She has covered some of the biggest headline-making court cases in the country (including the 2005 Michael Jackson trial), anchored her own cable news show and is a New York Times bestselling author, but these days veteran journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell is giving a voice to those she calls the “ultimate voiceless” — animals.

“They can’t speak for themselves,” says Velez-Mitchell, 62, over a green juice at one of her favorite local spots, Café Gratitude in Venice.

After her eponymous show on cable news network HLN ended in 2014, Velez-Mitchell launched JaneUnchained.com, a social media-driven digital network focusing on animal rights and promoting a vegan lifestyle.

Programs include the daily live cooking show “Lunch Break Live” and interviews with notable vegans. The network also publishes dispatches from some 70 contributors from around the world. According to Velez-Mitchell, Jane Unchained videos have been viewed over 17 million times on Facebook.

Velez-Mitchell’s own journey into a vegan lifestyle is deeply personal. A few years after finding her sobriety, she went from being what she calls a “half-assed vegetarian” to a committed vegan after interviewing a former cattle rancher who asked if she still consumed dairy. At the time, she did.

“They looked at me and they said, “Liquid meat.” And when they said that, I went vegan that moment,” she recalls.

That was over 20 years ago; on April 1, Velez-Mitchell will celebrate 24 years of sobriety. The native New Yorker adds, “I wish I had my vegan date like I do my sobriety date.”

With Jane Unchained, Velez-Mitchell aims to do more than preach to the choir: She hopes to raise awareness of the climate change issues caused by animal agriculture and to foster a culture of what she calls “normalized nonviolence” for a wider audience.

Her current work has also allowed her to reflect on her own 40-plus-year career, a good portion of which involved covering violent crimes and, sometimes, she says, sensationalizing others’ suffering.

Although, covering livestock farming can feel just as violent.

“It’s a rape, abduction and murder operation,” she says. “So, you might say I’m still covering crime.”

The vegan-friendly Westside is a haven for Velez-Mitchell, who has lived on-and-off in the Marina Peninsula neighborhood since 1990 (she had a seven-year stint in New York City during the run of her HLN show). In addition to Café Gratitude, her favorite plant-based spots also include Thai Vegan and Julie Goes Green.

She still gets a kick out of seeing the “Venice” sign off Pacific Avenue and the Route 66 placards in Santa Monica.

“I just fell in love with it, and I’m still in love with it,” she says of the Westside. “Every day when I walk my dogs, I count my blessings that I live at the beach. I never get tired of it.”

— Audrey Cleo Yap

Photo by Courtnay Robbins

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