I first started contemplating becoming a vegetarian at 5 years old. Not that I knew what a vegetarian was or anything, but I wanted to stop eating meat. Up until that point in my life I had lived in a semi-large city and only known the meat that was served at dinner – I had no idea where it came from. But during the Balkan war, my mother, sister and I stayed with my grandparents who had a little farm. In this farm lived cows, pigs, and hens. They all lived a very good life, with plenty of outdoor and indoor space. I thought they seemed very happy and content living there.
Like many children, I absolutely loved animals. I cried my eyes out watching Bambi and to this day really dislike hunters. I loved being around the animals at the farm. I fed the pigs and went up early every morning with my grandmother to milk the cows and collect whatever eggs we could find. My grandmother saw I loved the animals and told me I could pick a hen to be ”my” hen. I chose the only black hen and I gave her a name. I didn’t pet her or anything but I did keep my eye on her and was so excited to have a pet – nobody else did. I never once thought about where the chicken we ate came from. Until winter came and my grandfather slaughtered a pig.
On this farm, they bred, fed, killed, and ate the animals. Everybody loved smoked dried meat, and I remember one day seeing the pig’s leg hanging in the pantry to dry. I was sick to my stomach. I felt really bad about eating meat but that was what everybody did and I didn’t know that there was an option.
Photo: Vogue Nippon 2010
COLD TURKEY VEGETARIAN
When I was ten and visiting my grandparents I remember that in celebration of us coming to Bosnia for the first time since the war, they were going to slaughter one of the pigs that we would then spend the entire day grilling on a stick in the yard. I begged my grandfather to not do it and when I heard the sounds coming from the pigsty I burst into tears. My mother tried to comfort me, saying it was the way of life and trying to convince me that the pig died peaceful (YEAH, RIGHT!).
From then on, I wanted to stop eating meat but my mother wouldn’t let me. She had no idea how to feed a vegetarian (and this was the 90’s so there weren’t many choices like today) and so I continued eating meat. I moved away from home at the tender age of 16 due to some circumstances and living by yourself makes it a bit easier to stop eating meat. But I loved meat. I loved burgers, kebabs and tender steaks. I loved gorgonzola stuffed chicken. I loved tuna in my pasta salad. And I loved food. But one July morning in 2006, shortly after I graduated from upper secondary school, I went cold turkey (no pun intended!) vegetarian. I was tired of the bad conscience. I was tired of feeling disgusted by myself after eating meat. And I started buying Quorn products and realized that I could sub a lot of the things I ate with these meat free products.
8 YEARS LATER
Going vegetarian was the best thing I ever did. I’m not going to lie. Going vegetarian didn’t magically cause me to shed weight and get my dream body or feel healthier and I still haven’t gotten an invite to heaven or found nirvana (maybe because I’m an atheist?). But at least I feel like I am doing the right thing for me. I don’t feel disgusted by myself anymore, I am not causing animals or the planet unnecessary pain just because something tastes good, and mentally, I feel better because of that. I mean, I still can smell a good burger and think of how good it tastes, but I don’t miss eating meat (I do miss tuna though and drool whenever there are cevapcici around).
I know that I’m not perfect – I still eat cheese, eggs, and milk and thereby am hurting animals. I do feel bad about it, and avoid these things if I can. For me, going vegan is not an option at the moment, but I am not ruling out going full on vegan in the future.
There are countless reasons for going vegetarian: the environment, health reasons etc. but for me it was definitely the moral and ethical considerations that made me vegetarian. I don’t expect everybody to become a vegetarian, but it is a known fact that people in the west eat too much meat. Meat intake has increased tremendously in the past 50 years, along with our obsession with getting protein. If you ask me, everybody would feel better by decreasing their meat intake – people, our planet, and animals.
Photo: Kate Bellm