My journey towards vegetarianism started some 10 years ago shortly after I moved to Indonesia for a year or so. I think in Singapore we’re used to things being rather sanitised. If we go to the supermarket we often find chickens duly cleaned out, deboned, fillet and packed in neat packages and the same goes for other types of meats like beef, lamb and pork. Growing up in Singapore I never had the opportunity to experience the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of the meat industry. In Indonesia, things are different. My neighbour across the street at that time happened to be a chicken farmer. It was a family business and he grew up rearing chickens and sold them to the local market. I striked up a conversation with him once and remembered him telling me that they would inject the chickens with ‘something’ (and by something I assume it’s growth hormones) and in 2 or 3 days the chickens would grow and almost double in size. “It’s like a miracle!’ as he puts it, his eyes glistening with excitement while I shuddered in fear. I’ve read about stuff like this in newspaper articles but to have it happen so close to home really takes it to another level.
On another occasion, I was invited to the local mosque to witness the process of the kurban where goats and cows would be slaughtered and skinned as a religious sacrifice. I closed my eyes most of the time but could hear most of what was going on and could also smell the blood in the air. Later I was invited to a feast where the meat was boiled simply and served with chilli sauce. I still distinctly remember what the meat looked like…grey and lifeless. At that point onwards, I decided I could no longer eat any more meat.
I started eating only green vegetables and the occasional tempeh and tofu. It was difficult to prepare my own vegetarian meals as I was staying with a local family and there weren’t alot of meat substitutes available. I didn’t feel healthy and was lethargic most of the time and was certainly not a sterling inspiration for vegetarianism to my friends! So a few years after coming back to Singapore, I fell off the bandwagon somewhat and started eating some fish and chicken again. Afterall, in Singapore it is easy to forget where the meat comes from isnt’ it? I started going 100% vegetarian again in the past year or so and this time I’m mindful about making sure that all my nutritional needs are adequately met and thus far I think I’m enjoying the process more (recipes to come!).
I titled this post a a vegetarianism journey because I truly believe that it’s a personal process. Ahimsa as one of the yamas in the 8 limbs of yoga is roughly translated as ‘non violence’ and this includes non violence to animals and also to our own bodies. As I think about my own experience in Indonesia, never is this more true for me. 🙂