An incredible voice for the voiceless has passed away and will be remembered forever amongst her fellow activists and other comrades.
Diane Gandee Sorbi passed away after surgery and we all grieve from the loss of a powerful voice who wasn’t afraid to take action and speak out against animal agriculture.
I myself have always had a lot of respect for her and all she has helped accomplish within the vegan animal rights community. She smiled and laughed in a way that put you at ease and strengthened everyone’s resolve to fight for liberation.
My own interactions with her were always uplifting and left me with hope and happiness. She worked closely with DxE (Direct Action Everywhere) and as such, the co-founder of DxE Wayne Hsiung’s own words from a beautiful Facebook post says it best.
“It is with the greatest sadness that I announce the passing of one of my dearest friends, and one of the most beautiful souls of our generation, Diane Gandee Sorbi.
Diane passed in the arms of her husband, Dan Sorbi, in a hospital in Redwood City, due to complications from surgery.
She is survived by her husband and the community of activists (and non-human animals) that she did so much for over the past 6 years.
As one of the pioneering activists in the DxE open rescue network, a board member of the Humane Party, an organizer in DxE’s social media efforts, and above all a kind soul devoted to justice, she will be remembered forever by many.
But I wanted to share some things about her that you might not know. Things that I hope will allow her to live through you, and inspire others to the greatness (I use that word with no pretense or exaggeration) with which she lived her life.
First, Diane epitomized the bravery that this movement so desperately needs.
In the earliest days of DxE’s open rescue network, there was great fear and trepidation about the future of the animal rights movement.
The ag-gag laws were criminalizing the mere act of taking a photograph.
Defendants who were serving long sentences under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act were finally getting out of prison — and their stories were chilling.
The grassroots animal rights movement was nearly dead.
Yet when the call to action — to expose the horrors behind closed doors, and rescue the victims, no matter the cost to us personally — Diane was among the first to sign up. Diane was not a natural rebel.
Soft-spoken and generous, she loved nothing more than to make the people around her happy — serving them food, helping them with chores, anything to make life easier for the people around her.
So some may have surprised to see her image among the many we took at Diestel Turkey Ranch, a massive facility where hundreds of thousands of beautiful birds were confined and slaughtered every year.
But not me. Because I saw the fierceness of her devotion to animals, and to justice, from the first time we met in the earliest days of DxE.
I remember sitting with her, at a Chinese vegan restaurant, after a demonstration at UCSF, and hearing her say to me, “I’ll do anything to help them. They and I could see in her eyes, and hear in the strength of her voice, that she meant exactly what she said.
And so despite physical ailments and legal risks, despite a movement that at the time was warning people from direct action, Diane walked with us on the dark roads of Diestel Turkey Ranch — the highest-rated factory farm in the nation — and walked out carrying a baby bird, Sarah, in her arms. And a quivering gentle being knew love and kindness, and lived out her life in peace, as a result of Diane’s courage.
Second, Diane always challenged her comfort zone. That first open rescue with her was an incredible feat.
We were covered in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Millions of people saw for the first time what a “humane” Whole Foods turkey farm truly looked like.
Diane had been a part of something that very few in this movement have ever done: walked into hell, and walked out with a life saved.
But Diane always wanted to do more. And so she joined us, again, into an even more dangerous place.
In a deeply conservative county, where Costco had built its largest distribution center in the state of California, they had secured a new supplier of “certified humane” cage-free eggs.
Costco had announced to the world, and to much fanfare, that this transition had been completed. And so many cheered. But those of us, like Diane, who had seen the other side knew that something was not right.
But could we take on such a giant business, at the seat of their corporate might?
Diane once again stepped up, and we exposed shocking rates of neglect and cannibalism (18% of the birds dying!) in The New York Times. When we wrote to the Costco CEO, he wrote back that he saw “no reason for discussion.”
But already, behind the scenes, corporate manipulation was beginning. Diane had carried a feces-covered bird out of that farm.
She had taken her gently to a sanctuary and vet. The company and its supplier whitewashed our findings completely, then secretly sought to harness the power of the state against us.
And that is how Diane became the first felony defendant in DxE history. For merely standing on public property, and taking a sick bird to the vet.
When the letter came to her, I was in a state of shock. We had anticipated this day coming, but not so soon after a major exposé in the New York Times.
How could the company justify going after a whistleblower, and especially one who was so clearly motivated by her conscience and compassion?
And yet Diane stayed resolute throughout. As I walked her through the possible scenarios, including a long prison sentence, she never flinched.
“You have to challenge your comfort zone to grow,” she would say to me. And through her, we all grew.
She survived that initial felony case by continuing to epitomize courage and compassion. In our dealings with the district attorney — Tori Verber — she never once even considered backing down from her moral position.
“What I did was right.” And it was the DA, with all her police powers and corporate dollars, who flinched. They dismissed the case.
And Diane proved to all of us that, even when we are challenged, we can survive. By doing so, she set the tone for the entire movement.
The last thing I want to say about Diane, though, and perhaps the thing I will miss most, is that she was just unbelievably fun.
We went through so many dark places and dark times together. We fought through the filth and death of factory farms, and through the corruption and abuse of power of a state in the pocket of Big Ag — and she still always managed to do it with a smile on her face.
Some of the things I will always remember about her. She laughed at everyone’s stupid jokes (especially mine) because she wanted us to feel appreciated and loved.
She loved to dance, and had moves that were as good as anyone’s on the dance floor. She was an amazing chef who would make the most delicious food for those around her.
She made the most hilarious YouTube videos. And above all, she was always eager to give and to help and to make those around her appreciated, respected, and loved.
Everywhere she went, in other words, she created in the human beings and animals around her the world she hoped for us to create for all: a peaceful world; a safe world; a loving world; and a world with a whole lot of fun.
I will miss Diane, as will so many others. In a world that is too often bitter, and violent, and hateful, she was a light into the future.
And while the future will be less bright with her no longer with us, I know that all those who loved her will carry on our light a little brighter on her behalf. We will be courageous.
We will challenge our comfort zone. And we will do our best to be as fun as you were.
Thank you, Diane, and thank you, Dan (who I will post about later). You may have passed. But your courage, your grit, and your incredible sense of fun… those will live on in us forever.”
Death is a hard and terrible loss vegans know all too well but losing one of our own is always a shock. Diane left behind not just words, photos, or memories but actions.
Her actions have been and will continue to be a piece of the puzzle that will create a vegan world, that will be the liberation of all animals from every slaughterhouse, zoo, and cage.
As her closest friends grieve her loss they will take strength in the difference she made for animals and the humans she touched with her kindness.
In the end, we should all be so lucky as to have left behind such an incredible legacy that helps to make the world a better place. Rest in peace Diane you will be missed.