Stephanie Gray Winnard
Educator, Yoga Instructor, Activist
SS: What made you go vegan and why?
SGW: I went vegan because as a social justice activist, living vegan is the most profoundly powerful political statement I can make against a globally dysfunctional and harmful food system as well as the institutionalized exploitation of animals for human entertainment, clothing, and experimentation. Being vegan is the most effective and consistent action I can take to bring about positive change for animal rights, human rights, and environmental justice. Practicing veganism is the most fundamental way to work for a nonviolent world and true peace for all. I am vegan because I strive to authentically embody my values of compassion, kindness, and nonviolence.
SS: Has it been difficult for you ? If yes what was difficult and did it get easier?
SGW: While there have been a few challenges along the way, practicing veganism has overall been a genuine joy and one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. The minor challenges I have faced are nothing compared to the agonizing torture millions of animals endure every single day for human profit. The little bumps in the road along the way are miniscule compared to the millions of people starving around the world due to misallocating grain from feeding people to feeding livestock. The small difficulties I have encountered pale in comparison to the millions of people and animals who are already suffering tremendously from the far reaching effects of global warming. I actually embrace and even relish the small hurdles I occasionally must surmount regarding my vegan lifestyle because my focus is on the final outcome of a better world for all.
SS: What are some animal rights related things that you participate in?
SGW: I believe in speaking out and expressing dissent against animal cruelty, publicly pressuring the abusers to stop their immoral behavior, and spreading awareness regarding atrocities being committed so that we may be a civilized, peaceful society. I am passionate about speaking out for those who have no voice, the vulnerable, the defenseless, and the innocent. I have attended protests targeting the Farmer John Slaughterhouse, the fur industry, Wal-Mart’s inhumane treatment of pigs, McDonald’s cruel torture of chickens, Ringling Brother’s abuse of elephants, and the Taiji dolphin massacres and the abduction and selling of cetaceans into a life of slavery and captivity at marine parks, to name a few of the causes I am involved in. I also boycott palm oil and do not purchase any food or products containing palm oil due to the socially irresponsible palm oil industry’s contributions to deforestation and the impending extinction of the Sumatran orangutan as well as many other species. I have protested the multinational corporation Monsanto who is no friend to farm animals or to wildlife with their genetically modified crops they feed to livestock, their growth hormones injected into farm animals, and their dangerous pesticides such as DDT which nearly caused the extinction of our birds of prey population, to name a few of their crimes against animals.
SS:What are your favorite animal rights organizations?
SGW: Some of my favorite animal rights organizations include Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Mercy for Animals, Last Chance for Animals, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Compassion Over Killing, and the Sea Shepherds.
SS: What would you say to somebody who is considering going vegan?
SGW: To anyone considering going vegan, I say, “Do it, now!” While some encourage taking your time and gradually transitioning with baby steps, I say that the animals, the starving children, our warming planet, and future generations do not have time for your baby steps. These are urgent times with severe problems for all which call for immediate, dramatic, collective action. I encourage all to announce they are vegan and to wholeheartedly embrace this lifestyle and change for the common good now. Veganism is the most positive, inclusive, significant social movement of our time. Don’t wait another second to be a force for good in this world!
SS: Do you have any memories that stand out in your mind about someone saving an animal? Or relating to an animal in any way?
SGW: While visiting Costa Rica, I was able to spend much time and interact with rescued orphaned monkeys and raccoons. These animals had lost their mothers due to various reasons, but the root cause was human encroachment on their habitats. Here in California where I live, I have enjoyed visiting rescued seals and sea lions at the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro as well as the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna. Engaging with the rescued farm animals at the Gentle Barn in Santa Clarita has been a most moving memory for me. As far as relating to animals, I primarily enjoy animals by observing them in their natural habitats. I love snorkeling and I have been lucky enough to swim amongst seals, manatees, rays, nurse sharks, reef sharks, leopard sharks, hundreds of fish species, turtles and so many other magnificent sea creatures. I have swum by dolphins right off the beach in the Pacific Ocean, and seen them happily frolicking in the waves, free as they should be. I have seen a whale breech off of La Paz, Mexico, as well as seeing whales off the coast of California, in the wild where they belong. One of my most magical moments was spotting an endangered fresh water dolphin in the Ganges River at sunrise while travelling in India.I enjoy the outdoors and the highlight for me is always when we are lucky enough to spot wildlife. I value and appreciate all animals. I dream that one day we humans can choose to live in peace with all beings that we share this planet with.