It was during a 2016 Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus protest at Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Stadium when Jane Velez-Mitchell launched what would become her internationally celebrated career as an animal rights pundit.
This was the day Jane realized the work, dedication and passion of thousands of advocates around the world was worthy of media attention and recognition.
This was not, however, the starting point of Jane’s journalism career.
Jane graduated from NYU in 1977 with a degree in journalism. A crackerjack reporter from the start, she immediately landed a job in Fort Myers, Florida that same year.
Then, in 1979, Jane moved to Minneapolis where she worked as a reporter for two years until she transferred to Philadelphia for a new correspondent position. This is around the same time, Jane says, when PeTA was just getting started.
While in Philadelphia, Jane received a PeTA video documenting horrific head experiments being conducted on baboons. A very prestigious university was sponsoring lab technicians demonstrating deplorable behavior as they played loud rock music in the background while laughing and making fun of the unconscious primates.
“This was pure evil!” Jane remembers. “I didn’t know exactly what to do at the time, but it definitely stuck in my head, and I said I’m going to do something about this overall system, this overall idea of experimenting on animals.”
In 1982 she landed an anchor position in New York City at WCBS TV and remained there for eight years until she moved to KCAL-TV in Los Angeles in 1990 to work at their Paramount Studios location.
Not a complete stranger to compassion for animals, Jane, as a child, spent her early years as a pescatarian, eating more vegetables than many from a very young age. Her family lived in midtown Manhattan, a microcosm of America at the time, where she was exposed to foods that most children were not.
An avant garde spirit as Jane describes, her mother was of Puerto Rican descent and ahead of her time, practicing yoga and vegetarianism as far back as the 1960’s.
The influence of her mother’s diet was palpable but unfortunately came from a very painful childhood experience. Jane tells the story…”When my mother’s pet pig was killed for food by a family member, she fainted at the news. When she awoke she vowed to never eat meat again, and she never did.” Her mother carried this with her and imparted it onto her entire family.
Until about 1997 Jane remained a vegetarian when she was approached by Marr Nealon, a very fierce and dedicated animal activist.
At that time, Marr worked with Howard Lyman, author of Mad Cowboy, as his publicist.
“They shamed me when they stuck their fingers in my face and said if I was eating dairy I was consuming liquid meat.” Jane immediately gave up dairy and has been a vegan ever since.
“Don’t be afraid to confront anyone about veganism.”
Circling back to a cold day in 2016 in front of Barclay’s Stadium in Brooklyn, with all her media experience in tow, Jane took to the streets with her GoPro camera in hand, filming everything around her during that Ringling Brothers protest. To her surprise, she was the only one professionally filming any of it.
“What’s wrong with this picture,” Jane thought. “How could there be thousands of activists around the country fighting for animals’ rights and no one is professionally documenting it?”
In that moment, her type A personality recognized an opportunity for herself, as well as the movement she was now becoming a part of.
By 2016 Jane found herself traveling to every animal rights event she could attend, and using Facebook Live – a new feature at the time, streaming the events to anyone who would watch.
At its infancy Facebook Live was netting 15 million views for her per year. More recently Facebook’s new algorithms are profoundly limiting the movement’s exposure so Jane made changes.
Living within a shifting landscape, Jane believes we have to use all technologies available to us as activists. “We all know we don’t get heard on mainstream social media,” adds Jane.
One of the reasons she started her non-profit, UnchainedTV, was because for four decades she was employed by mainstream media and witnessed first-hand the “behind the curtain carnist perspective” from which they operate.
Miraculously, as a CNN Headline News anchor she was given permission to do 4-minute weekly animal segments for six years alongside her other work. She used this limited platform to expose serious animal exploitations and to shine a light on the positive side as well by featuring up-and-coming plant-based food entrepreneurs, food companies and individuals who were making a difference at the time.
As a well-liked and respected employee at CNN, Jane left on very good terms after an executive told her to follow her passion and focus on animals. “This you should do full time,” the CNN executive said. This presented a compelling opportunity to expand on her passions and focus on what really mattered to her.
This is where the name “Unchained” originated…now that Jane had been untethered, she was now released from the limitations that came along with being a mainstream media reporter – free to attend and cover any and all animal rights related news stories events.
These days as an award-winning TV journalist, New York Times bestselling author, celebrated CNN Headline News host, 12-year veteran reporter with WCBS-TV News in New York and KCAL-TV in Los Angeles, and all the experience, wisdom and abilities that come along with all of that, she is profoundly altering the landscape of the animal rights movement with her go-getter-no-fear-contagious approach.
Jane’s most recent enterprise is a global streaming TV network titled UnchainedTV.
UnchainedTV is compatible with all cell phones, tablets, laptops, desktops and TVs through the App Store. With any streaming device, including Amazon Fire Stick, AppleTV or Roku, you can view any one of the hundreds of documentaries, cooking shows, travelogs, talk shows and music videos with absolutely no subscription, contact data, or passwords needed…and there’s more programming planned for the future.
Jane is reminded of a great piece of advice from The Vegan Bros…
“All activists must pivot, the bad guys are pivoting all the time.”
“Leaving mainstream journalism and recognizing the world’s obsession with streaming content created the perfect opportunity to pivot,” says Jane. With over one million views clocked already, UnchainedTV has just been recently upgraded with more bells and whistles available for the viewers.
Jane and her team are building a virtual hub for all things vegan and animal rights. In the very near future, those that have popular podcasts will be able to stream live using the UnchainedTV platform.
Most recently the streaming network has also announced their new dramedy Pig Little Lies. This original reality show is the world’s first starring a family of pigs. “It is intriguing, dramatic and funny,” says Jane.
Jane’s contributions to animal rights and her undeniable experience as an award-winning seasoned journalist are what make her one of our movement’s most valuable iconic figures.
From her multifaceted award-winning programming, which includes New Day New Chef, Wicked Kitchen, Countdown to Year Zero featuring Dr Saelish Rao, the Lingerie Protests with Stefania Ferrario and Tash Pederson, thousands of cooking demos, to important animal rights trial coverage, including Wayne Hsiung’s and Paul Darwin Picklesimer’s groundbreaking trial, she has provided an undeniable treasure chest of content.
And both sides are taking notice. AgDaily.com calls UnchainedTV an alarming development.
“It’s not about the money, it’s about educating the non-vegans.”
Jane is very cautious about where her supporter’s money goes; it keeps her up at night.
She constantly strives to make sure it does the most good…the smartest headline, the most effective campaign, the biggest bang for the buck is what she strives for.
Advice to Budding Journalists:
“Keep in mind we are all on the same team, we are supposed to be more evolved, right?
I humbly interview those that should rightfully be on the front page of The NY Times, but because we are silenced in many ways, I am grateful for the opportunity to break a story.”
There is a big need for good writers who don’t charge an arm and a leg.
Learn by doing. Don’t worry about getting paid right away; volunteer and you will get work.
Don’t complain about the media being slanted; go to work and unslant it.
What would you do if you operated without fear? We can’t be timid, we have to be bold and try new things.”
FARM WISHES EVERYONE A HAPPY VEGAN HOLIDAY!
This article marks 2 years since we’ve launched our CHARM program. We have celebrated so many wonderful members of the animal rights movement and wish to continue.
CHARM along with all of our other wonderful programs only exists with your support.
Please consider an end of year Gift to FARM so we may continue standing up for animals. CHEERS TO A VEGAN FUTURE!