Before I turned vegan, I did not even know what vegan meant. But since I became vegan, I have discovered that there is a myriad of vegan groups, which all bring a nuance in their approach to veganism. Today, I will explore the Straight Edge ideology applied to veganism with Mathieu, a young activist that I met at the walk to close all the slaughterhouses held in Paris last June.
Here is the video interview in French with English subtitles.
There is also an English transcript below.
Thank you for accepting this interview. So the first thing I would like you to do is to introduce yourself in a few words.
My name is Mathieu. I live in France. I am 26 years old. Recently I had an exam to join a nurses aide school.
Could you tell us how, why and when you turned vegan?
I turned vegan 5 years ago, in 2011, thanks to a person I met on Facebook. She recommended me to watch the documentary movie Earthlings and just by seeing this documentary it was enough to convince me that something wasn’t right, really not right in everything we are doing at whatever level. So after having seen this documentary, I told myself it’s time to deal firmly with this and to radically change.
Are they issues about which you already thought before?
I have always been a person involved in lot of issues, in lot of areas, I have always been very curious, an eternally curious person, but I must confess that this topic always went over my head. It is not something that I could find by myself actually. I didn’t really ask myself about this issue.
Did you have pets when you were young?
In my family, we have always had pets. Of all kinds. We had dogs, cats, fish and parrots. Personally, I have always lived with cats only. I have a very particular feeling for them; it’s a great love story between them and me. And indeed, there was not this connection between food and pets. There was still a split in my mind, this categorisation, which was clear. I didn’t make the link.
After becoming aware at least about diet and all the convictions I had, I told myself ‘this is not enough’. When we see all the fights in the working class, class struggles in the streets and so on, about other topics like retirement pensions or other things like that, people demonstrate in the street and I told myself that for animals it is not possible that there is no demonstration and then I told myself that diet is not enough by itself.
This is not just a boycott, given the fact that we always go back to the superstores. If we don’t have a little greenmarket nearby, we continue to go to the superstores and so to finance these facilities. So I told myself it’s not enough to limit myself only to the diet.
I googled key words like demonstration, animal rights, animal cause, vivisection, and I found events and then I decided to take the plunge despite knowing nobody. This was very new for me. For 6 months I did my personal development, I made my way alone and I knew nobody but this didn’t refrain me. I told myself this is for animals, this is not a summer camp, I am not here to make friends and so I went.
I demonstrated in February. I remember my first demonstration, it was against fur and since I haven’t stopped for 5 years. I militated everywhere in France. I did demonstrations on all topics, anti bullfighting, anti-vivisection, abolition of meat, which concerned also fishing and so on, I did anti-hunting demonstrations, against circus and so on. I did all possible demonstrations. I didn’t limit myself only to France; I went abroad. This was interesting to compare with other countries, to see the tactics they use, culture, how activism and the animal cause are rooted. I went to England, to Belgium, to Luxembourg, for the international animal rights conference 2016, to Germany and so on. I went almost everywhere.
#VEGAN STRAIGHT EDGE
When we met at the walk for closing all slaughterhouses, you told me about your activism and the movement you belong to, called Straight Edge. Could you tell us more about this movement? But before, what I would like you to do is to show us your t-shirt.
The Straight Edge movement started in the 70s/80s in the Punk Hard-core and Hard-core music scene, a bit more in the 80s. This is a protest movement that rejects all anti-conformist behaviours against the state such as alcohol, drug use, and also sexual promiscuity, relationships with no feeling, no real involvement, no hope for the future. And this is something that really pleased me about this ideology, the fact that we have to respect each other.
And there are also considerations about narcotics, drug use, alcohol and so on, which are ills of modern society, which take lives. And obviously the Straight Edge movement wasn’t a limitation for me, I didn’t give myself a psychological limitation, this wasn’t a jail, restriction, I didn’t compel myself when I stopped drinking alcohol because I have never smoked and for alcohol, I understood afterwards why I tried to drink. Actually it was only under social pressure. There was nothing else behind it. It was only by convention, we are here with people and we should comply with a social ideal. We try to establish complicity with people that we don’t even know and that perhaps we don’t really want to know but obviously we still continue.
So for me this wasn’t an effort to divert myself from these substances, which, beyond this, alienate our minds, alter our personalities or, conversely, make ourselves uninhibited or be as we really are which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Beyond this, for me and for other people, it’s just an illusion, a complete illusion.
I turned Straight Edge a long time ago, long before turning vegan. This is very strange. The original Straight Edge movement leads people to anti-racism, anti-fascism, class struggles, popular struggles and so on and also to animal issues. The Straight Edge movement generally leads to this. But in France, this is something not very widespread and at that time I was very young and I didn’t have the opportunity to make the connection and nobody brought me clues to make the connection.
I turned Straight Edge when I was 17/18 years old. So I have been edge for 8/9 years. I didn’t define myself as edge from the beginning. It took me almost 3 years to become fully aware about the Straight Edge movement, what it implies to join this movement, to claim to be part of this movement, this ideology, and to become an activist.
I gathered a lot of information and I got rid of a lot of toxic people for me, not necessarily nasty but they were just people with whom I couldn’t grow and succeed. It was really a matter of self-fulfilment and I couldn’t grow with these people. So it took me 3 years to define myself as edge. From there I began to militate. As a movement, there are actions linked with it. Indeed I became Straight Edge before becoming vegan.
Being Straight Edge is the logical outcome of being vegan and vice versa. For me a vegan has to be Straight Edge and a Straight Edge has to be vegan… and against sexism, and against fascism and so on. For me it’s a logical sequence.
Can you confirm that the emblem of Straight Edge is XXX and for vegan Straight Edge it’s XVX, isn’t it?
That is right.
You are the first one to tell me about vegan groups from the extreme right.
Yes. In fact, this is the main problem of all these ideologies, because once again this is an ideology. And there are people not very well intentioned who take control of movements. These people claim to be Straight Edge and even vegan Straight Edge only for health purposes.
So effectively, there are people, specifically in Eastern countries, but everywhere in fact, stupidity knows no boundaries. There are fascist people who include themselves in Straight Edge movements because even they understand through the argument of health that it is better to be sober. Someone sober is, as it is told in an English or American saying, a sober person is a powerful weapon
# VEGAN HOPE
Mathieu, do you have a saying or do you want to address a message to the people who will watch this video?
Just to continuously be curious about things surrounding us, to not take everything for granted and to stop hurting others and this already begins by not hurting ourselves.
Okay Mathieu. Thank you very much.
Thanks to you
Keep in touch with Mathieu on Facebook at XMathyx Blt