Summer is here, time for BBQ parties! The more, the better, no?!
Julia, a woman who I had just met, wanted to thank me. I found her dog that escaped the day after she had adopted her. This lost dog was roaming on the streets, looking at me with a please-don’t leave me look in her-eyes, so I stayed with her the whole day and took her home. With help from the local police I was able to find her owner, Julia.
Happy she and her new adopted dog were reunited again, Julia invited me to come to her BBQ that Sunday. “We would love to have you there,” she said. I felt some hesitation, but appreciated her spontaneous gesture. We exchanged telephone numbers and I said I would write her a message. Her Spanish words left her mouth so rapidly, that I had to do my utmost best to understand her.
The flow of Spanish words wasn’t the only reason. I noticed that I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to be at a BBQ, where — of course — meat and/or fish are served. I can’t even remember when I was at a regular BBQ since I have decided to stop eating animals.
Days passed by without thinking of the invitation until I received a WhatsApp message. Julia asked me if we wanted to come to her BBQ and therefore she wanted to know if my partner and I eat meat. Reading her message I decided to just share my feelings with her. I thanked her for the invitation and said we don’t eat meat, as we follow a vegan life style, in which we only eat plant-based food. I wrote her that I (I didn’t want to speak for Dorus), prefer not attending BBQs where animals are eaten. I didn’t want to be rude, or unthankful, so I weighed my words carefully.
Spain has a true meat- and fish culture.
Spaniards eat more meat than any other EU country (the average Spaniard puts away more than 1 kg a week), slaughtering 70 million pigs, cows, sheep, goats, horses and birds each year to produce 7.6 m tonnes of meat. In a country facing rapid desertification in the coming decades it makes little sense to use 15.000 liters of water to raise each kilogram of meat.
Recently the prime minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, said on television in very precise words that to him a medium steak is “imbatible” (unbeatable), in reaction to the brand new nationwide campaign “Menos Carne Más Vida” (Less Meat More Life) of the Minister of consumption. This campaign has been launched to make Spaniards aware of the need to reduce their meat consumption for health and environmental reasons. It has found a lot of resistance by the Spanish agricultural industry, as they are afraid of jeopardising jobs. Sánchez’ performance certainly won’t help to change the meat- and food industry, which is a hell of a rotten system.
“I can’t come, Julia.”
“OK,” she said, “if you ever need anything, you have my number.”
Since I have learned more about the environmental impact of meat and fish and what harm and suffering humans cause to animals, in Big Agriculture and in the slaughterhouses, I have changed. I’m done. I can’t go back to consuming products that contain suffering, stress, torture and death. I can’t. I don’t want to be part of it.
A few years ago friends and family from the Netherlands and New Zealand came to visit us in our new home on Ibiza where we lived back then. It happened to be my birthday too. New Zealanders love to barbecue, and I knew they would love to eat some good meat and fish. Our friend, who is chef, organized the BBQ. I wanted everybody to enjoy at our BBQ party, and I thought that was only possible when animals were eaten. So we served lots of chicken wings, steak, beef, sausages and salmon. Because that’s what you do at a BBQ, right? Coming together, having beers, wines, and fun, while there’s meat on the grill, causing that particular scent of grilled flesh. To me it has always been the scent of summer afternoons. But not anymore. I was a pescarian back then, and I already read a lot of the industry, but still I wanted to please my family and friends.
When I said to Julia I couldn’t come, I wondered: Am I too sensitive? I, who occasionally shivers reading of woke and cancel culture that is inclined to censor those, who don’t think the same. Freedom of speech that isn’t so free anymore.
In these current times of polarization, it seems we can’t discuss differences in opinions in a healthy way. We often feel insulted, hurt, attacked even, when important topics as racism, discrimination, and inequality arrive to the — heated — conversation as we express our political correct opinion.
We live in our own bubbles, the environment in which we interact with people who all think moreless the same. Both in the real and in the digital world, enforced by the pandemic.
I’m aware I’m living in an ecological and vegan bubble and I know damn well, veganism is a lifestyle not everybody agrees with, because we simply aren’t preoccupied by the same things.
We will always live in a world where animals are used and killed for human consumption, because for many people animals are objects and food, not autonomous creatures that feel emotions, like pain and stress and even grief. And giving up meat for environmental reasons, is for the majority of people still non-negotiable.
Once I was at a BBQ for which our friend slaughtered one of his lams. One of my friends, who was vegan, was also invited. I said to her that I would understand if this wasn’t her kind of party. I also had my doubts. But we decided to go anyway. The lady of the house was surprised to see us not eating anything. We could see with our own eyes where the meat came from: a healthy and loved animal of which she had taken good care of since it was born, right? So why didn’t we take some of the meat? We said we just wanted to enjoy the company of the people and some drinks, not the food, as we were vegetarian (I) and vegan (my friend). My friend asked if the little lam perhaps had given a name. The lady of the house replied indignantly “Oh no, of course not. If I had given the lam a name, we would never ever have killed it.”
Uhhm okay..right. My friend and I, we finished the bag of chips.
If I had more energy left in the summer heat that Sunday, I would have spent some time in my tiny kitchen and would have taken a few vegan dishes to Julia’s BBQ. Lentil burgers and almond cheese, home made humus and veggies from the garden. But I rather stayed home in my own vegan bubble and didn’t want to be confronted with tortured flesh on the grill and people enjoying it.
Maybe BBQ loving friends and family are reading this, and think oh no…what is she being silly. Totally in her own vegan world!
If I am in a James Aspey kind of mood, I decline the invitation to your BBQ party and we will catch up another day.
Oeff! That’s quite harsh, isn’t it? Maybe yes, but like the American feminist and political activist Gloria Steinem said:
“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off!”
A second way to respond is this: I say yes, and bring good, tasty food to your BBQ no animal had to be exploited and killed for. We would drink and dance together till the early morn. Patience and stepping out of my vegan world, is what it takes.
Happy Summer – with lots of meatless BBQs!
*The name of the person Julia is fictitious.
**James Aspey is an Australian fitness coach and animal rights activist who speaks of an animal holocaust. He is known for remaining silent for an entire year to raise awareness of animal cruelty.
Watch his story here: