I want to continue to inspire in further finding of the Strength in compassion. The interview with Linda from VF
After the interview with 216 cm tall vegan basketball player Roman Halík, or the interview with Honza Müller which were published here, we bring you further introduction of those who participate in the Vegan Fighter project. This time it is Iva Linda Maruščáková, who is the co-founder of VF and who actively practices thaibox and poledancing. Linda has had years of experience with vegetarianism and veganism practically (she has eaten meat free for over than 20 years), as well as theoretically – she graduated from psychology, ecology and ethology (science about animal behavior) at Charles University in Prague.
Moreover, thanks to her job of a fly attendant she knows about the vegan situation around the whole world very well. Her private practice of psychologist and coach brings interesting view on questions about veganism in our world.
You will find out more about Linda in this interview:
Linda can you tell us something about yourself, what do you do in your professional and free time. And how long have you been on a vegan diet?
“I work as Jungian psychologist and coach. Most of the times me and my clients deal with transformational crises and personal growth. Personal growth is also sometimes connected with the questions of healthy lifestyle, in my private practice and in the Institute of the Aviation Medicine Prague as well. I am devoted to consultant and growth activities in corporate sphere, e. g. recruitment of management of the Czech banks. Because I like to travel I started to work as a stewardess for CSA during my studies and I have been stewardess there up to now. In present I am finishing my PhD studies of ethology and I graduated from ecology few years ago.
Large part of my life and heart is taken by non-profit organizations. After working for some of them me and my friends decided to establish our own. So at the moment I am behind Vegan Fighter, Czech Vegan Association and Ethical Consumerism, although we haven’t had time for the latter recently, for what we apologize.
Free time… I try to include thaibox and poledance workout into it, I like to run and I like to go to the gym. I have two dogs – one from Brno dog shelter and the second one, wounded, from Venezuela, where we organized adrenalin saving action.
I quit eating meat because of animals at 12, I have eaten purely plant based diet for 15 years and last two years I have come closer to raw vegan diet.”
Can you tell us what inspires you in life?
"I am inspired by intensive experience of all kinds and also by animals and some children with their natural, uncomplicated and direct behavior. A lot of inspiration comes also from meetings with strong people who have their own life experience and also common work based on strong values. And I am also inspired by discoveries during travelling, motion. I am also inspired by nature very much and sometimes by music. One time I was really inspired by death with which I came across also in professional life and I can confirm that this facing with reality teaches a human how to live well, to experience more intensively.
What was the main impulse for you to turn to vegan lifestyle?
It were definitely animals for me. I love them a lot and I don’t want any of them to suffer in any way. I was thinking as a child about why we like some animals and why we eat others. When I was going to village as a child I was watching a pig in pigpen and it was strange for me why it had to be locked and then die – it seemed to me that it was as playful and sentient as my dog which I had at that time.
I have seen animals at the same level as people, as beings full of life and this did not make a sense for me. And when I was 12 years old I stopped eating meat and after few years I felt that it was time to exclude milk and eggs as well. It was interesting in both cases that I woke up in the morning and it “just came”, it somehow developed internally. But I have to admit with exaggeration, that veganism was a big sacrifice for me. I loved meat and other animal products’ taste, and if there weren’t such large suffering behind it, I would enjoy it nowadays. My blood type is B and that is a hunter –so maybe that’s why. J
Thanks to the ecology studies, the environmental reasons joined the ethical later-the outcomes of animal breeds. Also health advantages of vegan diet joined later as well as more energy, clearer, lighter feeling and better thorough condition. This is known by every vegan.
I have really liked raw vegan products in the recent years. I eat all kinds of raw bars and products, nuts, fruit, smoothies and I supplement with various vegan proteins. I have also discovered wonderful benefits of so called superfoods and I have implemented all of these more and more. I eat warm meal only seldom – it seems to me that it takes my energy away.
You are the co-founder of the Vegan Fighter project – how was it founded and why?
"We have founded Vegan Fighter with my colleague Honza, and not only because of the fact that both of us like martial arts, but also because we both love animals. I wanted to start a project which would show vegan guys and girls in different light, other than skinny, esoterical weirdos, how they are mostly perceived by most people. We would like to bring inspiration for as many people as possible through VF. To show them how to live healthy, to be fit and to considerate animals and nature. And that you can connect both of these easily, that it can be pleasant and that it does not have to be any kind of ascetic way of life as most people think it is.
I am not personally supporter of the negative emotional pressure, which is sometimes used by people who eat vegan. I’m not saying that I don’t understand, because what happens to animals is objectively horrible. But I would like people to find their own positive, inspirational way, because this way is usually more permanent in their approach. And if it is for someone only the fact that they will decrease the meat consumption, or will buy cosmetics which is not tested on animals, I will be happy for animals, although I will continue to show that there can be done much more.
The examples of perfect condition of professional and amateur vegan male and female athletes, their top athletic successes, which we present on VF, seem to me personally as the best way against one of those arguments which discourages most people from veganism – if it is possible to be healthy and fit on a vegan diet. I see the same importance in information which is connected with these topics – recommendation for all kinds of vegan meals, or whatever is connected with the vegan lifestyle and makes it more pleasant.
The objective information about how animals really suffer is also very important. Only in this way people can be really responsible for what they do and how they live, not that they will close their eyes in front of hard things and support huge suffering, which millions of animals have to go through on a daily basis.
And I would also like if VF brought current vegan men and women – especially those who do sports – inspiration and I wish that they would be proud of their beautiful and compassionate lifestyle.”
Thanks to your scientific studies you have a lot of information about animals. Can you sum up how you perceive animals – rationally and emotionally?
“Animals, for me, are interesting, living creatures, whose life has the same value for me as any other life. It would be very uncomfortable internally for me if some other living creature suffered because of me – especially when I have a choice in such easy area as adaptation of my taste.
I have perceived animals in the same way for the whole life. Nothing has been changed on that childish, intuitive perception of the pig in pigpen by my studies. Based on studies of realistic ethological needs of animals I have only further understood how animals really suffer, and the measure is, objectively, perhaps larger than people can imagine. I have come across many people during my scientific studies, who intensively study animals and are compassionate with them, although they are neither vegans nor vegetarians – this just persuades me in the fact, that real display of behavior towards animals is more of learnt attitude, than that people would be cruel and not empathic biological kind. It could look like that from the outside for independent viewer sometimes, and in this case more than in any other.”
As a clinical psychologist, what is your explanation for the fact that many people say how much they love animals (and most likely feel it as well) and they do not mind eating them, although the information about horrible conditions in which animals live in large-scale breeding and how it looks like in slaughterhouses is well known?
I see a very important fact in it – complicated and sometimes not fully consciously managed functioning of human psyche. Whenever we experience something unpleasant, our psyche tends to process it somehow and lead us into more pleasant state, this is the adaptive reaction.
Throughout life we sometimes try to displace something unpleasant out of our conscience, and we vindicate ourselves by some side reasons why we cannot act like we feel that we should act sometimes, or we project our own unpleasant feelings into our environment – these are some of the best known ways of so called defensive mechanisms.
And that is probably this case as well – when we push that unpleasant thing out of our conscience, and human or animal suffering is naturally unpleasant for most people (how many times have you heard ”Don’t show me the shots from slaughterhouses, I cannot watch it.”) It comes to paradox situations: on one side love towards our dog, on the other side same sentient animal on our plate. I remember one extreme case when I was speaking with a woman who had been doing tests on live animals, who on the other hand, had dog at home which she loved very much. The reaction on the pointing out of the antagonism was very emotional…
What helps to keep such approach are other defensive mechanisms – for example the mentioned rationalization (“Animals are made for eating.”) and there are many more statements. Try to observe them around you :)
What I sense as potentially worse, more dangerous, is the common validity and spread of such subconscious mechanisms throughout the society. The social pressure requires large inner strength to stand for ourselves and to walk our own path, as well as in other, similar areas.
And that is why I value people who have managed it, very much.
Many people get discouraged from veganism, among other, by the fact that they have to be in opposition towards people around them, who eat in conventional way. That they are attacked continuously and they have to advocate their lifestyle over and over again. Do you have any advice how can people manage such stress? And how should people act in such situations?
I will continue with the previous statement that the main thing is to have enough inner strength to face such situations. Each of us finds such strength in different places. Personal inner motivation is also very important. And it is also important to realize how we want such situations to proceed. What makes us feel good and to direct these situations in such way. Not to let ourselves manipulate into situations which are unpleasant for us – especially the Czech society is very sensitive on any different opinions on life and sometimes expresses highly intolerant and hidden aggressive forms of sarcasm, or insinuations… this is most likely known to all alternatively living people.
If we feel that we do not want to discuss with someone who acts without respect towards our opinion, we do not have to continue, we can politely leave the discussion, with reference that we would like to continue in the debate as soon as this person would have real interest.
For support of the vegan lifestyle and so better lifestyle for animals it’s very important to present these topics positively. It is definitely more effective to be positive example and to inspire with something interesting, than to force these questions to people around us, even though these might be very important for us. Not everyone is at a point in his evolution where they can look towards cruelty, which is done to animals, to the fullest – it requires big changes in personal approach and deeds. And not everyone can be prepared for this; somebody can come to this gradually or later.
It is also useful to realize that we all are more or less different, and so every one of us perceives the world differently. Logically everyone has a different approach, if we talk about veganism. Someone will react well on emotional arguments, for instance in the form of images of investigative documents about cruelty on large breeds, someone other will react better on hard, emotion free facts FAO, which present the level of high pollution of large breeds and objective data of ethological research. Therefore it is good to learn to use different ways which are not our own, but which can be more suitable for others. That goes for communication generally.
From my opinion the only way how to slowly change the attitude towards animals is suitable, non violent combintion of showing the reality with offering of suitable alternatives – that all with positive approach. Negative approach could again activate some subtle defensive mechanisms :)
Apart from the nonprofit sector you also do martial arts; can you tell us what do they bring to you? And what about other sports?
I like martial arts a lot. They bring of course good stamina and the ability to defend myself in a case of attack. For some people it may be surprising that it is also connected with psyche of the people who practice such sports. Recently I have thought about the fact that I sense similar mental turn especially in the emotional area – that somewhere in depth of the soul these people are sometimes more sensitive.
And of course for me is also valuable the possibility to touch my soul in areas which cannot be seen otherwise e.g. my physical and mental limits, the ability to face the pain and endurance. And what I like also about it is the need to concentrate on actual moment – in this sense it is the best active meditation.
Concerning other sports…I equalize the energy of martial arts with pole dancing. I like it because of the connection of beauty, elegance and strength – I am happy with each and every figure which I am able to make on the pole. I don’t know if it is apparent from the outside, but it is also very demanding sport.
You have been eating vegan for fifteen years and you had been eating vegetarian before that… how do you see the influence of a plant diet on your health?
“I feel very well and I have very much energy – many people ask me how I manage all of this and I exaggerate a bit that it is thanks to my vegan diet. It is of course connected with other things which charge you to do what you do, but the influence of diet is enormous.
And for all these years I have been amazed how every advancement in dietary routine brings new positives – relatively recently I have inclined towards raw food and also here I experience what I had experienced before when I switched to vegetarianism and later to veganism – further growth of energy, lightness, and strength connected to demanding sport stress. Sometimes I go from the pole dance training directly to thaibox and to the gym and this is objectively very physically demanding. I am another of living examples that veganism is in long term something that can provide you everything you need in life.
Separate area is also refinement of senses such as intuition, or the growth of inner strength, that is a nice bonus. :)”
As a stewardess you have experience from around the world, tell us, which country is the best regards to vegan food?
Actually I can say which country is the worst J because here in Usbekistan where I am finishing this interview, the offer for vegans is small, meat is almost in everything. But the best classic vegan meals are traditionally in the USA, UK and in most Asia countries. Raw vegan is the best in UK, the USA and Germany. I look forward to the time when such wide offer of raw vegan products will be available in the Czech Republic, too.
How do you see the situation around non-profit organizations which focus on animal rights in the Czech Republic? And which direction should their activities in the growth of awareness further go?
Personally I am in favor of positive promotion of veganism based on high quality visual and text materials. Focus group for us in Vegan Fighter is as large spectrum of people as possible, who have no, or little awareness about veganism, although continuous support of current vegans is also very important.
However concerning people who are not aware of alternatives, my experience is that they respond more to positive and non-violent information adapted to the type of person.
Commonly in form of inspiration, to show how veganism can look practically, how good can people on this diet feel and look, and not to hurt animals at the same time. I am not saying that this is the only way, definitely direct confrontation with animal suffering is very important, so people do not fall into the false feeling that everything is alright, or to, what I call, lifestyle veganism, from which the animals alone are excluded.
Concerning animal rights non-profit organizations in the Czech Republic… I am for further professionalism of outcomes, which should in ideal case be on such level which people are used to in the present. I know that it is hard, we all struggle with problems such lack of money and time, but I prefer fewer outcomes in higher quality. The times when people responded to signs on bed sheets are in my opinion gone :-)
Apart from veganism you also support feminism. How is this explosive combination, viewed by some conservative people around you taken? For instance pilots, who see themselves commonly in a macho way…
"Yes, I sense feminism very much…for male and female readers who might belong to conservative part, I remembered one story which happened to me recently in the shop. While waiting, I spotted main articles in one of the magazines “for women”: The dinner which makes him happy, What do they want us to know about sex, Why we cannot lose weight, What to do when man stops talking. After that, three men, about 40 years old, entered the shop. They examined me from top to bottom and they started to evaluate my looks. They started to contact me as some boys in puberty. When I was leaving I overheard: “You buy things for lunch? You don’t have wife for this at home?” “I have, she cooks…” “And she doesn’t have legs to bring these things?”
I think that this story perfectly portraits what is in our society wrong in this direction – defined division of roles and, more or less , towards the profits of only one sex.
Beside the “female magazines” there were of course “male magazines”, which accented maximum positive life experience, carelessness and sexual satisfaction. I think that women and men should have the same opportunity in life (and social support) for sexual satisfaction, playfulness, and life experience, and also the same chance to prepare dinners which will make the other happy – but only if they really want to.
And how is my opinion taken by conservatively thinking men in my surrounding, pilots? Sometimes these are interesting fights – visually I might fulfill the stereotype of “dumb blonde” for someone, however lot of my activities are more in the area of a “successful man” which sooner, or later solves the situations and we go out of our ways. And if not, and someone wants to have deeper debate about why I do martial arts and I don’t attend sewing coursesJ, I love to join the debate.
I would like to thank all men who have been able to see the society and the world around us as truly equal. And more thanks to those who have not lost their “male” side. And the same thanks go to women, because it is not easy to get out of all female stereotypes.
And one lighter question: what kinds of jokes have you heard the most – about weak vegans or about feminists? And can such jokes make you mad, or are you immune to them?
"More about feminists, because in our society veganism is not as knownJ.
And personally I cannot say that jokes about feminism, or other minor opinions entertain me. I agree with opinion of our Czech-American university professor who confessed that after returning from exile she was shocked how women in the Czech Republic laugh at jokes in which they are portrayed as silly hens. To a certain level it may show the ability of unworldliness and certain inner maturity on individual level, but I think that it is more unkind label of our society which tells us about the intolerance to other opinions and certain social backwardness – and this goes along with jokes about weak vegans, Amazons, or about any other minor opinions, or lifestyles.
And at the end, can you tell us the plans for the Vegan Fighter in the future?
“Certainly we want to continue in what we have begun and to add more active forms of promotion of veganism. We have had very good feedback towards our martial arts exhibitions which we had prepared, so we would like to continue in this. We also prepare more visual materials and videos and we will continue to find new, professional and original ways how to make people aware about the bad situation around rights and welfare of animals. We want to continue to support other topics, which are important for us, whether it is gender, racial or species equality and to show positivity of vegan lifestyle.
I dream about the world without animal suffering and that’s why I want to continue to inspire in further finding of the Strength in compassion.