Maeva is a French activist who lives in London. She tells us her life of activism and how meditation help her to overcome her emotions and be stronger in the fight for animals.
The video is recorded in French with English subtitles. You will find below the transcript.
Q1 – Maeva, good afternoon and thank you for being here with me and answering my questions for Vegan Fashion Venture. So the first thing I want to ask you is to introduce yourself in a few words.
My name is Maeva, I just turned 25 years old, I’m a vegan, activist and I work in a vegetarian restaurant in London.
Q2 – When and why did you become a vegan?
First I became a vegetarian. It was in December 2013. In fact I had never seen videos or photos about animal cruelty but I have always been a great lover of animals since I was very young.
And I remember when I was young I always asked my parents what the animal was on my plate. So I had already made the connection between food and animals at a very young age.
I remember one day I was eating at home, in France, and I was eating saucisson and in fact I realised what I was doing was very bad and that I must stop. So I made the decision and I had my first Christmas without meat.
Q3 – How did your parents react?
At the beginning, very badly. When I was thinking about that it was just at the same time as my school exams so my parents told me “you need proteins, you will have your exams, you cannot stop eating meat right now” but my feeling for animals was too strong.
And also when I was young I had a rabbit for 10 years that I loved more than anything and I think my rabbit was a major cause of my personal self-questioning because I realised that it was not possible to have in one hand a pet that I loved so much and in the other hand eat his brothers and sisters.
So I found that abnormal. I really had a deep self-questioning regarding my rabbit so I decided not to care about what people could say around me. I knew what to do. It was too strong for me so I didn’t want to listen to the others.
At the beginning this was their first reaction. After, I spoke a lot with my parents about my choice. My parents are very open-minded so during our talks, they understood and they followed me. My parents and my sisters are also vegan today.
Q4 – All the family?
Yes, all the family.
Wow, this is awesome!
Q5 – But you say vegetarian then vegan?
I went to London in January 2014 and there, I began to meet friends who were vegan. At the beginning, I didn’t know this word vegan. I didn’t know its meaning. So my friends explained the difference between vegetarian and vegan. When people are vegetarian they stop eating meat and fish but for vegans it means no more meat and fish but also no more eggs, milk, and honey.
So at the beginning, I sought information because I thought, as the vast majority of people, that being a vegetarian was good enough and I didn’t understand why milk, eggs and honey shouldn’t be used. Finally when you become informed you realise how dreadful this industry is.
Q6 – Why don’t vegans eat honey?
This is a question that a lot of people ask about honey. So firstly the definition of a vegan is not to use anything coming from animals. Honey comes from animals so by definition honey isn’t vegan. The honey industry is also very cruel.
Bees spend month after month reaping pollen to make honey for their own consumption. This is very important for me. Each animal produces something for itself and not for us.
Honey is the winter food for bees so if we take their honey, bees will have nothing for the winter. Some beekeepers replace honey with glucose syrup but it’s absolutely not the same thing for bees.
Then to collect honey the process is also dreadful. Most of the time, the wings of the queen bee are cut to make her unable to leave the hive and force her to stay there. After, the hive is smoke-filled to push bees outside and collect honey. This kills a lot of bees and I think it’s the same idea as with wool. People think that there is no animal suffering in these kinds of industries but the reality is that there is a lot.
Q7 – Can you tell us about your activism?
So I turned vegan in June 2014 and then, I realised that I should do more. I told myself I must act because there are 3 000 farming animals a second that die in the world. So when you think about that you realise that it is no longer possible to sit in a chair doing nothing.
I remember Halloween day in 2014, I came home from work to prepare for the evening and there I crossed a group in front of Benetton, London Vegan Actions. I began to speak with a member of the association by asking her what happened there, why they were there. I found that there was such great power around them.
They seemed to be so bounded, something really happened. By speaking with her and when she told me about why the team was there, actually they were there to fight angora fur use at Benetton. I was immediately hooked, and I wanted to be part of the team, I wanted to protest with them, I really found what I wanted to do. So one week later I began to protest with them.
This was a very important decision in my life. Because I think that whatever the reason, animal rights, human rights or environmental cause, when one has such a deep belief, which for me is animals, I think voices should be raised, people must fight. It is thanks to activists worldwide that things change. Without activists and without anybody raising their voice for their beliefs, nothing would happen. I think it’s the power of change.
Q8 – Can you tell us what kind of actions you do with this group?
When I started to protest with London Vegan Actions, they were really focused on fur and I found that was a good starting point because people are really receptive, we had a lot of victories.
Actually we went with our megaphones in front of every shop selling fur in London and we kindly asked them to stop selling fur. So we did that to stop shops from selling fur but also to speak with people in the shop or on the street and to explain to them why we were there and why we disagreed and that nothing could stop us. So I think it leads people to awareness.
After fur, we focused on foie gras. So we went to restaurants to ask them to stop selling foie gras. A lot of people asked us why foie gras and not meat? Which is right. We don’t focus on foie gras because we think it is normal to eat meat. Not at all. But one step at a time. We cannot do everything simultaneously. Foie gras is like fur, it’s a luxury. I think it‘s much easier to reach people with these kinds of things, luxuries, not everybody eats foie gras.
I used to eat a lot of foie gras, meat and cheese, but today I’m vegan. I preferred speaking from my heart rather than my belly.
Q9 – When we prepared this interview you told me that you took a break from your activism. Can you tell us more about this time, and why you needed to take a break?
I was an activist for almost one year. I spent all my free time protesting or doing research and videos for protests. And in fact it was very very emotional for me. At the end, I was struggling to live it. I thought, okay it is great to protest and to raise my voice for animals, but I got the feeling that it was never enough, that I should always do more and it’s a feeling of frustration, never doing enough. There are so many animals that died per second. So yes, perhaps I succeeded in stopping a shop to sell fur but….
Q10 – This is a drop in the ocean
Yes indeed… and for the rest, I did not do anything for them. This was a huge frustration for me to be on the ground then to go home and cry every evening because it was too hard emotionally for me.
A friend spoke to me about meditation. She invited me to go to a Buddhist centre and in fact I immediately enjoyed it. I realised just after the first session that it was key because meditation leads to compassion. Before meditating, I protested with lot of hate, I had lot of hate against people and I wondered why I was aware of so many things and why people weren’t conscious.
So meditation helps me to keep calm. Meditation helps me to realise that to be able to help others, in this case animals, I need to feel good myself.
I read many books on spirituality and that is why I took this break. I took a six-month break. During which I avoided contact while remaining vegan. I really took a step back from all this pain that I was deeply feeling. I even stopped my Facebook because there were so many things that affected me.
Recently, a month ago perhaps, I felt better and stronger in front of this suffering …of course the suffering will be there forever… from the moment when you open your eyes it is just impossible to have a life without suffering because we suffer for animals. Personally I suffer every day for animals so it is a suffering that will never leave me completely but I feel much stronger to fight, to raise my voice again for them …but all of that a bit more with love, much more with love than I did previously.
Q11 – What do you enjoy the most as a vegan?
So the thing that is the most enjoyable as a vegan is the daily pleasure of not having cruelty around me. This is something indescribable.
Every vegan has the same feeling I think when I discuss around me. Waking up in the morning and thinking that no animal will be killed, no animal on my plate, in my dressing, in my daily routine.
I bless every day for having made this connection and for being a vegan. This is the best decision ever in my life and this makes me so happy. This is really something that makes me happy in my daily routine.