In the first of a new blog series on veganism across the globe, Veganuary talks to Psychologist/English Teacher, and ‘Anonymous for the Voiceless Murcia’ Organiser, Martha Espín, about veganism in Spain.
How long have you been vegan?
Over a year now.
Why did you decide to go vegan?
In 2017, I lived in Southeast Asia for 7 months. I had already been vegetarian for 3 years and had given up dairy, but I still consumed a bit of egg every now and then.
I remember going to a street market in rural Vietnam and I wanted to try a typical pastry with an egg inside, but to my surprise, when I bit into it, there was actually a whole baby chicken in it! I spat my food out in the middle of the street, and it was such a moment; all the locals laughed at me. I felt so sick and it put me off of eggs for the rest of my stay.
I also saw some awful treatment of animals while I was there; such as lobsters being cooked on the grill alive and live animals being transported on buses and motorbikes, tied together by their heads or wings/limbs.
When I came back to Spain, one of the first things I did was go to a street activism event held by Anonymous for the Voiceless near my hometown in Murcia. After the eight hour event where I watched a video of male chicks in the egg industry being macerated over and over again, I said to myself, “That’s it, I’m vegan!”
How do you say “I’m vegan” in your language?
Soy vegano (male) / vegana (female).
What is the vegan scene like in your city/country?
It’s definitely becoming easier to find vegan options here. The bigger the city, the easier it is. However, sometimes you still need to explain exactly what the term “vegan” means and list what vegans do and don’t eat, especially in smaller towns and villages.
The activism scene here is great at the moment! Every big city in Spain now has an active animal rights organisation; such as Anonymous for the Voiceless (I think there are currently around 35 active local groups here. Crazy!) and Animal Equality.
There are also organisations like Gladiadoras Por La Paz who break into bullrings to sabotage bullfights and do incredible (and often dangerous!) things for the animals. Even though sometimes they can’t save the animal, the visibility they have in the media is helping to raise awareness and change some laws related to bullfighting. For example, a few weeks ago the “Toro de la Vega”, a medieval festival which included spearing a bull to death, was finally banned!
Do you have any tips for vegan travellers to your city/country?
Don’t avoid “regular” restaurants or tapas bars just because they are not pure vegan. Many places will be happy to make you roasted vegetables or vegetable sandwiches if you say you’re vegan.
Spanish hospitality is great; the service at bars and restaurants is outstanding, and staff are very friendly and welcoming, but sometimes they just don’t know exactly what veganism is. I recommend explaining beforehand that you don’t eat egg or dairy so that they don’t get confused with vegetarianism, especially in smaller towns where veganism is not so common.
Is there any local accidentally vegan food they should try?
Yes! Gazpacho! My favourite summer soup! It’s made with vegetables and olive oil and you can drink it from a glass or in a bowl with some breadcrumbs on top. Delicious!
Any restaurants or supermarkets you recommend?
I just found out on IG that vegan Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream has just launched in Carrefour Spain! Maybe not a big deal for you Brits/Americans, but us Spaniards are super stoked about it!
It’s easy to keep up to date on the vegan options available at supermarkets across Spain by following these (unofficial) supermarket IG accounts: @vegan_mercadona, @vegancarrefourspain, @veganlidlspain, and @veganaldispain.
Is there a traditional dish from your city/country that can easily be veganised?
Yes! Spanish Omelette (Tortilla de Patatas) can easily be made with chickpea flour instead of egg and it tastes just as great! (See Martha’s vegan Spanish omlette recipe.)
What do you think the future holds for veganism in your country?
Spain is a very traditional country and most of the older generations still support bullfighting and festivities that involve the exploitation of animals. However, things are rapidly changing because of the younger generations. Younger people are much more open minded about social change. For example, a month ago there was a massive historic national strike on International Women’s Day with thousands of people crowding the streets in every city to demand gender equality.
I became an organiser of Anonymous for the Voiceless Murcia last year, so I really get to see change in the making when we hold our events on a Saturday afternoon. When presented with the shocking realities of the meat and dairy industry, lots of young people are shocked and concerned, and stop to talk to us about changing their lifestyle. It gives me goosebumps thinking about all of the experiences I’ve had with young people during the Anonymous events when they finally make the connection between animals and their food – it gives me great hope for the future and makes me proud of my country!
90% of young people nowadays in Spain are against bullfighting, circuses, and some Spanish festivals that involve animals, so it really doesn’t take more than a basic conversation with good reasoning and scientific facts to make them understand that consuming animal products is as unnecessary as killing an animal for entertainment.
Saying that, I have also seen some change in older generations. For example, my mum became vegan with me a year ago! In her 50s!
I’m very optimistic about the future of veganism in Spain! I think that in 5-10 years, there will be vegan options pretty much everywhere and it will be much more “normal” to be vegan than it is now.
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