It’s official! I am proud to say that I have finally embraced a plant-based diet. Yes, I’ve been vegan and proud since the beginning of the year. It’s been a long time coming, my friends. I’ll dallied with vegetarianism for years.
My decision to leave animal produce behind has caused a bit of a stir in the ranks. Old friends from my past life in the UK have fond memories of the dinner parties I used to hold, in true Come Dine With Me style. In fact, I don’t think I ever scored less than a 10. I know, I may be blowing my own trumpet here, but I do have a bit of a reputation in the kitchen. Especially with meat dishes.
But those times are long gone. When I made the move from the UK to Spain eight years ago, part of my new life was to embrace a more mindful lifestyle. A healthier way of living and I was in the right place. My new home of Andalucia, Spain has fertile lands where everything and anything grows. It felt like a natural step to cut down on meat and top up on veg. I was much healthier for it.
I believed in moderation in everything so white meat and fish were still on the menu, on occasion.
The catalyst for change to a plant-based diet began a couple of years ago, on a three-month trip to Morocco. After travelling around the land of the tagine and teapots for two months, I wanted to understand the culture on a deeper level. So, I decided to spend a month “living” in Tangier.
Tangier is a major city on the Northern coast of Morocco, just 12 kilometres away from the Southwestern tip of Spain. You can literally say “Hello Africa” in less than a thirty-minute boat ride.
I set up my temporary base in the Medina, the name of the old part of every Moroccan town. I would wake every morning to the sound of Adhan, as the Mu’azzin of every Mosque in the city called the faithful to morning prayer. Coffee in hand, I´d watch the sunrise over the rooftops, looking out towards the Straits of Gibraltar and my homeland, Spain in the distance. It was an incredibly special time.
The celebration of Eid al-Adha, the “feast of the sacrifice” fell right in the middle of my stay. Eid al-Adha is a festival to remember the story of how God commanded Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismail as a test of faith. Just before Ibrahim kills his son, God intervenes and a ram is sacrificed in place of Ismail. During Eid al-Adha, Muslims slaughter an animal to remember Ibrahim’s sacrifice.
As the population prepared to honour the story of Ibrahim, all of sudden, the sound of bleating goats rang out in the narrow, winding lanes of the Medina, as each household brought home their intended sacrifice. The little lambs were everywhere. The old tradition of sacrifice on the day of Eid still runs strong, just the same as turkey is the dish of the day on Thanksgiving or at Christmas time.
As the main day of Eid approached, my morning routine of watching the sunrise was interrupted by the sound of the cries of the sacrificial lambs on the rooftops all over the Medina. I began to feel a little uneasy. There was something in the eyes of those little creatures that reminded me of my dogs. That innocent look of a pure being. I decided that when the day came, I couldn’t watch. I would have to stay indoors.
As the big day arrived, the bleating reached epic proportions. My mind felt like it was drowning in their cries and the uneasy feeling in my stomach turned into a heavy stone. I couldn’t escape it. There was nowhere to hide.
As the hours slowly passed, the silencing of the lambs continued. When the air was finally free from the last little bleats for freedom, all I could think is – this is what it feels like to be in the middle of a massacre. At that point, I held my head in my hands and wept. It was all too much.
As nighttime fell, I made the mistake of venturing outside. The streets ran red with the blood of a thousand animals. As I felt my heart break, that, my friends, was the moment that I put my meat-eating habits on hold.
Before I continue, this not an attempt to criticise the Eid Tradition, as such. As mentioned above, western culture does the same thing every year on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Indeed, it could be said that the Moroccan way is a much more honest approach. The people choose to kill the animal themselves whereas we in the west hide behind the slaughterhouse and have our sacrifice delivered; freshly plucked and trussed up lest we remember where it came from.
Let´s face it – most of us would stop eating meat if we had to kill an animal with our own hands.
The experience had such an effect on me that I didn’t eat meat again for months.
At the beginning of this year, from nowhere, I changed. There was no thought or plan. I just did it. I surprised myself as the words “I´m vegan” popped out of my mouth, like the most natural thing in the world.
Out went the milk, cheese, eggs and yoghurt as soy and oat milk, coconut yoghurts and a rather alarming amount of chickpeas and lentils were introduced to my diet. I told myself I could eat meat or dairy whenever I wanted, which usually helps me to give up bad habits, but I rarely felt the need.
My main reason is simple. It´s for the animals, first and foremost, so I can look my dog in the eye. I can’t call myself an animal lover as long as I continue to eat animal products.
As a person who ate meat for four decades, this post isn’t intended to be a criticism of one culture or religion but the simple truth of my experiences of what finally turned me vegan.
I´m not going to turn into a preacher. All I can say is – it feels good, my friends. I can’t deny that I sleep a little lighter at night. My conscience is definitely clearer.
I guess it´s just another part of my own process of growing wilder.
Women try to tame themselves as they get older but the women who feel and look the best are the ones who grow wilder. Join me on my Growing Wilder E-Course and awaken your wild spirit.
(c) Samantha Wilson 2019. All Rights Reserved.