lauren Ornelas

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lauren T. Ornelas
lauren Ornelas in 2016 at the University of California, Berkeley
Ornelas in 2016 at UC Berkeley
Alma materSt. Edward's University
OrganizationFood Empowerment Project
(m. 2012)

lauren T. Ornelas is an American animal rights advocate for more than 20 years and is the founder of the Food Empowerment Project.[1]

Background and education[edit]

Ornelas was born in San Antonio, Texas[2] and grew up in Texas, where she became a vegetarian as a child. She attended Douglas MacArthur High School in San Antonio from 1984 to 1988. When in high school, she became a vegan and started her first animal rights group.

Ornelas studied at St. Edward's University in Austin from 1990-1993, majoring in communications and minoring in political science.[2] In 1992, she founded the St. Edwards Animals Rights Society, which transitioned into Action for Animals after she graduated.[3] While in college, nuns tore down her "Go Veggie" posters.[4] In the 1992-93 academic year, Ornelas was a recipient of the St. Edward's University Presidential Award.[5]

Ornelas received her Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Edward's. She continued her work for animals while attending university and eventually became the National Coordinator for In Defense of Animals.[6]


Ornelas in 2008

Ornelas worked for In Defense of Animals from 1995 to 1999. Viva! UK then asked Ornelas to start and run Viva! USA, a national nonprofit vegan advocacy organization, where she did numerous factory farm investigations.[6] Ornelas ran Viva!USA from February 1999 to April 2006.[7] As Viva! USA's executive director,[8] in cooperation with activists across the country, she also brought corporate changes to such powerful companies as Whole Foods Market,[9] Trader Joe's, and Pier 1 Imports.[6]

In 2003, Ornelas appeared at the annual shareholder meeting of Whole Foods Market and spoke about the treatment and the lives of the ducks that were killed to be sold in Whole Foods stores. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey was present and initially responded to Ornelas's speech dismissively. But a subsequent sequence of e-mails between Ornelas and Mackey, plus Mackey's reading of a dozen books on animal agriculture, resulted in Mackey becoming vegan (from vegetarian).[10][11]

In a 2004 address to the Empty Cages Conference, Ornelas described the results of Viva!USA's campaign to get grocery stores to stop selling duck meat:

"Grocery store chains, Earth Fare, Huckleberries, our local co-ops and Wild Oats either stopped buying duck meat from the farms we investigated or duck meat altogether. In fact, Trader Joe's stopped carrying all duck meat and put a statement on their website testifying to the fact that this was done because their customers were concerned about the treatment of the animals. With Trader Joe's the goal of our campaign was achieved."[12]

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 (F.E.P.) was born.[13] Ornelas is the founder and executive director of F.E.P., a non-profit organization.[1]

Ornelas campaigns against chocolate produced by labor of West African slaves. "How can we say vegan chocolate is cruelty-free just because it doesn't contain animal products? If it comes from the blood and sweat of slaves in West Africa -- children, no less -- it's certainly not cruelty-free," she says.[14]

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.[15]

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.[16]

Ornelas was Campaigns Director for Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition from March 2007 to July 2013.

Ornelas gave a talk on "The Power of Our Food Choices" at TEDxGoldenGatePark in San Francisco on October 9, 2013.[17]

Ornelas appeared in the 2014 documentary film, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "F.E.P.'s Board and Advisors". Food Empowerment Project. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  2. ^ a b Williams, Dave (2012-11-30). "A staunch advocate for food empowerment". The Community Voice. Vol. 22, no. 33. Rohnert Park, California. Archived from the original on 2016-03-06. She majored at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas in communications and has a minor in political science.
  3. ^ "About Us". Action for Animals Austin. Retrieved 2014-10-22.
  4. ^ Garofoli, Joe (2004-02-08). "The Believers / What does it mean to eschew all animal products? Three animal rights ideologues on their moment of conversion". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2014-10-14. She started an animal rights club in high school, got arrested 'about 10 times' over the years, had nuns tear down her 'Go Veggie' posters in college, and constantly worked two jobs to support her activism
  5. ^ "Past Presidential Award Recipients". St. Edward's University. Retrieved 2014-10-14.
  6. ^ a b c Ornelas, lauren (October 2003). "Rebel Yell! The Satya Interview with Lauren Ornelas". Satya (Interview). Interviewed by Rachel Cernansky. Retrieved 2014-10-14.
  7. ^ Ornelas, lauren (2012-06-18). "Finally … almost July 1, 2012". Food Empowerment Project. Retrieved 2014-10-14.
  8. ^ 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
  9. ^ Horovitz, Bruce (2003-10-21). "Whole Foods pledges to be more humane". USA Today. Retrieved 2014-10-14. 'It's a big deal for the animals,' says Lauren Ornelas, campaign director at VivaUSA, the domestic branch of the British-based animal rights group. 'Whole Foods customers don't like the idea of ducks whose bills are cut off.'
  10. ^ Fishman, Charles (2004-07-01). "The Anarchist's Cookbook". Fast Company. Mackey did two things. He changed his vegetarian diet to vegan (he no longer eats food produced from animals, including dairy products). And he sent Ornelas an email telling her she was right -- not just about ducks, but about chickens, pigs, and cows.
  11. ^ "Whole Foods Market to Create Humane Farming Standards". United Poultry Concerns. 2003-10-21. Retrieved 2014-10-14. In addition to Whole Foods Market's corporate commitment to raise the bar, my research on animal welfare issues while in dialogue with Ms. Ornelas, convinced me to personally become a vegan.
  12. ^ Ornelas, lauren (2004-10-02). "Changing Corporate Policy" (PDF). Animals and Society Institute. Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  13. ^ Hawthorne, Mark (2011-05-24). "lauren Ornelas on Food Justice". Striking at the Roots.
  14. ^ Harmon, Rashida (2012-04-24). "Vegan Women of Color Break New Ground". VegNews. ISSN 1544-8495. Retrieved 2014-09-29.
  15. ^ Ornelas, Lauren (2011-05-23). "An Appetite for Justice". In Kemmerer, Lisa A. (ed.). Sister Species: Women, Animals, and Social Justice. University of Illinois Press. pp. 152–160. ISBN 978-0-252-07811-8. Foreword by Carol J. Adams.
  16. ^ 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 2011-10-05. Retrieved 2011-08-04.
  17. ^ Ornelas, lauren (2013-10-09). "The Power of Our Food Choices". TEDx. Retrieved 2014-09-29.
  18. ^ "Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret". CinemaSpin. March 29, 2015. Retrieved September 21, 2016.

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