Square graphic with blue and yellow background. The blue is on the top and bottom and the yellow is sandwiched in between. On the right side in a white circle is a photo of Niambe McIntosh. She is wearing gray pants and a light pink top. She has long, straight black hair with some blonde highlights. She is holding a marijuana cannabis pen. On top is an All About Change logo. It's red on top and bottom with yellow sandwiched in the middle. It reads “All About Change with Jay Ruderman.” On the top in red bold letters reads “Niambe McIntosh.” Below in blue reads “Head of Peter Tosh Legacy & Brand on Cannabis Legalization and Justice System Reform.”

Jane Velez-Mitchell is the founder and content editor of UnchainedTV

Jane Velez-Mitchell is best-known for her work in broadcast television, but her career – and life – has been a master class in making a change and sticking to it. After confronting her alcoholism as an early career journalist, Jane began living more authentically than she ever had before. She came out as a lesbian, became a vegan, and founded a free streaming platform dedicated to education around the impact diet can have on health – both the body’s, and the planet’s.

Jane joined host Jay Ruderman for a conversation that spanned the wide breadth of her career, and the personal choices she made along the way.

To learn more about Unchained TV, click here.

TRANSCRIPTION:

Jane Velez-Mitchell:I decided I’m just going to be who I want to be and that was a sober, lesbian, vegan. Take it or leave it.

Jay Ruderman:

Hi, I am Jay Ruderman and welcome to All About Change, a podcast showcasing individuals who leveraged the hardships that have been thrown at them to better other people’s lives.

Montage:

I say put mental health first, because if you don’t, then…

Montage:

This generation of America has already had enough.

Montage:

I stand before you not as an expert, but as a concerned citizen.

Montage:

Yes, we can. Yes, we can.

Montage:

Louder.

Montage:

Yes, we can.

Montage:

Louder.

Montage:

Yes, we can.

Montage:

Louder.

Montage:

Yes, we can.

Jay Ruderman:

Before becoming a radio and TV journalist, Jane Velez-Mitchell was raised in Manhattan by a showgirl mom and an ad exec dad who exposed her to alcohol at a very young age.

Jane Velez-Mitchell:

My parents had these big cocktail parties and people were drinking martinis and leaving their glasses around and I would drink some of the alcohol in the glasses.

Jay Ruderman:

After graduating NYU, Jane Velez-Mitchell quickly rose through the broadcast ranks, working in Fort Myers, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and New York before anchoring in Los Angeles. It was there at a Hollywood party that she was confronted by her own battle with alcohol addiction.

Jane Velez-Mitchell:

Everybody I knew was there. The next day, I woke up feeling incomprehensible demoralization, and I asked a friend who had recently gotten sober for help. Thank God, one day at a time since that moment, I have not had a drink.

Jay Ruderman:

In facing her addiction, Jane realized that it came from not being her authentic self. From then on, her commitment to being authentic helped make some changes like coming out on live radio in 2007.

Jane Velez-Mitchell:

The funny part was that it really wasn’t that big a deal. As my ex-boyfriend, we’re still good friends, and he had a great sense of humor. He said, “It’s worse than that, Jane. Nobody’s thinking about you at all.”

Jay Ruderman:

Confronted with the moral dilemma of industrial animal agriculture, she realized she wanted to be of service to both humans and animals. So she became a vegan and founded UnchainedTV, a free network advocating for the health, ethical, and environmental benefits of plant-based living.

Jane Velez-Mitchell:

You can’t solve the climate crisis without looking at animal agriculture. People are just talking about electric cars. The United Nations itself did a report back in 2006. It said animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all transportation combined.

Jay Ruderman:

Jane Velez-Mitchell, thank you so much for being my guest on All About Change. Let me just jump right into it. You’ve had a very storied career, but what I found inspiring about your story is the incredible change in mindset that you were able to accomplish first with your choice to get sober in 1995. For those of our listeners who are not familiar with your story, let’s start at the beginning. Can you tell us what happened growing up in Manhattan?

Jane Velez-Mitchell:

Well, I grew up in Midtown Manhattan directly across from Carnegie Hall, so you can’t get more Midtown than that, 57th and 7th. I had a very fascinating childhood. My dad was a Madison Avenue advertising executive, straight out of Mad Men. Never knew a pair of jeans, drank the martinis, and smoked the Pall Mall and had a pipe as well. My mom was from Puerto Rico. She was a showgirl, a dancer, and she had her own dance troupe, Anita Velez dancers. My parents met because my father was a great ballroom dancer. He was Irish-American and my mom was a professional dancer and they liked to stop traffic. They liked to go to these parties back when there were live bands and everybody did ballroom dancing and people would watch them because they were so good at it. I was exposed to a lot of cocktail parties as a child. My parents had these big cocktail parties and people were drinking martinis and leaving their glasses around and I would drink some of the alcohol in the glasses.

Jay Ruderman:

When you were finishing off the ends of the drinks of your father and people at the parties, did people understand at that time what addiction was? Were you aware that you could be developing an addiction to alcohol?

Jane Velez-Mitchell:

Well, my father was a high-functioning alcoholic. I mean, it’s a self-diagnosed disease. He’s no longer with us. Sorry, Dad, but, yeah, he was a high-functioning alcoholic. Yeah, I was very lucky. I never got a DUI. I didn’t lose the house, the car, the job, but I also followed my father’s, I would say, method of alcoholism, which was I never drank before work, I never drank on the job. It was always after work. I was sometimes hungover.

I went to a party in Hollywood. All my friends were there, my agent was there, and her husband and my ex-husband and my current boyfriend. I started drinking tequila, which was always like the worst thing. I could keep it together if I had chardonnay, but with tequila, all bets were off and I got wasted and went into a blackout. The next thing you know, I was being taken out of the party and I was like, “Why are we leaving? Why are we leaving?” And it was embarrassing because everybody I knew and cared about was there, but that was really good because it was like, “This is your life.” They were all there at once. There was no making it look good. The next day I got help and that was the last day I ever had a drink. Right now, it’s 28 years. By April Fools’ Day it’ll be 29 years. I’ve often said my worst day sober is better than my best day drunk.

Jay Ruderman:

Well, first of all, congratulations on that. That’s a huge accomplishment. Did someone say something to you like, “Jane, you need to get some help,” or was this something that you just came to and you said, “I need to make a change in my life”?

Jane Velez-Mitchell:

No, I think only your good friends, your true friends will tell you you have a problem. A lot of my fair weather friends were like, “Oh, you were fine. Don’t worry about it. It was fun.” But there were a few true friends, like this friend of mine that I went to college with, who had gotten sober himself, who told me, “You’ve got to stop drinking.” First, I said, “You’re not my mother.” But after that experience, I called him up and I said, “You’re right. I’m turning myself in.” That’s literally what I said. I find that in situations like this, only your true friends will tell you, but you know that you can’t drag anybody into sobriety who’s not ready. It’s literally only the person who has the issue can declare that bottom hit.

That’s the nature of addiction. The nature of addiction is there’s a substance or a behavior you can never successfully negotiate with, and the only power you have is the power to not negotiate at all, to walk the other way, and so it’s a dichotomy. The power is in admitting you’re powerless. I was very blessed that after I had some clarity and I was able to see, “Wow. Okay, this is life on life’s terms.” Sure, there will be dark moods, but you don’t have to drown them out. You can just sit through the feelings. They don’t last forever.

After having some clarity, I make some big changes in my life. I realized that one of the reasons that I was drinking was to suppress my sexuality and I came out as gay. That was another miracle, getting sober, coming out as gay, and then what I did afterwards is realized that I have certain values. I like to consider myself a compassionate, kind person, and I decided to align my behavior more with those values. I became a vegan and I started to do work to wake people up to the horrors of industrialized animal agriculture.

All of that would not have happened, none of that would’ve happened had I still been drinking. I was really able to restart my life on a much better footing and be present and figure out who I am. I have this as a refrigerator magnet. Oscar Wilde says, “Be yourself. Everybody else is already taken.” I think that’s one of the best statements, because, well, I’ll speak for myself, I was trying to be whatever my father wanted me to be, my mother wanted me to be, and society wanted me to be. I decided I’m just going to be who I want to be and that was a sober, lesbian, vegan. Take it or leave it.

Jay Ruderman:

Okay. Can you talk about coming out and why you came out? You came out at a time where it wasn’t like it is today. It wasn’t as accepted. What was the fallout from coming out?

Jane Velez-Mitchell:

I was one of the first on-camera TV journalists to come out. Now, I didn’t do a deep dive undercover investigation into this, but there may be people before me, but I don’t know too many as far as especially lesbians. What happened was I fell in love with somebody, a woman, and I was living with her. I was also doing some freelance work at KABC Radio and I was co-hosting with this what they call a log cabin Republican, which is a gay Republican. We were talking about Senator Larry Craig, the toe-tapping senator who was caught in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Airport bathroom, and who hotly denied that he was doing anything but going to the bathroom. But it was the topic du jour. A lot of people were talking about it and so we were talking about that.

You know how radio is, it goes on for hours. TV, you’d have a two-minute or three-minute segment. We were talking about this for an hour and 45 minutes and my co-host was talking about how he came out to his mother and blah, blah, blah. I was just starting to get this horrible feeling of hypocrisy. Here I am, talking about this other person’s alleged hypocrisy, and I’m living with a woman and I haven’t told anybody publicly about it. At that moment, I had a crisis of conscience and I felt icky. I called my girlfriend at the time and I said, “Turn on KABC Radio. I’m going to come out.” After the commercial, I did, I came out. I said, “Well, I live with a woman…” And I don’t even remember what I said after that.

The funny part was that it really wasn’t that big a deal. As my ex-boyfriend who we’re still good friends and he had a great sense of humor, he said, “It’s worse than that, Jane. Nobody’s thinking about you at all.” I think a lot of the fear that I had, a huge fear, first of all, to tell myself that I was gay. I gave it the old college try heterosexuality. I was married. I dated men and I am not saying I had bad relationships and I can say that, however, despite all that, I’m gay. It took a lot of basically, well, therapy and getting sober.

Once I didn’t have the alcohol to hide behind, it became harder for me to lie to myself. Once that was taken away and I had to live life on life’s terms, I literally started realizing, “Why do I want to go through my life like lying about such a key aspect of my personality?” I don’t think it’s about sex as much as it is about being true to who you are. Again, as Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself. Everybody else is already taken.” I think that the courage to be myself resulted in me coming out and I’m very happy I did. Sure, there was some gossip, but then when I actually came out, I was just freelance. I’ll be honest, it helped me come out that I was freelance. If I had been under contract somewhere, it might’ve been trickier, but I was freelance and so I took the opportunity.

Jay Ruderman:

I want to transition to talk about your choice to adopt a vegan lifestyle. Was that in response to your addiction and how you dealt with your addiction or how did you come to that decision that you’re going to lead a vegan lifestyle?

Jane Velez-Mitchell:

Well, I grew up in a pescatarian household. My mom, who was from Puerto Rico, was a pescatarian. My father who was had grown up on corn beef and cabbage switched. We thought we were vegetarians but we weren’t. We ate fish, we ate eggs, we had dairy. It wasn’t strict. Dad, on Thanksgiving, might grab a slice of turkey, but we never had meat in the house growing up. It just wasn’t something we never cooked. Neither of my parents really knew how to cook. We went out to dinner every night, most nights. I guess that helped me get on the journey. I did not grow up thinking that nobody’s trying to force me to eat meat. I do remember going to a friend’s house when I was a child and the mother had served tongue and I sat down and she said, “Here it is.” And I said, “I’m not eating that.” I remember all hell broke loose because I didn’t want to eat that food and I didn’t eat it.

I was aware that that’s a tongue of somebody. I don’t call them things somebody. As I moved on in my career when I was drinking, I was like, “I love animals,” but I didn’t really do anything. Then once I got sober and I moved to Celebrity Justice, that tabloid show… Let’s face it, celebrities hate tabloid shows. We were trying to get celebrities to talk to us. Very difficult. They would literally run in the other direction. So I called PETA and I said, “Look, you have a lot of celebrities who care very deeply about their issues. Maybe you could get some of them to talk to us.” And that’s exactly what happened.

I worked with PETA to get celebrities who literally would push their publicists aside because they were so passionate about a particular issue involving animals. We won a couple of Genesis Awards, which were from the Humane Society United States. The top example of that was when I got Robert Redford to talk to me. I was in the morning meeting driving there. We had a 7:00 AM meeting and you had to be dressed with three-story ideas at 7:00 AM in Glendale, which was a drive for me. I’m there driving to work and I hear Natural Resources Defense Council is opening up a new green building in Santa Monica and Robert Redford is going to be there to inaugurate it.

I thought, “Wow.” I had just gotten a letter, one of those mass letters that celebrities send out from Robert Redford talking about the military sonar impacting the whales. It makes them crazy. It drives them crazy. The sonar just destabilizes them. At the meeting I said, “I’d like to go interview Robert Redford.” And I was told, “Well, if you get a one-on-one, you can do the story.” Now, you know how hard it is to get a one-on-one interview with a Robert Redford without any plan. So I drove to the Natural Resources Defense Council building and I said to the guy outside, I said, “Look, I’m on your side. I’m an environmentalist. Help me out here.” He goes, “He’s coming in the backside.” So I go in the back, I hide behind a dumpster, I had a wireless mic. My photographer was hiding behind another thing.

Sure enough, Robert Redford pulls up, looking every bit the movie star in a red Thunderbird convertible. He hops out and I said, “Mr. Redford, I got your letter about the whales.” He just looks at me and he just walks in the building. Then, we all assemble for the news conference on the rooftop. Now, this is what a nice guy he is. He walks by me and he goes, “Miss, I’m going to answer your question about the whales. Just let me do this news conference.” So they do the news conference. I’m hanging around the building pretending to videotape whatever’s green, but I really want to get Robert Redford. His publicist wants him to have nothing to do with us.

He’s doing interviews with all these big networks. Finally, he comes out and I say, “Mr. Redford.” He goes, “Yes, let me tell you about the work.” I got a one-on-one seven-minute interview with him talking about the whales and military sonar and I was quite revved up by that point. Finally he goes, “What do you think of the whales?” And I said, “I’m devastated. I think about them all the time.”

Jay Ruderman:

Let’s talk about society. If you’re watching TV or your any type of media that you’re consuming, you’re seeing advertisements for fast food, for hamburgers, alcohol. There are commercials all the time for alcohol all over the place. All of these things that lead to addiction, overweight, obesity, alcoholism, people ruining their lives through gambling. It’s out there. It’s pervasive. How does a person combat that?

Jane Velez-Mitchell:

Well, you raised a great point. I even wrote a book called Addict Nation to make the point that we live in an addictogenic culture. There is no better customer than an addict. We have created an addict nation. Look at fast food. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. That’s food addiction, plain and simple. Of course, the fast food giants have figured out that our bodies are pre-programmed to crave sugar, salt, and fat, and high-caloric food to get us through times of famine. So they pack that food with sugar, salt, and fat, addictive substances that we crave. No wonder that people eat them and then 45 minutes later, they want to eat them again and they can’t stop.

The power that you have is the power not to go into a fast food restaurant. As one of the diet doctors we have on our UnchainedTV network said, “If it’s in your house, it’s in your mouth.” Again, as an alcoholic, I’m not going to keep alcohol around. As if you’re a food addict, don’t go into a fast food restaurant, don’t keep junk and fast food in your house. Stay away from it. The only power you have is the power not to touch it. Once you touch it, all bets are off.

The people who are selling this stuff, the 0.1%, they don’t care if we get sick or fat or get diabetes or heart disease or cancer. We know the World Health Organization has said that processed meat is officially cancer-causing. Now, nobody talks about that. They don’t talk about it on the news. They don’t talk about it anywhere. But if kids were sitting around smoking cigarettes all day, you’d be darn sure somebody called child services. But people are shoving these nuggets and these junk food and these fast food items down their kids’ throats, even though processed meat is officially cancer-causing. Nobody talks about it.

We’ve got a conspiracy of silence. That’s why I started my streaming network to get the word out. We’re an all-volunteer. UnchainedTV is all volunteer and we’re just trying to wake people up that they have the power three times a day to change the world and save themselves. You don’t see a lot of commercials for apples and carrots on TV. The billions of dollars are not there to be made, so people don’t want to encourage you to eat healthy fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and legumes. We need to wake up to the huge catastrophic impacts that the fast food industry and industrialized animal agriculture having on the rainforests, on habitat destruction, wildlife extinction, and as I mentioned before, human world hunger, preventable lifestyle diseases. There’s a solution and, of course, it takes a while.

For example, when I went vegan, which was shortly after I got sober, so about 27 years ago, maybe 28 years ago, I just gave it up, boom, after I talked to Howard Lyman, the fourth generation cattle rancher who went on Oprah to reveal the horrors of his industry. I did an interview with him and he came up to my cubicle afterwards. I was at Paramount Studios working at KCAL-TV and he said, “I hear you’re a vegetarian.” I said, “Yes.” And he said, “Do you eat dairy?” Of course I stopped because he had just told me about all these cows have to be pregnant. People don’t realize milk doesn’t just happen naturally, that the babies have to be taken from the mother so we can steal the milk. The boys are turned into veal calves or shot or left to die. The babies go. I mean, it’s a horror show. I hung my head and I said, “Yes,” and he went right to my finger, “Liquid meat,” like that. That was the moment I went vegan, because he confronted me about my hypocrisy.

He said it straight clear, like a one-second intervention, and I thank him. Just as I am grateful for my sobriety, I am grateful for that man confronting me. Again, the truth. The truth, telling me the truth in a nonviolent but confrontational way. About a month and a half later, somebody accidentally put some cheese on my salad and I used to love cheese, and I went, “Oh, God, that tastes horrible.” My taste buds had returned to their factory settings. It takes about a month or maybe three months. There’s a reason why rehab is at least 28 days generally, but sometimes three months because it takes a while for the body to rid itself of toxins, to rid itself of those program cravings, and get back to what you really are as a person. So, you are what you eat.

Jay Ruderman:

What do you say to someone who is like, “This is too hard”? To make a hard stop and to say, “I’m moving away from this. This is just too difficult,” how do you answer that?

Jane Velez-Mitchell:

Well, it is difficult. Anything worthwhile is going to be difficult and it’s really a mathematical calculation at the end of the day. Are you going to be happier continuing with that habit and looking and feeling the way you do, or are you going to be happier taking the path least traveled and finding another way where mind, body, spirit is in alignment and you wake up every day feeling energized and ready to go out there and experience this temporary life of ours? That’s another thing I say to myself every day, “This is a temporary experience.” Do I do it perfectly? Hell, no.

Jay Ruderman:

I want to get back to your profession as a journalist. How did you first get into the field and what were you looking to do? What stories were you looking to cover?

Jane Velez-Mitchell:

Well, I actually was talk about teenagers. I was pretty much the same person I am today protesting. I was the kid outside leafletting outside the high school building and I would attend a lot of protests and marches. That was, of course, during the time of the Vietnam War, all the uprisings, and so I was interviewed quite a few times by reporters. I said to myself a couple of times, “I could have done better. Those questions were not good. I could do better than that.”

When I graduated from high school, I went to NYU and I just literally checked off broadcast journalism. I didn’t think a whole heck of a lot about it, so I went to New York University, graduated, and I got a job in Fort Myers, Florida. I got a job and then I immediately, after about a year and a half there, got another job. I wanted to move up. I moved from Fort Myers, Florida, which was a tiny little town where nothing really ever happened, although adorable, to Minneapolis, which was the worst culture shock. I’ve been all around the world. It was 45 degrees below zero with the wind chill when I arrived and I had been hired over the phone. Imagine going from Fort Myers, Florida to Minneapolis in the dead of winter.

Jay Ruderman:

That is a big difference.

Jane Velez-Mitchell:

And then, I went to Philadelphia and I spent a couple of years there. I was always an anchor reporter and then I got a chance to come back to my hometown and I worked for eight years at WCBS-TV. It was really great to be back home. I lived there for eight years reporting and anchoring. I was kind of over it, because when I grew up [inaudible 00:25:49] in Manhattan, there was a lot of good times and parties and fun times. But when you’re covering crime as a crime reporter, which most local news reporters are pretty much crime, you’re seeing parts of the city and things that are… I mean, I saw dead bodies on the street. After about eight years of that, I got an opportunity to be a weekday anchor here in Los Angeles and I jumped at the chance and I had the best time.

I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I had a nice parking spot on the Paramount lot and I’d walk around and I’d see people in costume. It was one of the most fun times. I worked there for about 12 years as a reporter and anchor. While I was there, I ended up covering the Michael Jackson child molestation trial in Santa Maria, California, and I ended up being Nancy Grace’s reporter. She had a show on CNN headline news at the time. This was a trial that the whole world was obsessed with. Hundreds of media from around the world, fans coming from all over the world to watch this trial.

Rumors swirled around Hollywood after two of Jackson’s homes were searched over the weekend by Los Angeles Police. Police sources confirm allegations of child abuse are being investigated.

I was on every night talking about it with Nancy Grace. After the trial, the show ended right around the same time. At one point I was just sitting here, the show had ended, I didn’t have a job, and somebody called me and I said, “Hello.” And they said, “Hey, how would you like your own show on CNN headline news?” I said, “Absolutely.” They said, “Good. We’re going to call it ISSUES with Jane Velez-Mitchell.” I said, “Great, because I’ve got a lot of issues.” I got on a plane, went to New York, went right to my mother’s house. The CNN was literally two blocks away at the time, Warner Center in Columbus Circle. I moved in with my mom who was in her 90s by that point.

When I got hired, I said, “Would you mind if I did a little animal segment once a week?” And they said, “No, we don’t see a problem with that,” and I started doing my animal rights once a week every Friday. It was amazing. I mean, it was so wonderful to be able to do reports on things that I cared about along with all the other stories which were primarily crime. I’m not a crime buff. I’m not that obsessed with crime. I don’t watch crime shows, but the idea that I could do something that was close to my heart once a week really made me happy. And then, as soon as that ended… I had a nice run. They gave me all my social media. We left on great terms. I was appreciative. I thought I was going to be there for two months. I was there for six years.

I decided now’s the time. It’s probably the end of the run professionally, so let me start doing what I really care about, waking people up to the need to show compassion to other beings on this planet. I’ve turned it into a nonprofit and now it’s a streaming television network, which is almost 2,000 videos, documentaries, cooking shows, talk shows. Just everything you need to know about the environment, about climate change, how we have the power to literally reverse climate change through our diets. I will say, it’s the last thing I’ll say… I’m not going to get on my soapbox, but The New York Times just recently published an article, you could look it up, about an Oxford University study that showed that heavy meat eaters, which is most Americans… The average American eats more than 66 pounds of pork a year. Heavy meat eaters can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions footprint by 75% by switching to a plant-based diet.

Now, to my point, do you think any other media picked up on that? No. They’ll do what I call catastrophe porn all day. People dying in floods and car accidents because of the heavy rains and the houses washing into the ocean and the fires and all of that. They’ll play that forever. But when there’s an article in the paper of record that explains that we could all reduce our greenhouse gas emissions footprint by 75% by switching to a plant-based diet, do they cover it? No.

Jay Ruderman:

Jane, you’re incredibly honest about what you’ve gone through in your life, in your career, which is very refreshing because I don’t encounter that all that often. But give us some insight, someone who’s listening, who’s looking to make a meaningful shift in their life, in their diet, in their lifestyle, career, their activism. How would you tell someone to make a significant change in their life and stick with it?

Jane Velez-Mitchell:

Well, first of all, I don’t want to put myself up here like, “Oh, I’m the person with all the answers.” Like I said, I’ve made a ton of mistakes and I feel like… Well, one of the keys to sobriety is you talk to somebody else who has the same problem, so there’s an equality there and it’s not one person above the other. I’m not coming from any lofty pedestal where I’ve got all the answers. Far from it. But I could only share what’s worked for me is I feel that being of service and trying to stay out of ego, very hard. We all have egos. I have an ego. It’s in the hard drive. You can’t totally get away from it. But trying to be of service to others and also to look at our own behavior and see where changes can be made where we do less damage, cause less suffering, and it happens to be a lot.

I was uploading videos for our global streaming network on UnchainedTV and we decided to create a sustainability category. I’m uploading all these videos about composting. After I looked at the third one, I go, “I’m a total hypocrite. I’m uploading videos about composting and I don’t compost.” So I said, “You know what? I got to start composting.” what I did was I took a tin, that nice big tin that is in my refrigerator, and I started just taking… When I strip the kale, putting those in the banana peels, all of that stuff, and then I asked the building to get a green bin, which turns out is required by law in Los Angeles. We have a green bin in the back and I started composting. The next thing you know, the guys who do all the foliage around here started using it, so it’s filled with the foliage when they rake up and trim, and then I saw other neighbors started doing composting.

It turns out composting is a lot of fun. I had looked at it as… First of all, I hadn’t really thought about it, but secondly, I kind of thought, “Well, that’s not for me. I’m an urban dweller.” So I try to set aside my preconceived notions. You know what? I enjoy composting. I have a lot of fun with it. It makes me feel better about myself that instead of just putting all that in a landfill, which then would contribute to climate change, that we put it in a composting bin and hopefully it doesn’t go in the landfill. Because sometimes I wonder, “Where does this all go?” But that’s just a small example of how I have to call myself out a lot about my own behaviors.

To be honest with you, cut out the violence. Killing animals is violence. Our society has told us, “Okay, there’s animals you can care about, dogs and cats and maybe horses occasionally. And all these other animals, you don’t have to care about them. Their suffering doesn’t count. Cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, goats, lambs, you don’t have to care about them. Their suffering doesn’t count.” Guess what? That’s a lie. Their suffering does count. We have to become cognizant of the fact that if we are biting into a piece of meat, that that was someone who had a mother, who had a father, too, who undoubtedly, probably, unless it’s chicken… Chickens are killed at 45 days, pigs are killed at six months.

Babies, I bear witness two pigs going into slaughterhouses. There’s something called the Save Movement, and it’s based on the philosophy of Leo Tolstoy who said, “When you see suffering, you have a moral obligation not to turn away, but to get closer, see if you can help, and, even if you can’t help, to bear witness.” There’s a whole movement based on bearing witness called the Save Movement. People gather outside slaughterhouses, and when the trucks stop, they say, “We’re so sorry. We love you.” Sometimes they can give water to the animals who have driven for many hours or even possibly a couple of days without water and food. They’re terrified. They’re babies.

When you look into the eyes of those pigs, I defy you not to be moved. They are talking to you. They’re like, “Where am I? Why is this happening? Where’s my mother?” It’s soul crushing. I urge everyone… If you think there’s nothing to it, go to a vigil. One of the big moments we had with our nonprofit was when Joaquin Phoenix won one of the big awards. I believe it was the SAG Award. Instead of going to the party, the after party, he went to the vigil. We had a reporter from UnchainedTV there who interviewed him about why he chose to go to the vigil instead of the after party and that got picked up everywhere. It was in Vanity Fair. It got picked up by Entertainment Tonight. That was a big breakthrough moment for us as a nonprofit news media organization.

People are starting to wake up to this. Here’s the bottom line: trees absorb carbon. We all know that photosynthesis, right? That’s how they get the leaves. They take the carbon in. Because of animal agriculture, either to create cattle grazing or to grow crops to feed to 80 billion animals, people don’t realize three quarters of the soy that’s produced is fed to farmed animals. We have destroyed a lot of forests to create land, to grow crops, and cattle grazing land. We’ve given planet Earth a buzz cut and we are currently destroying the Amazon for cattle grazing and to grow crops to feed animals.

All of that land is not absorbing the carbon that it would be if that land still was forest. What we are proposing, and there’s an organization called The Plant-Based Treaty that is urging cities, Los Angeles has endorsed it and various other cities around the world, is to basically transition to a plant-based culture, reforest that land, and that would immediately begin to start absorbing a lot more carbon and we could start immediately bringing the Earth’s temperature back to where it was prior to the industrial revolution. It’s the fastest way to do that. We are saying, “You can’t solve the climate crisis without looking at animal agriculture.” People are just talking about electric cars.

The United Nations itself did a report back in 2006. It said animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all transportation combined. So why is it that people are talking about electric cars but they can’t talk about diet? Well, look at the TV commercials. That’s the answer. I mean, it’s as plain as day. Nobody has to come up to your office and knock on your door and say, “Don’t talk about this.” Obviously, you look at the commercials and you go, “I’m not going to say anything.” That’s why I started my streaming network. I mean, I feel like I’ve been working my whole life up to running a streaming network. I’ve worked at networks for more than 30 years. I was there. I know how it works. Now through my nonprofit, we’ve started our own streaming network, and it’s global. It’s not available in China, but pretty much throughout most of the world, people can watch UnchainedTV and it’s totally free. People can just get the information. If they want to find out about this, they can watch Eating Our Way to Extinction, which is an incredible documentary.

We just got McLibel, which is a documentary about the longest trial in England, two people who stood up to McDonald’s. We have vegan cooking shows. We won two TASTE awards with our vegan cooking show, New Day New Chef, which has a lot of celebrities. Even Billie Eilish does a cameo in the show. We’re working around the clock. I’m working just as hard as when… I don’t take a paycheck for this. I’m doing it as a labor of love, because how can I sit around and whatever, play tennis and sit on the beach while we are barreling toward a climate apocalypse? That’s not me saying it. Sir David Attenborough has a great documentary that’s on Netflix, I believe, called Breaking Boundaries. There’s only nine boundaries. Once you cross them, there’s no going back. We’re already breaking through six of them. Just yesterday, I read an article about the ocean currents could be monumentally impacted by the melting of the ice caps. Fresh water is warmer than salt water and so it’s going to cause all sorts of very intense changes.

And I’m reading this article, “When could it happen?” They said, “No kidding. Anytime between 2025 and 2050.” It’s like this is not a joke. It’s going to happen. I just read an article yesterday. Mexico City could run out of water. I mean, we’re on the precipice of some really bad stuff. Here’s a solution that could turn it around. Not only is it not covered on the mainstream media, but the government is subsidizing the very industry that is the problem. The dairy industry would collapse without government subsidies, completely collapse because kids are not drinking milk. In fact, they try to force them to in public schools, and they say, “If you won’t drink the cow’s milk, just throw out the containers.” Here we are, torturing all these cows so that kids can refuse the milk and throw it into the garbage. That’s morally wrong. We need to wake up. If we consider ourselves good people, we have to include this in the equation. I’m just urging everybody, please, for your own self-interest, look at the possibility that we have a point.

Jay Ruderman:

Well, Jane, thank you so much for being my guest on All About Change. We’ve covered so much. You’ve had such a varied and impactful life, but what I’m taking away from this and what I think our guests should take away is that they personally can make a change by adopting a different lifestyle to save our planet. Thank you for that message and thank you for everything that we’ve talked about today. Thank you so much, Jane Velez-Mitchell, for being my guest on All About Change. It was such a pleasure speaking with you.

Jane Velez-Mitchell:

Thank you. I hope everybody takes an opportunity to download UnchainedTV.

Jay Ruderman:

Jane Velez-Mitchell’s energy and drive is truly inspiring to me. On top of her extensive career as a broadcast journalist, she’s also a New York Times bestselling author. She continues to be an outspoken advocate for animal rights and environmental sustainability to make the planet better for all of us, and her work never stops. That’s it for today’s episode. Join us two weeks from today for my conversation with someone whose activism has lasted as long as his career, actor Ed Begley Jr.

Today’s episode was produced by Rebecca Chaisson with story editing by Yochai Maital and Mijon Zulu. To check out more episodes or to learn more about the show, you can visit our website, allaboutchangepodcast.com. If you like our show, spread the word, tell a friend or family member, or leave us a review on your favorite podcasting app. We’d really appreciate it. All About Change is produced by The Ruderman Family Foundation in partnership with Pod People. That’s all for now. I’m Jay Ruderman and we’ll see you next time on All About Change.

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