Inspirational Animal Rights Activist: Sandee Stewart – We as Human Beings Have a Duty to Speak up Against any Injustice.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I live in Dallas, OR and work in Albany, and organize most of my activism events in Salem. I guess you could say I travel a lot for someone who hates driving.

I work for a wellness center in Albany as a certified medical assistant. It’s not a permanent career but I have learned so much in the last five years and am so grateful to be able to do what I do.

With my free time away from work, activism, and my obligations to my dog, I love to read, write about books, talk about books, buy more books, and look at my books. I think it’s safe to say books are one of my favorite things in the world.

Please share any links to your social sites here.

My personal page on Instagram is sandeestew88 where I post pictures of my fur babies, books I’m reading, and food I’m eating. All of my activism events/adventures/campaigns can be found at @salemanimalactivism on Instagram and Facebook. The facebook group for my chapter of Anonymous for the Voiceless is AV: Salem, OR, USA.

What lead you to veganism? How long ago?

I always look back five years ago when I watched a video on YouTube, Gary Yurofsky’s “The best speech you’ll ever hear” and it was indeed, the greatest speech I ever heard, in that it changed my life forever. I think of that time and that video as my turning point; the second the video ended I was vegan. But when I look back at my life, I realize how many seeds were planted along the way, and once I watered them, they bloomed. That’s why I am so passionate about planting seeds, being out there and having a presence, because while it might not turn everyone vegan on the spot, seeds are planted, and they have so much growth potential.

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

When I went vegan five years ago, I didn’t know what activism meant. It wasn’t a term really that I used or thought about. I’m not really sure why, maybe just because I wasn’t exposed to it, I didn’t know anyone who was an activist.

I was vegan for a few years and I whole heartedly believed that I was doing my best to stop suffering endured by animals.

One day a video came up on my Facebook newsfeed. I watched as one woman bravely marched into Safeway, confidently walked to the meat department, held up a sign, and with such bravery and might, she used her voice and presence to speak up for the animals. And she did it alone. It was so moving and yet again, a seed was planted. I remember thinking, “wow. I want to be like her. I want to speak up for the animals and affect change like that.”

That little seed sat for a few months.

In April of 2017, I was supposed to go to Washington D.C. to meet my cousin and attend March for Science. Unfortunately, a few days before I was supposed to leave the plans fell through and I was really crushed. I think only because of that I decided to attend the March for Science in Portland. I had never gone to a rally or march before, but the issue was something I was passionate about.

Then I saw that there was an event for a group of vegans who would be at the March for Science, but they would be there for the animals. I noticed the woman from the Safeway video was going to be there, so I decided to drive to Portland and attend this event.

I was scared, but I went.

I held a sign and we marched through the streets of Portland, chanting and speaking up for the animals. I can’t really describe the feelings that came over me during and after the march.
But I knew that I wanted more.

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

I find ways to be active for the animals on a daily or weekly basis. I either organize a protest or demo or I attend one.

I started my chapter of Anonymous for the Voiceless in Salem August 2017, and I do 2-3 cube of truth events a month.

I also work with Peta with campaigns they are doing. I’ve protested outside of AAA against SeaWorld, which they are a sponsor for. I’ve organized a protest in front of a busy ice cream shop on Mother’s Day to stand up for the cows and their babies.

Whatever I feel needs my attention, I organize a protest or demo or simply email the company.

I’ve done shop vegan demo’s outside of the Salem Mall, protested outside Portland Meadows horse track (and gone in and disrupted). There is always something that needs our attention.

I am also the founder/organizer of the group Salem Animal Activism, a group I created for all things activism related in and around Salem, Oregon. I use this group to post events/demos/protests and general support for fellow activists.

I do other types of activism as well. Last June when there was a nation-wide call to rally for the children being separated from their parents, I knew I had to do something. I organized a rally in Salem, and over a thousand people attended. I think I learned so much about myself and activism in the year prior to that rally that when the opportunity arose, I jumped at it and I knew that I could do it. Even though this was a much bigger event than I had ever organized, I knew that all my fears about failure meant less to me than the potential this rally had.

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

Before the March for Science event, I was feeling unsure about what was in store. I had never done anything like it, and also didn’t know anyone in my life who had done it. Everything was brand new and scary.

Before my first Cube of Truth demo, I had many questions. Why the masks? What are we doing? I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It turned out to have a huge impact in my life and has changed me in so many ways.

How did you feel once the event was over?

After my first Cube of Truth demo, I had so many thoughts racing through my mind. I stood perfectly still holding my heavy laptop which was playing scenes from slaughterhouses and farms. I stood there with a mask on my face, listening to horrific screams with tears running down my face for two hours before I took a break. I was physically worn but nothing like the emotional exhaustion from listening to the screaming animals. I had a lot to think about on the one and half hour drive home. I didn’t know if I wanted to go back. It was hard.

The organizer messaged me that I left my water bottle behind, he said I could get it next week.

I thought I would go one more time to get my water bottle back and to decide if this was something I could continue doing.

That second time was my first time doing public outreach, and it was then that I discovered what I really loved doing; talking to people one on one. Having open dialogue and conversations with people who are curious, people who have questions. After that, I drove three hours every Saturday to attend. Then, I started my own chapter.

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

Talking to people, just having a conversation with them. I always try to come across as understanding and non-judgmental. Once people realize that I’m not coming from a place of anger or superiority, they tend to be more receptive. I like to ask people who express interest in veganism what their biggest barrier or challenges are and then go from there. If they need to make baby steps, I encourage them to do whatever they can and then go from there. It all starts somewhere.

For the people who are curious but don’t care or want to go vegan, I ask questions to hopefully get them to challenge their thinking and behaviors on their own.

What has been your most memorable moment as an activist? Toughest moment?

Picture this: activists are lined up outside the circus. A family walked slowly past us, reading our signs and talking to a few activists about the abuse suffered by the circus animals. They continue to walk slowly towards the entrance.

And then.

They turned around, said they couldn’t go in. Everyone cheered and clapped. If all of us being out there just got one family to turn away; planted just one seed… That’s worth its weight in gold for me.

During that event, several people actually turned around and left, and we cheered all of them on.

There was also a time at one of my Cube of Truth events when I was talking to a woman who was eating a chicken sandwich. By some sort of luck, she stopped at a laptop that showed violence towards chickens. She watched for a few minutes and then we had a wonderful conversation. I did not judge her for eating that chicken sandwich but encouraged her that she could do better. I answered her questions and gave her resources. She walked over to the garbage can and threw away her sandwich and said she never wanted to eat animals again. She cried as she told me this and her husband who was with her was fully supportive and on board.

There have been so many moments like these, and they were all so beautiful and my best treasures that keep me going when being an activist gets hard.

What is your favorite type of activist event? For example, Cubes of Truth,

Marches, disruptions, writing letters, etc.

I think my favorite is Cube of Truth, it’s such a bold statement and people always stop to see what we are doing. I love protests and marches, I love chanting and being loud and bold for the animals. Disruptions make me feel brave. I don’t think I could ever choose just one though. I can say the hardest ones are bearing witness. I know it’s important, but it’s the costliest to my emotional energy.

Please recommend your favorite activism video/s, book/s or website/s to share?

I will forever recommend the YouTube video by Gary Yurokfsky “The Greatest Speech You Will Ever Hear”, which is the last video I watched before going vegan.

The Animal Activist Handbook
The World Peace Diet
A Diet For a New America
Beyond Beliefs
Rewilding Our Hearts
How to Create a Vegan World
Mind if I Order The Cheeseburger?
Beyond Animal Rights
Mad Cowboy
Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows
There’s more, but I had to limit the list to my favorites otherwise I’m afraid this would turn into a book club of some sort.

Some of my role models are Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, Dani Rukin (the lady from the Safeway video), Melanie Joy, Poffo (the organizer of Portland’s AV when I was attending), and so many others. I look up to all of the activists I know who fight daily for the animals. They inspire me the most.

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

For the food, I had to get rid of everything in my kitchen that came from an animal. I didn’t realize how much I had until I emptied my kitchen of all animal products. I packed it all up and gave it to my family. I didn’t want to eat it, but I also couldn’t throw it away. As for the cleaning products and makeup, that came later once I realized these items were tested on animals. I just stopped purchasing such products as a way of phasing them out. I don’t believe I had any clothing items that were animal-derived.

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

I do think it’s important to not lie to children about how these products came to be. When children approach us when we are showing footage, I let the parents know what we are showing and let them decide for their children. If they agree, I let them watch and have an age-appropriate conversation. I think it’s important for children to know the truth about these things but if their parents aren’t on board, I do not push the issue. I also believe that although kids should know the truth, it might be hard on them if they are in a household that does not allow them to follow through with their values. If they are very young and don’t want to contribute to animal exploitation but their parents are not on the same page, it can be very difficult to that child, especially when they cannot financially make their own decisions.

What does being vegan mean to you?

Being vegan means doing the best I can in every situation to not only not contribute to the suffering of animals, but to take an active stance against it. You can be active in many ways, you don’t have to disrupt Costco, chant in the streets, hold signs, etc. You can leaflet, put stickers on signs for people to see, write letters, contact your government, make calls, etc. We as human beings are all so different and have different skills and preferences. We all bring to the vegan table a unique set of experiences, skills, and knowledge and that’s a beautiful thing because the people who need to hear from us respond to different types of activism. We are all needed to make this movement great.

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

I think we as human beings have a duty to speak up against any injustice. Whether the victim is human or animal, white or black, woman or man. If we have a voice and we have the ability to do so, I encourage any and everyone to speak up.

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

I am certainly not perfect or even close to it. I mess up, I make mistakes. Sometimes I walk away from a conversation or event and beat myself up for how it went. I can always do better, and I can always improve. But I take those less-than-perfect conversations and events that didn’t go as planned and I learn from them.

I am not perfect, but I will never give up. I hope everyone continues to improve and not beat themselves up to the point of giving up, because then the animals will lose.

What is the activism scene like in your city?

I live in Dallas, but the events I organize are mostly in Salem, because it is bigger with more opportunities for foot traffic and conversations. It is very small right now, but I hope in the future it becomes bigger and better. There were no animal activism events happening in Salem before starting my group, but our presence has grown. I am familiar with many of the police officers in Salem because we have them showing up to many of our events, responding to calls. They usually stop by and we chat for a few moments before they leave. Sometimes now they just drive by and wave to us, our signal that someone has called them.

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

Try a little of everything and find what feels good to you. If attending your first activism event scares you, find someone who will meet up with you and go with you.

I know that if you post in the group event asking to go with someone, you will find many people who will happily go with you so you are not alone. I have never met kinder people than my activist friends.

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

Public speaking. I’m not sure if this will ever get better for me. Speaking to a few individuals is not a problem but speaking to a crowd of people terrifies me. I will continue to work on this and never back down from an opportunity to speak up for anyone because I am afraid, but I certainly can be better.

How do you balance your well being and activism?

I schedule at least one day a week for myself. Sometimes that’s a quiet day at home doing Pilates, drinking coffee, reading a book, and going for a long walk with my dog. That is all I need to feel completely recharged and ready to tackle the next event.

It’s also wonderful to spend time with friends who make me forget about my duties and do something completely unrelated to activism. But at the end of the day, alone time is something I need to re-center, recharge, and fill my cup.

Cruelty-Free Since 2002

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