numbers are growing, steadily.
Most Malaysians who become vegetarians opt either for the lacto (who take dairy products), lacto-ovo (dairy and eggs), vegan (no dairy products, eggs, onions or garlic), raw food or even the fruitarian diet.
Malaysian Vegetarian Society president Dr P. Vythilingam says many Malaysians are also becoming vegetarian for religious and health reasons.
"By going green, Malaysians are realising that they can stay healthy. Vegetarians are also not worried whether they are getting a balanced diet or enough proteins because studies have shown that we can get plant proteins from soy and legumes."
Countries that are seeing a surge in vegetarianism include Taiwan, Singapore, America and Indonesia. Asia's economic powerhouses India and China, combined, have hundreds of millions of vegetarians.
Dr Vythilingam, who is converting to veganism, says compared with 20 years ago, vegetarian food is easily available in Malaysia but more could be done to have eateries serving a good mix of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food.
"Eateries should be sensitive to the needs of the vegetarian and must serve a decent variety of vegetarian dishes.
"The government also should promote vegetarianism because it is good for the body to consume less meat and eat more greens and fruits. Malaysia has three cabinet ministers who are vegetarians but the awareness is still not up to par as many countries in this region."
The three cabinet ministers are Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri G. Palanivel.
Alternative medicine practitioner Dr Happy Tong Chan Wah, who was once a meat lover and now a vegan for 20 years, has no regrets converting to veganism.
"I feel a lot lighter and healthier. Of course in the early years it was hard because there were not many places that served vegetarian food but today, it is a different story because even in a restaurant that serves meat and seafood, they will make vegetarian dishes upon request.