Thanks, but I’m Not Coming to Your BBQ!
Summer was here, time for BBQ parties!
Julia, a woman who I had just met, wanted to thank me. I had found her dog that escaped the day after she had adopted her. I found this lost dog 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 the 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 lifestyle, in which we only eat plant-based food.
I wrote her that I (I didn’t want to speak for my partner) 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 tons of meat. In a country facing rapid desertification in the coming decades, it made little sense to use 15000 liters of water to raise each kilogram of meat.
Last week the prime minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, said on television in very precise words that to him a medium steak is “unbeatable”, undermining the brand new nationwide campaign “Menos Carne Más Vida” (Less Meat More Life) of the minister of consumption, recently launched to make Spaniards aware of the need to reduce their meat consumption for health and environmental reasons.
“I can’t come, Julia.”
“Okay,” she said, “if you ever need anything, you have my number.”
I have changed. Since I 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’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 a chef, organized the BBQ.
I wanted them 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. Not anymore though. I was a pescatarian back then, and I already read a lot about 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 politically correct opinions.
We live in our own bubbles, the environment in which we interact with people who all think more or less 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 lambs. 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.
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 lamb perhaps had a given name. The lady of the house replied indignantly, “Oh no, of course not. If I had given the lamb a name, we would never ever have killed it.”
My friend and I looked at each other. To us it confirmed our beliefs, and we finished the bag of chips.
If I had more energy left in the summer heat that Sunday, I would have cooked some vegan dishes to take with me to Julia’s BBQ. Lentil burgers and almond cheese, homemade hummus and veggies from the garden. But I rather stayed home in my own vegan bubble and didn’t want to be confronted with flesh on the grill and people enjoying it.
Maybe BBQ-loving friends and family are reading this, and thinking, “Oh no, she is being silly. Totally in her own vegan world. Changed… yeah.”
If I am in a James Aspey kind of mood, I will decline the invitation to your BBQ party and we will catch up another day. If I am patient, and want to step out of my vegan bubble, I would cook and bring you good food no animal had to be exploited and killed for. We would drink and dance together till the early morn’.
Eva De Vor is a Dutch writer and ecology advocate, who previously worked as a legal counsel in the Netherlands, and chose to live a simple life in Mallorca (Spain). Together with her partner she lives in an ecological tiny home in the countryside, built by themselves. She moves her way around by bicycle and believes in plant-based food as one of the major steps to make this world a better place. You can connect with Eva on her website or on Instagram.