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Jane Velez-Mitchell is one of those influential vegans that we're all glad to have on our side. She's witty, feisty, opinionated, and has a huge platform in which to periodically propel the virtues of a compassionate, vegan lifestyle. Since 2009, she has hosted her own show on CNN Headline News calledIssues with Jane Velez-Mitchell.
Ms. Velez-Mitchell is the author of three books; one about murder cases, the second a memoir in which she opens up about her addictions and sexuality, and the most recent is Addict Nation: An Intervention for America.
In Addict Nation, Jane uncovers how Americans have become addicted to countless legal activities and products such as prescription drugs, unhealthy fast food, gambling, social networking, television and other consumer habits like buying new cars, houses, furniture, clothes, and anything else we can get our hands on. In Addict Nation, Jane (and co-author Sandra Mohr) discuss how we've become seduced by the media into believing we have a right to all these possessions and activities and how this is destroying our lives.
"Addict Nation is really a blueprint for change and the fundamental cornerstone of that is compassion, because compassion is emotional sobriety. I call veganism "food sobriety."
In Addict Nation, Velez-Mitchell discuses how food has turned into a drug for most Americans, "A drug gives you that hit of pleasure, but then there's that remorse, and there's that incomprehensible demoralization, and 'who was that person?' I believe a lot of people experience that when they eat meat. They enjoy it that moment, but then there’s the conscience, (in some people it’s subtle and in some people it's more pronounced) and they might not want to acknowledge it, but it’s there, and they suffer as a result.
So, what I say is, let that go... be addiction free and have guilt-free eating, and celebrate life. There’s a lot of joy and freedom in knowing that no matter what I do today, because I'm sober I'm going to remember what I did, I'm not going to do anything where I have to call up somebody the next day and say, 'What did I do? Who did I offend?' Because I’m vegan it's the same principle, I can go through this day happy, joyous, and free, and no matter what I do I'm not going to commit the cardinal sin of killing."
Ms. Velez-Mitchell has personal experience battling addiction to alcohol and builds Addict Nation around the principles she learned in her 12 Step Program. After making the reader fully aware that these American habits truly are addictions, the authors offer practical ideas for how we can bring our lives back into balance.
"The first step is to have a moment of clarity and really acknowledge what is going on. The second step is then to pause before you make those decisions and decide what is important to you, living an ethical life or that momentary hit of pleasure. And that's really the metaphor for addiction because the addict just cares about the next hit, they don't care about the wreckage they create. It's really about living an ethical life. And, ironically, it's also good for you. Once you get over the addiction to meat and dairy and fast food, you can have a whole adventure in healthy living."
A really interesting proposal made in Addict Nation is to give farm animals "inalienable rights to human treatment," which would award those 10 billion animals the right to move around and have access to the outdoors to socialize. With such rules to follow, the corporations running the factory farms would be forced to do business differently, therefore increasing the cost of meat and encouraging people to eat plant products. All of this would reduce our worldwide carbon footprint substantially.
"If you love animals, then you morally should be horrified about what's happening to the 10 billion factory farmed animals raised and killed for food in America every year. You can't say you love animals and still participate in that process and consume that product."
proposes that giving animals basic rights would encourage new companies to emerge and satisfy the demand for more vegetables, legumes, fruits, and whole grains. This would discourage the fast food industry, lower obesity rates, and improve the health of Americans.
"Every shopping choice we make is not just a personal lifestyle choice as we've been led to believe. It's a political choice, it's a moral choice, and it's an environmental choice. If you buy factory-farmed food, you are a co-conspirator in that product, plain and simple. And you are a co-conspirator in the institutionalized cruelty inflicted on those animals; pigs kept in gestation crates the size of their bodies, never able to turn around, they become psychotic, baby calves taken from their mothers and put in veal crates, birds de-beaked and de-toed, cows' tails docked, the list goes on and on."
Jane Velez-Mitchell has won numerous awards for her work with animal advocacy. In 2010, VegNews magazine awarded her with the Media Maven award for her involvement in the vegan community. In 2009, she won the Farm Animal Rights Movement’s Celebrity Animal Activist Award. And, when she worked for Celebrity Justice, she reported on animal cruelty and the Humane Society awarded the show two Genesis Awards.
She went vegan shortly after Howard Lyman, from Mad Cowboy, told her that dairy is "liquid meat."
"Going vegan has been a miracle for me. It really is a miracle. There is tremendous joy and freedom in knowing that I can get through this day without killing. And it really is something that makes me happy, and it clears my conscience. We all go out and do silly things and things we regret, but that baseline feeling of "I have not killed today," really creates a lot of joy and allows for guilt-free living.
Many Vegan Nutritionista readers say they truly want to make a difference and lead a more compassionate lifestyle, but they stumble when it comes to the idea of forever giving up certain foods. While many of us make the jump to veganism overnight, there always seem to be more changes to make or more animals/people we can help, and some people find that knowledge incredibly overwhelming.
"Going vegan ... can be a process, not an event. There are people who say to me, 'well, I love cheese.' Okay, you love cheese; so then start with giving everything else up, and then you can address the cheese, afterwards. But don't do nothing because you love cheese. Take that step, begin the journey."
It can be easy sometimes to disengage when we eat, thinking only of the finished product on our plates, rather than where that food came from. Ms. Velez-Mitchell has spoken to many people who tell her they love animals, but they still eat meat, and she finds a way to connect with them as well. Jane said she believes that some of the people who talk the most about how it's their right to do certain things might be those who truly understand that those things are immoral.
Someone recently admitted to her that she loves animals but still eats meat, and Jane gave me a great outline for how to approach that topic with someone, "I said, imagine all those animals that you will not have killed if you go vegan this year. I believe that by going vegan you save hundreds of animals each year because you don’t use animal products or products that are tested on animals. Imagine all those animals coming around you, nuzzling you, and saying, 'Thank you for sparing me.'"
There are also huge environmental benefits to going vegan, and Jane Velez-Mitchell believes in taking extra steps beyond diet to counteract the damage humans have done to the environment. Her big suggestions are:
As Jane Velez-Mitchell said, "people say, 'I can’t afford to eat healthy.' Nonsense. A bag of organic potatoes is a lot cheaper than a steak. So, you'll save money, you'll lose weight, you'll feel better, you'll have a simpler lifestyle, you'll feel good about yourself because you're not destroying the planet. You're not killing. You can be happy, joyous, and free and escape from the consumer zombie culture."
Jane Velez-Mitchell ended our interview with a call to action to all of us who care, encouraging us to get involved, "Terrible things did not end with being oh-so-very polite and laid back. Slavery didn’t end, women didn’t get the right to vote, it took courage and it took commitment. We all have to be part of the solution, every single day. Do not go to a party without bringing vegan food. If there's a potluck at work, bring vegan food. I have literature, animal rights literature, all over my office. Every person can be an activist. I don't care what you do. I'm a journalist and I'm an activist, so you can be an activist too. Don’t let anything stop you; every person you meet is a chance to spread the word."
Get your copy of Jane Velez-Mitchell's Addict Nation: An Intervention for America on Amazon here.
Interview with Jane Velez-Mitchell: February 16, 2011
Thank you, Jane Velez-Mitchell for your interview!