Activist and journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell is making a difference
Jane Velez-Mitchell, founder of the Los Angeles-based Jane Unchained News Network, is doing her part to facilitate a nonviolent world. And it’s not as unrealistic as it sounds.
She’s actively advocating for veganism, because if humans adopt a plant-based diet, animals won’t be raised and killed.
“We are 7.8 billion humans killing 80 billion animals every year for food,” Velez-Mitchell said. “If we eliminated that suffering right there, we would take a huge leap toward a non-violent world.”
The Marina del Rey resident, who created her nonprofit social media news network after working for four decades in the mainstream television news media, said it’s “exhilarating” to follow her passions such as veganism, human health, animal rights and climate change reversal. The transition was natural since, even in her last position at CNN’s headline news, she produced a weekly story on animal issues.
“I basically took that weekly story and turned it into a whole nonprofit,” Velez-Mitchell said. “Now we have more than 70 volunteer contributors going all around the world bringing us stories that are ignored by mainstream media. That’s why it’s super important to do this.”
Velez-Mitchell’s clarion call gathers even more impetus during a pandemic — COVID-19, a zoonotic illness, has destroyed the health of millions of humans and killed more than 475,000 in the United States alone.
“It’s important for us to make the connection between our disrespect of the natural world and the problems that we are experiencing,” Velez-Mitchell said. “If our planet becomes so degraded that it doesn’t support human life, or any other life, then we’re all in deep trouble.”
Velez-Mitchell grew up in Manhattan, New York, and was born to an Irish American father and a Puerto Rican mother who was compassionate toward animals, didn’t eat them and understood that meat “doesn’t fall from the meat tree.”
“I was raised with that consciousness,” Velez-Mitchell said. “She’s my inspiration.”
But her real lesson came not as a child, but much later, when she interviewed Howard Lyman, a fourth-generation cattle rancher-turned-vegan. After the interview, he said, “I hear you’re a vegetarian. Do you eat dairy?”
“I was ashamed to admit I did because he had just outlined all the terrible cruelty to mother cows and calves,” Velez-Mitchell recalled. “‘Liquid meat,’ he exclaimed, pointing his finger at me.”
That was the moment she went vegan. Velez-Mitchell described it as: “The best decision I have ever made. We are not cows. We are not meant to drink the breast milk of cows.”
Nearly 25 years later, Velez-Mitchell finds veganism not just a trend, but necessary to the future of the planet. Processed meat causes cancer, while fruits and vegetables contain zero cholesterol.
“It’s a bad habit that we have to break,” Velez-Mitchell added. “The world is suffering right now because of it.”
According to Velez-Mitchell, humans have destroyed more than 68% of all wildlife on the planet. The animals are killed mostly to raise cattle in grazing land. The secondary land use is to grow crops to feed farm animals. Human development is a comparatively tiny portion of land use.
“If we were eating a plant-based diet, the earth could easily support 7.8 billion humans, and far more than that, because we are eating a tiny percentage of food,” Velez-Mitchell added.
She urges people to embrace a healthy diet with fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. To that end, Jane Unchained presents two cooking shows, “New Day New Chef,” a multi-episode vegan cooking show (newdaynewchef.com); and “Lunch Break Live,” a daily vegan cooking show on Facebook Live (12:30 p.m. PST) featuring a different chef who cooks a plant-based, dairy-free meal sans animal products.
Jane Unchained has also produced an award-winning documentary on the connection between animal agriculture and climate change, “Countdown to Year Zero,” which can be viewed on Amazon Prime Video.
Velez-Mitchell’s other bugbear is the climate crisis. Again, it points to the irresponsible behavior of humans, she said, citing extensive animal agriculture that produces greenhouse gas emissions, while clearing forests to grow livestock feed destroys wildlife and habitat.
The activist has joined members of her community to embrace a project close to home. The 600-acre Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve is Los Angeles’ last coastal wetlands, now subject to a questionable, decade-long habitat restoration project.
“It is home to 1,700 species, some endangered, some threatened, all of whom have a right to live and whose home should not be obliterated, under the guise of ‘public access’ which they could provide right now by opening a locked gate,” Velez-Mitchell said.
Working with biologists, the community has proposed a detailed 20-point gentle restoration that achieves the goals of habitat restoration without destruction and would give inner-city children meaningful access to nature now – not in a decade.
Velez-Mitchell is also the author of four books, among them a candid memoir that reveals her former alcoholism, coming out as gay and the vegan lifestyle. She calls them her “three miracles.”
Right now, however, she’s enamored of her mission to help Americans reinvent their diets, become healthier and lower their carbon footprints.
“We all need to wake up,” Velez-Mitchell said. “We like to say we’re nice people, we’re kind people, we love to say we love animals, but if we are co-signing the torture of animals, we’re hypocrites.”
— Srianthi Perera