Lauren Maddox with Anita Dongre (left)



British actress Lauren Maddox felt spiritually connected to animals from a young age and felt they had souls.

She was a vegetarian and later became a vegan after seeing the cruelty animals endured and then attended vigils outside slaughterhouses with leading activist Anita Krajnc from the Save Movement to see the suffering first hand.

This led to Lauren balancing an acting career with becoming a dedicated activist who speaks openly about animal cruelty.

Today the English-born actress, who is attached to several mainstream US feature films, is raising awareness about the cruel practice of killing of animals and promoting healthy eating through veganism. Lauren is also shooting various documentaries globally, including in Mumbai, where she met activists, entrepreneurs and celebrity vegans.

Eastern Eye caught up with Lauren to talk about animal rights, the rise of veganism in India, her star-studded Mumbai trip and her future plans.

Tell us about your connection to animal rights?
I know that on a cellular level, if we eat meat, we literally ‘eat the pain and suffering’ that vibrate in the cells of the sentient beings who are killed, simply to satisfy a craving for flesh that humans feel. It is done only because of habit. We are omnivores, so before fire, we were simply supposed to eat plant-based food that has all the nourishment, protein, vitamins and minerals our bodies need. So I can’t ignore what is going on with the obliteration of kind, sacred animals on the planet. I know that we are all animals and all have the right to live, but some don’t understand that and choose to take innocent lives.

Why are you vegan instead of a vegetarian?
Paul McCartney quite rightly raised the idea that ‘if slaughterhouses were made of glass, wouldn’t we all become vegetarian?’ I know that if we all came to bear witness to the suffering of farmed animals, we would all go vegan instantly, as the sight and sound of the pain are heart-wrenching.

You are also against dairy…
Dairy causes pain to animals. It also adds to killing humans around the world through lactose intolerance allergies, blood clots and acidity. Just imagine, if we were to eat our own hacked up body parts wrapped up in cellophane and sold at a supermarket. Would we eat flesh, then? We must alter perception in relation to humans looking at other species of animals differently and unite.

How has becoming vegan helped you?
It has helped me in a way that today I know what I need to do for the rest of my life and that is to guide others into veganism. My inner fire, passion and conviction are so strongly against the suffering and pain of animals that I will help open the eyes of others to this through various mediums, including my film work.

How are you using your first-hand film knowledge to help raise awareness concerning animal protection?
I will use my words and films as a medium to help awaken consciousness and to help open eyes concerning the protection of all life, and especially farmed animals who are innocent. I want to inspire all to come to the Save Movement vigils to see the truth first-hand. We must all get as close to suffering as possible and not turn away.

What inspired you to shoot a documentary series in India?
India has, by far, the largest vegetarian population in the world. I wanted to reveal how the vegan movement is taking off in India ahead of the Save Movement launching there. I wanted to meet like-minded activists, celebrities, restaurant owners and those making a difference like Palak Mehta, the CEO and founder of the pioneering publication Vegan First. I also wanted to see what it was like for animals on the streets, including many abandoned ones.

Tell us about the footage you shot in Mumbai?
The footage I shot was for Anita Krajnc’s Save Movement and also to use for my animal activism documentary Bear Witness, which is going forward to Netflix later this year and for my vegan TV series Kind Planet, which is being filmed around the world. I was able to interview so many interesting people including owners of vegan restaurants like Farmer’s Café, Sequel and Bird Song. I also spoke to vegan Indian celebrities like singer Monika Dogra, fashion designer Anita Dongre, TV superstar Nakuul Mehta and actress Sneha Ullal. It was also a great pleasure to interview Bollywood star, humanitarian and UN Goodwill Ambassador Dia Mirza.

Tell us more about the Mumbai trip?
I learned how veganism is spreading in India, through entrepreneurs, activists, celebrities and everyday people wanting to adopt a healthier lifestyle. I also wanted to show the horrific conditions of farmed animals in India, which most won’t be aware of, so that the world may begin to ‘awaken’ to the cruelty. I think many would instantly turn vegan if they saw the cruelty as they could see themselves in the eyes of the other animals, who were about to be killed.

What else did you learn from the various people you interviewed?
I learned so much including about the strong vegan female entrepreneurial movement in Mumbai and across India where women, who know it’s wrong to kill, are standing up for farmed animals. They are helping to guide others. I am immensely proud of these women for furthering the mindset of non-violence, which I know will lead to a more peaceful planet. There are also so many amazing activists making a difference. I also saw the darker side where animals are treated cruelly.

Tell us, is there any one interview that was the most memorable?
Palak Mehta’s interview was incredible. The amazing woman is making a real difference with her articles, activism and the way she is positively changing ideas towards veganism, as well as highlighting the positive progression happening around India. Speaking to grassroots activists making a difference was amazing because they really are the unsung heroes. I am also thankful to the amazing stars for giving their time. We need more people like that.

How is veganism growing in India?
Veganism is beginning to spread across India, thanks to the amazing entrepreneurs, activists and celebrities raising awareness, including the health benefits. Today Virat Kohli is the biggest celebrity in India, including being the number one sportsman and he has adopted the vegan lifestyle, which just shows how much it is growing. More people are adopting a cruelty-free mindset in everything they do.

What do you see is the future of veganism and animal rights in India?
Although seeing a lot of the animal cruelty was upsetting, I came back from India feeling very positive and can see a real change happening. India is already ahead of the world in that it has the highest vegetarian population and now they are opening up to the health benefits of veganism. I hope more get educated about why not to eat meat, about how badly animals are treated across India and about healthy vegan alternatives. Someone like Harish Shetty, who runs Aharveda in Mumbai, has many of the answers. Harish became vegan when he got ill and it changed his life so positively in every regard including healing his body. The Save Movement is currently spreading around the world and I see them making a real change in India.

This was your first trip to India. What did you most like about the country?
I liked the progressive nature of many women, there in Mumbai. Their strong character and mindset were so uplifting. I think women will be the real changemakers in India and around the world in future.

What are your favourite vegan dishes?
My favourite vegan dishes are organic salads. There is such a wide variety to choose from. I also love to make raw spinach quiche, which is absolutely divine in taste and texture. I love making dates, cocoa and walnut treats, which are so easy to prepare.

What are the main health benefits of vegan food?
The main health benefits of vegan food are that the ingredients are alkaline and not acidic, so will help prevent disease including in the gut. Apart from being unethical, meat is acidic and harmful to health. Vegan food is packed with beneficial vitamins, fibre, minerals and antioxidants. And it is ethical.

Is it easy to balance your professional work with your activism?
Balancing my acting work with my activism is something I enjoy. They are interlinked and at the forefront of my mind each day. I have some exciting film and TV projects on the way. I have been shooting the documentary Bear Witness in the US, Canada and most recently in Mumbai and vegan TV series Kind Planet. The documentary will air later in 2019; the series has just begun filming. But I also know how important activism is in my life. I will do everything I can to make a positive difference. I am moving closer towards my personal goals of helping shift the mindset on the planet of animal protection and veganism.

What inspires you?
The souls of animals inspire me to get up every day to make a positive change in the world. Their souls inspire me to help create a more peaceful world where humans can co-exist with other species of animals. I have made a promise to stand up for all of the innocent animals who cannot stand up for themselves and be a voice for them. I hope one day we all stand up for these animals, moment by moment.