Featuring: Jane Velez-Mitchel
Jane Velez-Mitchell is a talented Latina journalist who advocates tirelessly for animal rights. She has built a multi-media content powerhouse that includes books, documentaries, non-profit animal rights network JaneUnChained.com and this year launched New Day New Chef on Amazon Prime.
vKind caught up with Jane as one of our featured Latinx Vegans.
What moved you to take on the fight for animal rights?
My mother was the original animal rights activist. Born in 1916 on Vieques, an island just off Puerto Rico’s coast which is part of the commonwealth, as a child she had a pig she considered her family, her friend. But, that pig was a farmed animal. One day, she came home from school and saw that her friend had been slaughtered. She fainted. When she awoke, she shunned meat for the rest of her life. She took a boat to New York City at the age of 12 and formed a successful dance troupe called Anita Velez Dancers.
She married my father, an Irish American advertising executive. He also switched away from meat. We did eat dairy, eggs and fish so we were not yet vegetarian. But, thanks to my mom, I was on the journey to a compassionate diet and animal activism.
After I graduated NYU in 1977, I pursued a journalism career, working in Ft Myers, Florida, Minneapolis and Philadelphia before returning to New York City, my home town, where I worked at WCBS-TV. I then moved to Los Angeles, working at KCAL-TV. It was there that a former cattle rancher turned vegan activist named Howard Lyman showed up for an interview. He had famously revealed the horrors of the meat industry to Oprah. By then, I had given up fish and eggs but still consumed cow’s breast milk. “Liquid meat,” he declared about dairy. I went vegan at that moment, more than two decades ago, and have never looked back. Most animals on the planet are abused and killed for food.
My motto is, if you love animals, don’t eat them. Don’t consume their breast milk. You’re not a cow, anyway. You, too, can become an animal activist, just by ditching the meat and dairy on your plate.
How do you define activism?
I define activism by waking up every morning and asking myself: “What can I personally do to make this world a more compassionate place?” Now, I also ask myself, what can I do to prevent an ecological collapse that is racing towards us because of our abuse of the natural world, habitats and animals. This is why I produced the documentary, Countdown to Year Zero, which is available on Amazon’s Prime Video. It lays out the case, very clearly, that animal agriculture is completely unsustainable and is destroying the planet.
What are your proudest achievements?
While I’m thrilled to have written four books, including two New York Times bestsellers and glad to have hosted my own show on HLN/CNN Headline News for six years, my proudest achievement is the creation of JaneUnChained.com, my non-profit news network for animal rights, veganism and the climate.
It’s a team effort that involves some 50 citizen journalists around the world, going LIVE at VegFests, protests, slaughterhouse vigils and conferences.
We do a daily plant-based cooking show called #LunchBreakLIVE originating at facebook.com/JaneVelezMitchell at 12:30pm pacific. We’ve showcased thousands of delicious, nutritious, plant-based dishes. For example, our contributor in Peru goes live every week with extraordinary recipes using locally grown fruits and veggies.
This daily show on Facebook led to our TV show! New Day New Chef, streaming on Amazon’s Prime Video, is now available in the US, Canada, England, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. It’s also airing on public television stations around the US. That’s led to a special edition, New Day New Chef Support and Feed. We profile Billie Eilish’s mother Maggie Baird. The famous vegan family distributes vegan food to those in need during the pandemic. And, JaneUnChained has launched PlantBasedNeighbor.com, to connect plant-based people around the world, to accelerate the VegEconomy™.
How does your Puerto Rican heritage influence what you do?
I’m so proud of my Puerto Rican heritage and the legacy that is my mother’s wisdom. My mom, Anita Velez-Mitchell, was one of the most visionary people of her time. She was so ahead of everyone else. She was doing yoga in the 1940’s when few knew what that was. When she married my father in the 1950’s, she hyphenated her name, unheard of at the time. She was an avid reader who constantly reinvented herself, going from dancer to actress to playwright.
Her play Temple of the Souls, which was performed off-Broadway, features a Romeo and Juliet style romance set during the massacre of Puerto Rico’s indigenous Taino people by the Spaniards in the 15th and 16th centuries. I’ve always been inspired by her attitude. When she first arrived in New York, just in time for the Great Depression, her mother would tell her, “We are not poor. We simply have no money.” My mother went on to achieve great success. NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg even awarded her an Anita Velez-Mitchell Day!
Her plant-based diet left her vigorous and sharp-minded until her death. She lived to 99 and a half. So, I give her 100. She left her papers to Hunter University’s Center for Puerto Rican Studies. I carry her attitude with me every day! Life is a journey. Enjoy the adventure! Appreciate the surreal nature of it. Laugh at the cosmic joke.
Who are two people you admire that have played a role in shaping your views on life?
One of my heroes is Ingrid Newkirk, President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. For decades, she has continuously confronted the worst in human nature, taking action against the senseless torture inflicted on so many innocent animals. Ingrid is relentless, strategic and compassionate without being soppy. And, she has a terrific sense of humor.
Another one of my heroes is Anita Krajnc, the founder of the Animal Save Movement who was arrested and put on trial for giving water and comfort to a frightened, thirsty pig headed to slaughter. Her motto is borrowed from Tolstoy, who was also an animal activist. When you see suffering you have a moral obligation not to turn away and pretend it’s not happening, but to get closer, see if you can help. And, even if you can’t, you must bear witness.