Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Emily DesJardins and I am a Vegan Activist fighting for the planet, human and nonhuman animals in the San Luis Obispo area. In SLO we have a rich culture for animal exploitation. Which lead me to becoming an Organizer for Anonymous for the Voiceless, The Save Movement, and a member of Direct Action Everywhere. I work part time at Happy Hen Animal Sanctuary and am a Licensed Integrative Health Coach! My goal is to help people become vegan and become active for veganism. This planet and the animals need us to speak up for them. To create change this is not only sustainable, but compassionate. My intention is to use my knowledge to help empower others by making the shift, taking action, and empowering others. Follow Emily here on Instagram @emilyfortheanimals
What lead you to veganism? How long ago?
At 18 years old, I began to go plant-based for my health on September 27th, 2015. Then on January 1st, 2016, I became vegan for the planet and the animals. When I approached veganism, I wasn’t aware of how ethical and eco-friendly it was. It was the documentaries Cowspiracy and Earthlings that opened my eyes to the true meaning of vegan. I have never looked back and have been vegan for 3 + happy years!
Tell us about our journey to activism?
In March of 2016, I became extremely angry and outraged about the reality that I was unknowingly paying into. I began to make some vegan flyers discussing thought provoking questions, pictures, graphs, documentaries, and facts about the animals, the planet, and our health. I put these up all over the San Luis Obispo County, and even got to do some outreach while I was doing so! It felt amazing to do something about this issue, but I didn’t stay with it for too long. I didn’t have any vegan friends or a support system that pushed and encouraged me to continue taking action like that. So I did a more silent version of activism. I would draw a lot of art that flipped the perspective onto humans. I also spent most of this time reading and learning about veganism and the impacts of a Standard American Diet. Eventually, I moved out and into a home with my boyfriend Nate Zak. From there, I was only encouraged to take action. I went to the first ever SLO Veg Fest in February of 2018 and found out about Anonymous for the Voiceless. Nate and I began to go to the cubes and explore street activism. There I met my great friend Zoe Rosenburg and found out about Direct Action Everywhere. It sparked some serious inspiration in me. So much inspiration, I began the San Luis Obispo Chapter for Anonymous for the Voiceless. In April of 2018, my dear friend Cici Carolina and I attended the LA Veg Fest, and we had a blast! After the Veg Fest, was a Vigil held by the Save Movement at the Farmer John Slaughterhouse in Vernon. I had never been or even heard about such things. So Cici and I went to check it out. Once there, they asked for those whose first time it was, to come up. A truck crammed full of baby 6-month-old pigs came to a stop, in the middle of the road, feet away from the entrance to the slaughterhouse. Once stopped, everyone who had a water sprayer or water bottle, ran up to give the babies water. They had been traveling from the east coast or mid-west states, meaning they had not been given food or water for sometimes 3 days. Let alone gotten off of that truck. Everyone who is loaded on a slaughter truck, only comes out to get killed and chopped up to be sold. I had never seen someone moments before being murdered. Realizing their fate as I met someone, I couldn’t contain myself. I am honestly glad I didn’t try to, because we need to feel our emotions. The pain I felt for those babies, sparked an anger inside of me that I couldn’t shake to this day. It inspired me to take serious action. So, in May of 2018, I attended the Animal Liberation Conference and my life changed forever. There I learned the importance of direct nonviolent action. I learned the drastic need for these types of action. I became great friends with so many lovely people and was inspired beyond belief just by being there. I attended classes full of learning and amazing people, went to vigils where I saw chickens being pulled out of crates and hung upside down on conveyer-belt about to get their neck slit. We took over San Francisco with cubes of truth on almost every block. We even had a 100-person cube! We marched through the streets of San Fran demanding action for animals. Then the last day came. Direct Action everywhere did their first ever mass open rescue and rescued 37 chickens from Sunrise Farms in Petaluma, CA. Such historic events with the most compassionate and amazing people. This conference and the people helped me become who I am today. Without the community, I don’t know where I would be today. After the conference, I came back to SLO with so much passion, drive, and action, I took the Liberation Pledge and soon began the SLO Save chapter. We must take action. Our own actions of not consuming animals and their secretions will not be enough to change this world. We must come together and speak up for those whose voices are silenced. Together, we are unstoppable.
Why are you an activist?
I am an activist because I want this world to change. I don’t stand for oppression, discrimination, or cruelty of any kind. My actions alone make a difference but won’t change this world. They can, however, inspire others. I take action to empower people to make the connection and become active for the Earth, human and nonhuman animals.
What type of activism are you involved in?
I love all forms of activism. In the San Luis Obispo area, I am a Co-Organizer for Anonymous for the Voiceless, and the Organizer of the SLO Save Chapter as well as an active member with Direct Action Everywhere. I am also using Social Media as a form of activism.
What were your thoughts and feelings before your first activism event?
My first ever activism event, I had made vegan flyers and put them all around San Luis Obispo. So before hand, I made flyers and was printing them out at my house. I had gotten teased for making them and criticized for my quest. That left me to feel alone, small, and very nervous. I didn’t let their comments hold me back. The suffering of animals, the dire issue of global warming, and the life threatening diseased most people are getting, inspired me to push myself out of my comfort zone and do something about it.
How did you feel once the event was over?
This action left me feeling empowered, motivated, and determined. I was also really nervous at the time because I didn’t have a support system and also didn’t know how to talk to people about veganism.
How do you feel you are most effective as an activist?
I feel most effective by sharing my activism online. Social Media is the most powerful tool all social justice movements have. We can reach a vast majority more than those in the present. People can share, interact, and spark conversations over a photo or video that can be seen multiple times. It is very effective and more efficient work.
What’s been your most memorable moment as an activist? Toughest moment?
My most memorable and my toughest moments were at the Animal Liberation Conference in 2018. I had the best time of my life and had some of the most heart breaking. The most amazing people, actions and learning, community, and saving animals. I couldn’t have asked for more. The tough part of the conference was going to my first ever chicken vigil. I first hand saw chickens being ripped out of cages and hung upside down from their legs. They were hanging from thin metal bars holding them by their ankles. I had watched many of them, struggle and try to pull themselves up. They knew what was coming. I saw crate after crate, crammed tight with individuals, all in line to die. This is the real-life horror movie 100,000s of birds experience every day. Most times, they are only 6 weeks old.
What is your favorite type of activist event?
My favorite type of activism is online. It is very effective and powerful. The internet is the reason I am vegan. It was documentaries and youtube channels that helped me get to where I am today. We can share things to a vast majority of people, creating a community to empower others. We can also reach those who are not necessarily vegan but looking for those things. It is the strongest tool we have in the movement.
Please recommend your favorite activism video/s, book/s or website/s to share?
My favorite activism videos are going to be Amazing Vegan Outreach by Alex Bez because he has really helped me improve my outreach. I feel that I am connecting to people more now when talking about veganism. I have so many books I need to read, but right now my favorite book is Comfortably Unaware by Dr. Richard Openlander. My favorite vegan app is Happy Cow. They have helped me find so many vegan options and vegan restaurants all over. I was able to find a few all vegan restaurants when I was in Costa Rica in 2018!
Who are your activism role models?
Oh! I have so many. I am so grateful to all of the amazing people out there who are working so hard for the movement. I love you all. Some of the people who really inspire me are Zoe Rosenburg, Sherstin Rosenburg, Nate Zak, Peace by Vegan, Earthling Ed, Hudson Tarlow, and All of the amazing people working with DXE
When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?
When I first began to notice that the clothing, I was wearing was someone’s skin, was me looking down at my Nike Air’s. I could see the pores of the skin and became so horrified that I couldn’t put them on my feet. I donated them to people in need. They wouldn’t be sold, but rather given away. Today, I may have buried the individual who turned into a shoe. I didn’t give away my animal clothing because I didn’t want people to wear them and condone of people doing so. It’s not about my personal choice but rather the personal choice of the cow who didn’t want to die for a fashion statement.
Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into products?
I believe everyone has the right to know where their “food” comes from. At two years old, I met a pig. I fell so in love with them. If I been told that the bacon, salami, ham, and sausage I was eating was made out of them and had been shown how it was done, I would have been vegan from the start. I wish someone had told me. I wish I didn’t live comfortably unaware of the harm I was unknowingly causing to innocent people. I tell kids how it is. At 5 years old, I may not show them the footage, but I would not lie to them. Over 5 years old, I would defiantly show them if they wanted to see. If I was younger and I had the chance to learn, I would have chosen to be vegan from a very young age. I could have saved myself of years of poisoning my body, hurting animals, and contributing to deprivation of the planet.
What does being vegan mean to you?
To me, being vegan means causing as little harm as possible. I do not kill bugs and bee’s. I do not patronize vegan companies owned by non-vegan parent companies. Since becoming vegan, I have learned to be more compassionate to people. It has really strengthened some of my relationships.
Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?
Yes. I encourage everyone to take a stand for the animals, the planet, and our health. If everyone who was vegan became active, we could see serious change happen and fast. I take part in Anonymous for the Voiceless, The Save Movement, Direct Action Everywhere and SLO Climate Reality Project.
Are you the activist you want to see in the world?
Yes, but I can be better. I am always learning about ways I can better my activism and reach. Im not perfect. I wont be able to reach everyone, but I can reach and empower many to take action. I embody the action needed to create the world I want to live in. It is because of that, that I am the change I wish to see. Making me the activists I want to see.
What is the activism scene like in your city?
The Activism scene in SLO is growing and becoming stronger and stronger! We are having new attendees all the time. The people are amazing.
What personal recommendations can you make for people to get involved in activism?
To find their local chapter for Anonymous for the Voiceless. It’s a great way to get involved in activism. You can be in the cube presenting the footage and observe people reactions, and/or swap out with outreaches and talk to the public about veganism. AV is the perfect way to get your feet wet as an activist. Great community building, and a great way to play on your level of comfort in activism.
What do you feel is your biggest area of opportunity for growth in your activism?
My biggest area of opportunity for growth is learning how to extend my reach to people. I am also working on how to communicate most effectively. Especially online.
How do you balance your well being and activism?
I have put myself around people who lift and encourage me to continue what I am doing. I make sure I find time to do something, and relax. Like make art!