My journey into vegetarianism started how I imagine it did for many other people. I sat (in my case in my school’s hall) watching a documentary on chicken farming. I was horrified. I had always suspected that this sort of this was happening to the animals we eat but I had never seen it first-hand. After watching this movie I went home and told my already over-worked parents that I was now a vegetarian. They said they were happy for me and that they weren’t going to be cooking two suppers every night so I needed to start feeding myself. That abruptly ended my journey into vegetarianism, at least for a year or two.

After a while, and with a constant nagging on my conscience I decided to venture into the world of vegetarianism once more. This time with more success. For me it was never about health choices (if I can choose, I choose pizza, the couch and lots of junk food). For me, it was about the fact that we were given this beautiful planet and told to look after it. And as such, it never sat well with me that we treat the animals God created so poorly, that they live a hard and lonely life only to be horrifically slaughtered, and treated as though they were not loved and cared for by the most powerful being in the universe. And so, as best I could I cut out meat from my diet – never an easy thing for anyone to do, especially someone who really enjoys roast chickens, and McDonalds burgers, and pizzas with lots of ham on them.

Although it may be easy for others, being a vegetarian was never easy for me. Partly because people think being a vegetarian isn’t and like to make jokes about it (I’ve even had people try shove meat in my mouth). Yes meat tastes good, smells good and it’s everywhere so it’s not a small feat to give it up (clearly because much of the world doesn’t give it up). And so I became a vegetarian that looked a lot like a struggling alcoholic or drug addict, I’d stay ‘clean’ for a few months and then my folks would have a braai or cook the most delicious roast chicken and I’d say: “just this once”. I had an on again off again relationship with meat.

And then I went to university. That place changed my life. I thrive on learning new things and new ways to think, on forming and changing my opinions. University turned me into a researcher. And because of this I began to research how farming in South Africa and the world worked, how we slaughter animals, what kind of impact it has on the environment, and the regulations regarding poultry and livestock farming and abattoirs in our country. I also researched humane farming, hormone-free farming and farms that were TRULY free-range. I realised that yes, God had given us the animals and the planet to care for but he had also given us them to rule over (and eat). For a lot of people it’s just a process of finding out how we do both, and do them well. And so for me, my journey into and out of vegetarianism changed what I eat, where I shop and how much meat I eat.

For every human I think eating meat should be something we’ve considered doing, we’ve researched. In the same way I did research when I stopped eating meat and learnt about how we treat animals. If you’re making the choice to eat meat you should probably do some research about where your meat comes from, how it lives and how it dies. So often we seem to live our lives where if we follow the norm we do it without consideration. Only when we go against the norm do we think more deeply and ask why. Why do we eat meat?

Having said all of this I am submitting this after reading some of the posts already up about vegetarianism and I may well be venturing back into the life of a veggie after this…

[Mary shares 10 Questions Vegetarians are tired of hearing]