I have a horrible confession to make. Forgive me, oh great Animal Father, for I have sinned in my heart. Or rather, in my nose. Because, as you know, I have not eaten meat (and by this I mean cow or pig) for almost two months.
But barbecue still smells good to me.
Last fall in Spain I began the shift of mind that made it difficult for me to enjoy eating meat.
In January I continued my travels, this time with a journey to South America, knowing that I would spend some of it eating vegan (at Eco Yoga Park) or vegetarian (at my one-month yoga teacher training.) I was also well aware that Argentina, my first stop, is the kingdom of all things meaty. I thought that Argentina might be an excellent place to have that final bite.
It was a typical Argentine asado, served up at the hostel I was staying at. I hesitated, said a prayer for the animals who had given their little lives to provide this food, and took the plunge. It was good. But it wasn’t all that good anymore, if you know what I mean. I ate, I enjoyed, but it wasn’t the divine last meat experience I was looking for.
Perhaps because I’d already begun my transformation. It starts with a thought, which leads to research, which leads to outrage, dismay, and a feeling of utter inadequacy.
What can I, one person, do about this injustice?
Well, I can start by being one person who doesn’t participate in it. From there, the plot thickens. I skip the cow and the pig (I have skipped veal for similar reasons for decades now.)
For now I occasionally eat chicken, but I know they are among the most tortured of creatures in the food chain. I vow to drop chicken when I return home. Just because they have scary beady little eyes instead of big chocolate brown ones does not make them any less immune to suffering.
I held a chicken in Tarifa, Spain, with the encouragement of a friend. I stroked her silky black feathers as she stayed in my arms, docile. Could I then have shoved her in a square-foot cage to live out her days? I think not.
But what about eggs? What about dairy? I can see how this chain of thinking leads to vegan-ism, but how can I stop eating cheese and yogurt?
I know there are small farms that produce these things at higher quality and price, without the torture factor. My sister raises chickens for eggs. I can make some small adjustments to my life and find guilt-free dairy products.
In the midst of all the questions I still have about making this lifestyle work for me, it hasn’t been as difficult as I imagined. I can find plenty of alternatives that work for me. Although I admit that the smell of barbecue wafting my way still makes me go “mmmm”, I don’t feel the same way if I have to look at what’s cooking. My thoughts have adjusted. My eyes have adjusted. Apparently I’ll have to give my nose a little more time.
Editor: Hayley Samuelson
Alexa Maxwell is a writer, teacher, traveler and student of yoga. She is a huge fan of elephant journal and is honored to be part of the herd. Watch for more ele posts as she attempts to maintain a steady yoga practice while solo traveling through South America! (YIKES!) You can read more at her blog here (www.catnipkiss.wordpress.com) , follow her on Twitter @catnipkiss, or wait for her upcoming travel memoir which is a work in progress.
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