Why I Went Vegan in the World’s Beef CapitalNovember 16, 2018
I was told that I was missing out big time.
“Laura, why are you going to the world’s beef capital when you don’t eat meat?!” my Nan said before my departure for my university year abroad to Buenos Aires.
“Be careful what you say,” she added. “Argentina is very proud of their meat.”
I had caused somewhat of a ruckus in my family. All my life my brothers and I had been characterised by our eating habits. The no-nonsense way we would go about food was considered admirable. We dined like kings and, for our appetite as well as our we’ll-eat-everything attitude, we were easy.
When I became vegetarian I stopped becoming easy and it brought a little division between family members who didn’t understand or who thought I was being abnormal and hippie.
I hadn’t eaten meat for around eight months before I went to Argentina. I was challenging my body to accept vegan but I wasn’t sure how my move would affect that. I told myself that I would do my best to remain vegetarian in Buenos Aires but it was my last thought that I would turn vegan.
However, in January 2016, I decided to take the plunge and experimented with veganism. I was doing a project for my university about vegan musicians in Buenos Aires and this put me in contact with many vegans in the city as well as various events and restaurants.
With this support system I began to realise how possible it was to be vegan – even in a city with a steakhouse on every corner and offering vegetarian options of chicken, fish or cheese!!
By talking to people about their vegan diet, I began to learn many things about how the role of meat went further than the walls of the stomach.
The Argentine asado – the stereotypical flame cooked barbecue – is a social affair with many connotations, including upholding certain traditions based on sexism. It is the man that cooks the meat and the woman that is in charge of the salad.
The idea of cooking meat is considered macho and I was told by someone that a man who does not eat meat is considered feminine.
But it wasn’t only that meat subscribed to certain disagreeable values that prompted my move to veganism but that the amount of meat that can be found is just astounding and incredibly off-putting.
In certain provinces there are parrillas (steakhouses) with glass windows into the kitchen. For me the sheer volume of meat that I saw in Buenos Aires completely devalued the life of the animal that was sacrificed for this and I saw how detached the people were from the worth of an animal’s life.
I realised, after this, that I would never eat meat again. But I also decided to give up all dairy and eggs – which was a lot harder considering that it limited my options for eating out.
Buenos Aires has a lot of European, particularly Italian, influence and so the main foods (apart from steak) are pizza, cakes and ice cream as well as empanadas – filled savoury pastries. The Argentine diet is generally not a healthy one and soon, having given up meat, when I ate out my only option was to eat cheese.
From a health perspective, I constantly felt sluggish, had upset stomachs and had trouble shifting weight. From a lifestyle perspective, I got bored of eating cheese-filled pastries, cheese pizza and whole grilled cheese slabs at the parrilla. I was eating so much of it and I, too, was becoming less and less attached to the animal who had been sacrificed for me.
I wasn’t enjoying the food and I was eating an excessive amount of cheese. I was subjecting animals to torture for no reason. I had become numb.
It was then that I decided to change and with the continued help of the vegan community I was able to. I have slipped up – I can’t deny it – but it has made me realise how important it is to surround yourself with fellow vegans, seek out restaurants offering vegan options and to maintain a strong willpower; arming yourself with information against non-vegan friends who consistently seem intent on tempting you to break your lifestyle.
That last point has been the most challenging but I realise that I must speak for those who cannot. When I surrender my right to voice my opinions on my lifestyle, I am no longer fighting for animal rights and the future of this earth.
Most importantly what I have learnt is that, although I have found it hard to be vegan, it’s not impossible. And if I’ve managed to become vegan here, I’m pretty sure I can continue to be vegan anywhere on the planet!
If you have a vegan product or service that you’d like to have reviewed on BarefootVegan, please email Laura directly at laura(@)barefootvegan.com.
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