When I was sixteen I wanted to be a chef, but my mother talked me out of it, saying that working in damp kitchens wouldn’t be good for my asthma. Maybe she was right, but deep in my heart I believe it would have been the best choice for me as I adore cooking, and I think I would have put my heart into it and thus made a success of the craft. Who knows, maybe by now I would have my own books, DVD, television series and exclusive restaurant?
As it was, I studied Land Surveying and Cartography, travelled to Iraq four times to work as a Land Surveyor, then took a sabbatical, and travelled round South America becoming a travel agent on my return, and now here I am in Colombia working as an English teacher. The common trend throughout my life appears to be that of change, and I’m sure there are still more twists and turns waiting in the future.
When I moved to Colombia, one of the first things I did was to start learning to meditate, I didn’t have lessons, just read some books about it, sat in a dark room in silence and closed my eyes. Over the years I have developed my own method which may not be perfect, but which seems to work for me. It was immediately after a meditation session that the question, “If I had to kill the animal myself, could I do it,” sprang into my mind from nowhere, and without hesitation my response was no, I couldn’t, and that was it, I became vegetarian.
That was about seven years ago and I haven’t looked back since. At the beginning I thought it was going to be hard to keep it up, but it has been extremely easy and I don’t miss meat in any way. I started as a lacto ovo vegetarian, one who eats dairy products and eggs but no meat, now I am a lacto vegetarian, and I’m sure I will one day become a vegan, and that change will happen when the time is right.
For me being vegetarian is one of the few things in my life that I am 100% comfortable with, and certain about its correctness. There are many things I’m unsure about in life, such as the existence of a God, reincarnation, ghosts, and why I have premonitions to name but a few, however, vegetarianism is totally clear in my head as being the right path to take. I wish I could be as clear about other aspects of my life, but that hasn’t happened yet.
Being a vegetarian in Colombia is not difficult, if you are determined, and enjoy cooking. However, very few restaurants have a vegetarian option which means dining out with friends or family is limited as far as choice is concerned. Certainly Italian restaurants will usually have a vegetarian lasagne and a pizza, and probably a few other options which makes them a good choice. Arabic restaurants also have a few options on their menus, such as falafel.
Colombians are big meat eaters, and this pretty much rules out restaurants offering the local typical food. Be careful with dishes that appear to be vegetarian such as red kidney beans, a very popular dish here in Antioquia, the region where I live, as many times the beans are cooked with pigs trotters. Likewise a vegetable soup could be made with chicken stock, so it’s always important to ask first before ordering.
Strangely here in Colombia, the Spanish word for meat, Carne, is more than often than not used to refer to beef, and so if you say you are vegetarian and you don’t eat meat the waiter, will possibly offer you chicken, pork or fish, so you have to explain that you don’t eat any animal!
Usually when I tell people I am vegetarian they say that I don’t know what I am missing, which obviously I do because I haven’t been a vegetarian all my life, or that for them it would be difficult because they love the taste of meat. Personally, if you eat meat of any kind it is because you think more about your stomach than the suffering of the animal that died for you, rather than think of how great it tastes think of the pain you are causing to another living creature! I don’t deny that meat tastes good, but that doesn’t make me want to eat it.
Then those who are more religious will say that the Bible says we can eat meat, or that God created the animals to provide food for us, which to me seems illogical, because if a God does exist why would he be so sadistic as to provide us with food that when taken feels pain, fear and distress. It doesn’t make sense, what kind of God would do that? Why create something to be destroyed.
I know there are carnivorous animals that kill other animals for food, but for me the difference is that we have the ability to think, and therefore decide if something is right or wrong. I feel that it’s wrong, you may feel otherwise and that’s your choice. I don’t hate non-vegetarians, neither my wife nor daughter are vegetarian, it’s just something that is right for me and if you think about it carefully it may be right for you too. Actually If I hadn’t started to mediate I don’t think I would have become vegetarian, the meditation made me see things I hadn’t considered before.
I recently read a quote by a proponent of bullfighting here in Colombia, that people don’t understand that bullfighting is an art. Does artistically torturing and killing an animal make it acceptable? Of course it doesn’t. How can the suffering, torture and slaying of an animal be considered as a form of entertainment? It’s sick.
As Mahatma Gandhi said - The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
Let me leave you with a quote by Albert Einstein - A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.
You can read more quotes about vegetarianism by famous people both dead and alive here.
Check out my vegetarian recipes here.
Only you can change the way you treat other living creatures and nature in general, I hope this post will act as a catalyst for some to realise it is the correct path for them to take. Feel free to comment on these ideas whether it be in agreement or not, all I ask is that you comment in an educated, non abusive way, without using expletives or derogatory language.
Click here for more information about vegetarianism.
Click here for information about combining sporting activities with being vegetarian.
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