The Virgin Vegan and South Africa’s relationship with meat
If you’re a black South African and flirting with the idea of becoming a vegan then this short local film is for you.
Not to be discouraging, but after you watch The Virgin Vegan, you’ll realise that your attempt to completely cut out meat or any form of animal products from your diet will be an ongoing battle, especially if your meat-loving family is aware of your new lifestyle.
The Virgin Vegan introduces us to Thato, a 20-something woman who has just completed her MBA studies overseas and has returned to her home province of Limpopo in the hopes of embarking on a new life.
Her arrival was a jovial one and her family prepared a large, hearty meal for their daughter; little did they know that their pride and joy would be put off by the meal cooked for her.
Wors, spiced beef steaks, grilled chicken and pork ribs. It was a vegan’s worst nightmare.
The irony: her family was also excited about Thato’s return because they assumed she’d be able to assist them in reviving the family’s butchery business.
Did you say virgin or vegan?
Choosing to become vegan is so uncommon that black people hardly even use the term in their vocabulary. It’s no wonder her family first thought she meant that she was still a “virgin” when they first heard the word “vegan” come out her mouth.
If you’re born into a black African family, chances are you suckled on your first piece of chicken bone when you were six months old. In fact, some African cultures slaughter a goat on your behalf when you turn a year old; the goat’s fur is then made into a bracelet and wrapped around your wrist as a token of respect and gratitude to the ancestors and as a celebration of your first trip around the sun. The isiZulu culture refers to that bracelet as isphandla.
Being a vegan in a South African black household is very tricky because we eat and slaughter animals for various occasions whether it be for a funeral, a wedding or for thanking the ancestors for something good that happened in your life.
The bloodshed of an animal has been a part of our culture for centuries, so you can only imagine how perplexed Thato’s family was when she told them she wanted nothing to do with anything that involved the killing of animals.
Braai culture is a thing
Even if you’re a non-black South African, being a vegan can also prove to be quite challenging as all South Africans, in general, enjoy a delicious braai every other weekend, and please, don’t get me started on how we have the best biltong in the world.
These are some of the reasons why going vegan in South Africa is like playing an extreme sport with your diet.
If there is one thing I learned from The Virgin Vegan it’s that as a nation we need to cut down on eating meat. I’m sure families can reach an agreement to eating a meat-free meal at least once or twice a week.
I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called What The Health; it explores the links between the consumption of animal products and cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. It was an eye-opener.
I’m not going to preach to you about how you should stop eating meat completely, but do take 25 minutes out to watch The Virgin Vegan on Showmax.
A plant-based diet is becoming a popular lifestyle choice internationally but it’s still catching on in South African cultures. This might be the seed.