Being Vegan, Vegan Being: Sandee Stewart – Animal Rights has Given Me the Path to Figuring Out My Role in the World

Tell us a little about yourself. Where you live, what you do for a living.

I live in Dallas, OR and work in Albany at a wellness center. I recently started school again because I would like to pursue a career in dietetics. Between work and now school, I don’t have a lot of free time especially since starting a chapter of Anonymous for the Voiceless in Salem, OR which I love dearly. When I do get some free time, I swallow whole any book I can get my hands on. I also enjoy taking my 80-pound fur baby on adventures, whether that’s around the neighborhood, the dog park, or a hike.

What was the moment you realized that you wanted to go vegan?

I always say it was the second I finished watching Gary Yurofsky’s video on youtube, “The best speech you will ever hear“. But really, when I look back, I realize my journey to becoming vegan started long before that. I think of all the people that I encountered along the way, some of the most impactful things said to me were by nonvegans, coworkers, professors, and even my own conscious telling me I could do better.

That video was indeed my turning point. I finished watching it around 1:30 am and I remember going into my kitchen and taking everything out of the cupboard that was not vegan. It was startling to me how many food products I had that contained some sort of animal part and I had to face that I had been contributing to their suffering. It was very painful to go through.

Later, I cleaned the refrigerator and freezer and gave the food away. I couldn’t throw it away, I just felt like that would be even more insulting to animals. With my kitchen cleaned of all animal products, I couldn’t help but think: now what? That night I typed into google “vegan cookbook” and ordered the first one that popped up. At that point in my life, I’m not sure if I was even skilled at boiling water, so I thought a cookbook was a great start.

How long have you been vegan?

April 2 will be four years vegan.

Why is being vegan important to you?

It’s always been important for me to stand up for what I believe in. Being vegan to me means telling the world that killing animals or using them in any way is unjustified. I am taking a moral stance that most people I encounter do not take. Since becoming vegan, I have truly found my voice and passion. I am usually very quiet and reserved, I don’t like to speak in public or have any attention focused on me. Becoming vegan has forced me out of my shell, out of my comfort zone into a place that I never imagined myself being. I think when you find some reason outside of yourself that’s important, it’s easier for you to do things that were at one point quite challenging. I always believed there was much work to be done in the world and becoming vegan and then becoming active in animal rights has given me a pathway into figuring out my role in that.

Any recommended vegan books?

How much time do you have? I cherish books, they are my comfort, my safe place, my best go to for entertainment. So, I have a lot of recommendations for books but I’ll try to narrow it down.

On health:

Whole by T. Colin Campbell
The Starch Solution by Dr. McDougall
Diet for a new America by John Robins
How Not To Die by Dr. Michael Greger (my favorite)

On activism:

The Animal Activist’s Handbook
Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows by Melanie Joy
Dominion by Matthew Scully


Mind if I order the cheeseburger? By Sherry F. Colb
The Good Good pig by Sy Montgomery
The World Peace Diet
The short story “Blue” in the book Living By the Word by Alice Walker
Rewilding our hearts

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Recommended sites

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau podcasts: food for thought and animalogy

Favorite movie/video

Forks over knives, Food Inc., Food Matters, Okja

Do you actively promote veganism?

Every single day, I find a way to inspire or promote veganism. At first, I struggled with finding ways to promotive veganism, but after a while, it has become second nature, and I’m not sure how that happened exactly.

Early last year I went to my first event involving animal rights. I went to the March for Science in Portland with a group of activists. Instead of marching for science, we marched for animals. The experience was so incredible, and it really inspired me to do more for the animals. A little later on, I was invited to the cube of truth in Portland. I had never heard of it before but I decided to give it a try. My first experience with volunteering with the group Anonymous for the Voiceless was challenging. I held my laptop, which was playing a loop footage of slaughterhouses along with audio, for three hours. I had on a mask, and for that I was grateful. I got to see people’s reaction to the videos as they walked by, and hear the interaction between these people and the vegan outreach talking to them. I remember crying along with them, moved by their reactions and horrified as I listened to animals being hurt. By the end, I was emotionally and physically exhausted and wasn’t sure what to think about it. I didn’t think I would go back but something told me I would.

The next week I was again invited, this time by the organizer. I went again the very next week, this time deciding to be on outreach and talk to the public. That was when I discovered my love for it. Like I mentioned, I’ve never been good with talking to people I don’t know, or with public speaking; but for some reason, doing outreach sparks something inside of me that I had previously never encountered. And I kept going back, every week, even though it is over an hour drive each way. A few months later I was introduced to the idea of starting my own chapter in a city close to where I live (thanks, mom). I immediately rejected that idea because no way could I ever do something so brave and fearless. I shoved that idea way back in my mind and tried to move on from it.

It kept coming to the front of my mind, and as I vocalized it I was surprised by the encouragement I got. I started my own chapter for Anonymous for the Voiceless in September. I absolutely love talking to people about veganism and how to go vegan and I love that people see me as someone they can go to for advice. I find ways to promotive veganism every day, and it seems at this point, effortless. I’ve given gas station attendants vegan starter kits, I’ve written messages in chalk in huge writing outside of my house, and brought tofu into work at the request of my meat-loving coworker. These things bring me so much joy.

What is your favorite vegan meme?

I showed this to my coworker and we had a good laugh 🙂 I also love anything with Kermit.

What is the vegan stereotype you hear the most and how do you respond to it?

“Vegans only eat twigs”

I think I hear this most from my coworkers, and it always makes me laugh. Once my coworker said she was going to the store and asked if I wanted anything, then added, “I could get some bark off a tree for you…?” I counter this by bringing in delicious food for them to try. I brought in some tofu for my coworker and she loved it so much she begs me every day to make her more. They still make the jokes though 🙂

What’s your favorite vegan restaurant?

I do not have a favorite–certainly haven’t tried all of the vegan restaurants around Portland. The ones I have tried have all been great.

Favorite vegan recipe?

Kung Pao Cauliflower:

Some encouraging words for new vegans?

None of us are perfect, and this is all a learning experience.

What does living cruelty-free mean to you?

It means making choices every day that might not be as convenient but means that I am doing my best to not contribute to anyone else’s suffering. I definitely was not aware how much animals are exploited until I went vegan, and even then, it was a learning process. From cleaning products to makeup and even laundry soap. If it means I have to go to four different stores to find a cruelty-free item, so be it.

What are your favorite vegan non-food products or companies?

Vegetaryn, she has the best vegan shirts!

What is the toughest vegan item to find that you need?

I have never found graham crackers that do not contain honey. I think I stopped looking a few years ago. (I don’t need graham crackers though)

Talk about a time when you struggled with veganism?

I’m not sure if I ever struggled with veganism itself, with things like cravings, shopping, or eating out. The only thing I sometimes struggle with is handling situations with nonvegans–whether that’s at family gatherings or trying to find the best way to respond to people that seem angry. I think it’s a learning process though and I am still figuring it out as I go along, and I learn more and more every day about the best way to respond to people. I still mess up though and say the wrong thing that I later wish I could change. Another thing that is difficult at times for me is seeing the amount of suffering happening every second of every day and wanting so desperately to make the world change. Unfortunately, it’s going to take time.

What is one question you would ask other vegans?
I do not have a question, rather, a statement. I have met some truly wonderful, inspiring, caring, intelligent people since becoming vegan and then after that, becoming an animal rights activist. They are so beautiful inside and out and I am a better person for knowing them, and for that, I am thankful.

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