No longer eating animals

For more than six years now, I’m a vegetarian. From one day to the next, meat left my plate, for good. What induced me to do so? What did it change for me? Is it a change without a possible return?

Saturday 2005-12-31. My partner and me are invited by a couple of friends to spend New Year’s Eve of 2006 at their place near Paris. In the late afternoon, we all go shopping in a department store to prepare the evening’s feast. In this supermarket, there is hustle and bustle. It is hard not to perceive the ambient agitation. Everyone is doing their last minute shopping while the celebration evening is approaching. The store is promoting its most “festive” (it depends for whom) products: foie gras, lobster, oysters, etc. Customers are waiting at the check-out with a living (but not for long) lobster on the conveyor belt. It’s difficult not to think about the fact that it is going to die in horrible pain some moments later, only for the pleasure of the palate.

We are ourselves buying all kinds of stuff that we almost never ate: duck, snails and even ostrich. At the meal, there is thus an abundance of meat, way too much for four people. My dear one isn’t able to finish her plate. It is at that moment that she says something like this: “All this meat, and the lobsters in the store, made me lose my appetite. Moreover, if it were up to me, I think I would become a vegetarian.”. That sentence doesn’t fall on deaf ears. I reply to her immediately that, if she would like it, I’m totally ready to try the experiment with her.

This was the trigger that was missing until then. I had already thought about vegetarianism before, in particular during my adolescence. I remember, for example, asking myself what a vegetarian could eat or not (“Well, if I were a vegetarian, could I still eat fries? Oh yes, good.”), after having heard about vegetarians from the media, or from friends that knew some (if I remember correctly, I think that I had never met one myself).

I’ve always had a positive vision of vegetarianism. I considered admirable that someone would give up eating meat to avoid making animals suffer and die. Before that day, I had actually never asked myself the question: “Would I become a vegetarian?”.

From one day to the next, we thus became vegetarians. We decided to no longer eat animals; that no animal should die to feed us. I would not so much like to be killed to be eaten, so I consider that I don’t have the right to impose this on anyone else. Moreover, I think that it would be very difficult for me to kill an animal myself. Buying it pre-killed in a nice packing makes us easily forget about the reality of facts.

It is to say that I was helped towards vegetarianism. Even if my parents are not vegetarians, my mother always had a rather original cuisine, often moving away from the traditional Belgian cuisine, and often inspired by the vegetarian cuisine. Without wanting it maybe, she thereby helped me to have a more open mind.

Initially, we thought that we would try vegetarianism during one month to start, and that we would then decide whether we would continue or not. Actually, it is only much later that we noticed that the month had already passed, and that we had naturally decided to continue.

What surprised me, is to find how easy it was for me to stop eating meat. I thought that it would be more difficult, that I would miss meat. Well, not at all. Yet, I liked meat. Even if I didn’t eat much of it, for a long time I considered that a meal without meat was not a “real” meal. About this, I obviously completely changed my mind :).

In addition to changing our diet, becoming a vegetarian, is also choosing to be different, to put ourselves on the fringe of our society. I think that most people try generally to do exactly the opposite: to be well integrated into society, to be fashionable. Yet, choosing to be different is a really enriching experience.

Becoming a vegetarian opened my eyes. By deciding to be different from the norm, it allowed me to step back and be more open to difference in general. I was also able to account for the open-mindedness (or not) of my friends and family :). It is very interesting to see the reaction of people when we question “ancestral traditions”.

It also allowed me to realize how our cuisine is focused on meat (in the broadest sense, that is, everything that is animal flesh: meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, etc.). In the restaurants’ menu (Belgian or French cuisine), the dishes are most often classified by the type of meat, and the vegetables are relegated to a garnish role. In India, on the contrary, the menu of all the restaurants I’ve visited almost only proposed vegetarian dishes. It wasn’t even written that they were. There was sometimes a tiny section entitled “Non Veg” containing non-vegetarian dishes. What a difference! Exactly the opposite of how it is in our country.

Becoming a vegetarian also allowed me to discover a new world. The world of all the food that is not meat, and to which most people often give too little importance. Alongside meat, vegetables have always seemed rather bland to me. Like an ex-smoker rediscovers the taste of food, by quitting meat, I discovered the real taste of vegetables, cereals, legumes, mushrooms,…

It is only later that I learned that a vegetarian diet, in addition to be good for our health, is also better for the environment, and helps against world hunger. Even if I can only be glad about it, these are not the reasons that led me to become a vegetarian, but well ethical reasons: to avoid suffering and death of animals.

Could I eat meat again one day? Except for survival reasons, I would say that it is highly improbable that this ever happens.

For more than six years now, I’m a vegetarian and I don’t regret it at all. On the contrary, I regret not having started earlier.

And you? What do you think about vegetarianism? Would you be ready to try? Did you already ask yourself the question?