Ornelas grew up in Texas, where she became a vegetarian as a child. When in high school, she became a vegan and started her first animal rights group. She continued her work for animals while attending university and eventually became the National Coordinator for In Defense of Animals.
Four years later, Viva! UK asked lauren to start and run Viva! USA, a national nonprofit vegan advocacy organization, where she did numerous factory farm investigations. As Viva! USA’s executive director, in cooperation with activists across the country, she also brought corporate changes to such powerful companies as Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe's, and Pier 1 Imports.
In 2006, Ornelas’ desire to address a variety of social justice issues came to fruition with the opportunity to give a talk “Corporate Animal Farms: Exploiting Animals, Workers and the Environment, and Why You Should Work to Stop It” at the World Social Forum in Caracas, Venezuela. It was in Caracas that she noted that many of the issues being discussed revolved around food, from labor and immigration issues to water, animals, and the environment. Ornelas knew that being more responsible about what we eat was key to fighting injustice, and her idea for the Food Empowerment Project was born.
Ornelas was one of several people who provided information used in the writing of the book Striking at the Roots: A Practical Guide to Animal Activism (2008) by Mark Hawthorne. She later married Hawthorne; they live in northern California.
Ornelas wrote a chapter of Lisa Kemmerer's 2011 anthology Sister Species: Women, Animals, and Social Justice.
In California's 2008 Proposition 2 campaign, Ornelas was the Santa Clara County director of the YES ON 2 campaign. After Prop 2 won, Ornelas and other Prop 2 activists formed Santa Clara County Activists for Animals (SCCAA).
- Food Empowerment Project
- Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
- California Proposition 2 (2008)
- Human Rights
- Animal Rights
- Women and animal advocacy
- Cernansky, Rachel. Rebel Yell! Satya magazine: October 2003.
- Dolan, Maura (2007-07-24). "Justices uphold kangaroo hide ban". Los Angeles Times. p. 2. Archived from the original on 2010-08-04. Retrieved 2010-10-21. "Lauren Ornelas, campaign director for Viva! Vegetarians International Voice for Animals"
- Hawthorne, Mark. lauren Ornelas on Food Justice Striking at the Roots: May 24, 2011.
- Kemmerer, Lisa A., ed. (2011-05-23). Sister Species: Women, Animals, and Social Justice. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-07811-8. Lay summary. Foreword by Carol J. Adams
- McKenzie, Melissa (July 13–19, 2011). "Workers for the Wordless". The Santa Clara Weekly (Santa Clara, California: Santa Clara Eagle Publishing Company) 41 (26): 8. OCLC 39374271. Archived from the original on 2011-08-01. Retrieved 2011-08-04. "'Unfortunately, most people have little understanding of how animals in captivity, whether for entertainment or raised for food, suffer at the hands of humans. We believe if most people knew, they would stop participating in these cruelties,' said Ornelas."
- Food Empowerment Project website