Inspirational Animal Activists: Danielle West – Find What Lights Your Fire and Get to Work!

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Danielle (Dani). I’m originally from the Metro Detroit area, I lived in Los Angeles for six years before I headed up to the PNW to be closer to my family and nature! I am a nanny and a student at Oregon State University pursuing a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Conservation (a degree my activism and love for animals came from)!

Please share any links to your social sites here.

Facebook: Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants

What lead you to veganism? How long ago?

I was a vegetarian for almost a decade before I went vegan; it was my love for animals and hate for animal agriculture that lead me to veganism. I have been full vegan for a year!

Tell us about our journey to activism? Why are you an activist?

I have always been an animal lover and have always used my voice without hesitation for them. A year ago, I went on a trip to Thailand and I visited my favorite animals, elephants, at a sanctuary there (Elephant Nature Park)- It was here that I knew my life’s purpose was to be a voice for these animals…not just sometimes or when the ‘issues’ smacked me in the face, but forever, full time, all the time. It was in Thailand that my life changed. I came home to Portland, OR and got involved with Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants right away…I became vegan. I became…Elephant Dani 😉

What type of activism are you involved in? Please feel free to share the groups you participate in.

My main group is Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants. The founder, Courtney Scott started this nonprofit for Packy, an elephant born, raised and killed at the Oregon Zoo. He didn’t deserve the cruel life captivity offers and neither do the five elephants suffering there now. I also work closely with Sea Shephard as the Southern Resident Killer Whales are declining in numbers and the Chinook Salmon population is almost gone completely. How can I let these whales starve in my own backyard? I work with other groups when I have the time, any group from Portland [Lab] Animal Save, Direct Action Everywhere, to doing Vegan outreach…I support any and all voices for any and all animals!

What were your thoughts and feelings before your first activism event?

I think my thoughts and feelings have always aligned with my fellow activists. My first event was like meeting God. Coming home. They’ve all blurred together now and I can’t even remember what my very first activism event was…but I remember the feeling. The feeling of being with my people and using my loud-mouth for the best intentions!

How did you feel once the event was over?

Refreshed, rejuvenated, alive, proud.

How do you feel you are most effective as an activist?

I’m most effective by using my voice (aka. loudmouth)…I run social media for FOZE (Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants)..and I help to connect local people and people all over the world with the Oregon Zoo, I help bring a collective voice together to let the zoo and Oregon Metro (local branch of government that oversees the zoo) the elephants being enslaved there need to be relocated to a sanctuary. I think I’m most effective because I’m angry, loud and serious about animal liberation! I’m also kind of ‘mean’ 😉

What’s been your most memorable moment as an activist? Toughest moment?

A recent memory that I’m proud of was forcing the zoo to announce questions being asked about the condition of one of the elephants. When I reached out myself, they ignored me. But when I had over a hundred people emailing the zoo and metro about it, they put out a press release two days later before they intended to. Taxpayers have the right to know what’s going on with animals we pay to keep enslaved and exploited. FOZE was also successful in banning the we feel like we’ve failed…when animals we are fighting for pass away or I don’t accomplish something I’ve set out to…I’ve lost sleep over the suffering of others. I always will.

What is your favorite type of activist event?

I love a good protest/outreach and I love disruptions! Education is key and the reason I like disruptions (aside from the fact that I’m kind of an asshole) is because people don’t realize the disruption, they cause in lives every single day…for me to ‘disrupt’ your grocery shopping for meat and dairy is a direct disruption of your disruption of life. BYE!

Who are your activism role models?

Any documentary or book you can find about animal liberation, diet, etc. that exposes the truth is well worth the time to watch/read. I obviously think everyone should follow and fight for Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants because Elephants are so important to our planet and so incredibly sentient, smart and vital. My activism role models would be Courtney Scott (founder of FOZE) and Michelle Siedleman (Sea Shepherd-Portland Chapter), Dani Rukin (The daring vegan), Chelsea Davis (Veggies do it better) and countless other folx I stand beside and fight with!

When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?

I either finished them or threw them out…I have donated any food/cosmetics/cleaners/etc. that weren’t vegan/cruelty free!

Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into products?

Absolutely. Children are not stupid, and they are not mindless….a lot of children are smarter and more compassionate than their adult counterparts…Let them make their own connections. The truth cannot be hidden forever. I wish I knew when I was young and I wish I had the choice to say ‘no thank you’ to cruelty!

What does being vegan mean to you?

Being vegan means being compassionate. Respecting our Mother Earth and my own body. To ingest the cruelty that comes with dairy and meat is to ingest that violence, murder, fear, drugs/toxins, etc. I do not want the suffering of any individual to be part of me in my way. Being vegan means being CLEAN and GOOD!

Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist? What form of activism do you take part in?

I think being vegan itself makes you an activist. However, though I wish we had more voices, I think to be a activist takes a special kind of strength and soul that I don’t think everybody has. And that’s OK! My job is not to turn people into activists, my job is to educate them and try to guide them to a more compassionate, greener, healthier way of living!

Are you the activist you want to see in the world? Why?

I believe so! I am going back to school at 30 years old because saving animals and this planet means that much to me. And I’m frankly sick of pro-cruelty people saying, “ If you don’t have a degree you can’t comment”…ok, Linda with your zoology degree- I will get a degree and I will crush your bullshit with my DEGREE-GIVEN-KNOWLEDGE! OK!? Ok! BYE!

What is the activism scene like in your city?

Fortunately, Portland, OR has an activism scene made for legends! Everyone I work with is incredible! I only wish there were more of us and I kind of wish more activists came to FOZE protests but we’re grateful for all we can get and try to support everyone else’s mission as well!

What personal recommendations can you make for people to get involved in activism?

Find what lights your fire? Is it farm animals? Is it Elephants? Animal testing? Captivity? Whales? Conservation? Diet? Find where your passion lies and go for it! Reach out to people in the community (like me!) and get to work! You won’t regret it!

What do you feel is your biggest area of opportunity for growth in your activism?

I think I have a lot yet to learn! I consider all my activist fellows my mentors. There’s always room to learn and grow and I know I will evolve and change…but I know. I’ll always be an activist and voice.

How do you balance your well-being and activism?

This was a tough one when I started activism and I learned the hard way about activist burn out pretty quickly. It’s important to take care of yourself…listen to your body and rest when you need to. It’s easy to take on the feelings of the ones we give voices to but it’s important to take care of you so that you can continue to fight! Whether that’s an early bedtime, a bath a couple times a week, mediation, therapy, reading, etc. I love to snuggle with my dogs and cat, and spend quality time with me (I’m great and enjoy my own company and get grumpy if I don’t get time with me- everyone should feel this way about themselves!)

Therapy is a great option to improve your well-being.  One great platform is BetterHelp. They are an excellent resource to find help near you. 

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