Jaya Marina Bhumitra
Cha ChChaForanima is very excited to announce our latest addition with Tastemakers! We have the privilege of talking with some very influential vegan advocates in our health community and across the globe. To debut Foranima Tastemakers, we got to sit down with Jaya Bhumitra of Los Angeles to learn about her story, hobbies, obsessions, and everything that makes her Jaya. She also shares with us her important work as with Compassion Over Killing, an organization dedicated to ending animal abuse and promoting a vegetarian lifestyle.
Change Maker; Athlete; World Traveler. Los Angeles.
Tell us a little bit more about yourself. Your vegan story and what made you choose this lifestyle?
Growing up, we had four companion animals: Tootsie, Sandy, Cluck, and Doodle. The former two were dogs, the latter two chickens. When they played, it was easy to see that these two species—both smart, social, and sensitive—were more similar than most people recognize. I knew then that loving one and eating the other just didn’t make sense, and so, at the ripe old age of 9, decided that I would be the first in my family to become vegetarian.
However, I was the only vegetarian I knew for the longest time. It wasn’t until 2008 when I learned from the public education campaigns around California’s Proposition 2 (which proposed to eliminate the cruelest forms of farmed animal confinement such as battery cages, gestation crates, and veal crates) that dairy cows and egg-laying hens endure just as much trauma as animals raised for meat. I was horrified. Both because of the obscene way animal agribusiness was treating animals, but also because it took nearly 20 years since I had become vegetarian for this information to reach me. If only someone had told me when I was 9, I would have been vegan from the start!
That’s what led me to a career in vegan advocacy. I just knew that there were more people out there like me—people who loved animals but who had no idea that they were complicit in their terrible abuse, or how easy it was to stand up for them simply by leaving them off of our plates.
If you could jet off to any location on earth for a mini-get away where would you go?
That depends on my mood. For relaxing and recharging, the vegan bed and breakfast The Stanford Inn in Mendocino. For meditation, the desert at Joshua Tree. For adventure, the black sand beaches in New Zealand. For color and liveliness, the markets in Morocco or Turkey. But I’m also always happy in bed with the dogs.
Name some things you’d like to accomplish in this life?
I want to save as many animals as possible from a life of suffering. I have also always wanted to learn to play “The Heart Asks Pleasure First” from The Piano soundtrack on the piano.
You’re a very active person. Share with our readers some of your favorite forms of exercise.
Fitness is very important to me. I’m a fan of Spinning, Pilates, and Pop Physique. But I absolutely love running, which is as necessary to me as oxygen. It empowers me physically, mentally, and emotionally, and has brought me as close to enlightenment as I’ve ever felt. I’m a better wife, daughter, friend, and animal advocate on the days that I run.
Current vegan celebrity crush?
My husband, Christopher Locke! He’s not a celebrity yet, but he is working on a novel—an adventure story with a compassionate message—that will hopefully impress the world as much as it impresses me. I’m also fond of Peter Dinklage, who I believe is vegetarian but still a great spokesperson for animals. His wit, charm, and compassion are very appealing. Compassion is sexy!
Tell us about some exciting aspects of your life or favorite memories?
Chris and I were fortunate enough to visit South Africa for a safari with my parents a few years ago—we wanted to witness the animals in their natural habitat, outside the cruel cages of a zoo. We were in a very remote part of the bush in a very private, minimalist lodge, in the care of a very thoughtful guide who clearly appreciated and respected his environment as much as we did. We went out together one morning for a drive at dawn, and came upon an enormous watering hole. We parked a good distance away, then waited and watched.
In time, we saw elephants approach. Not one elephant, or two. Not three, or four. But 10, then 20, all ages, both genders, drinking, nuzzling, trumpeting! But that wasn’t the end of this incredible experience. On the other side, out of the grassy cover, emerged another parade of gray. With a steady pace and total comfort, another 10, 20—30!—elephants marched forward. This group had even younger babies, some still with fuzz on their head, walking sleepily underneath their mothers’ bellies and within the pillars of their legs. With an elephant nursery on one side of the water and adolescents intertwining their trunks in play on the other side of the water, this was more amazing a sight than my simple words can convey.
Two herds had come together, and in that moment, seeing so many wild elephants thriving, we saw a future for these beautiful beasts. With all the elephants suffering at the hands of poachers, in circuses, and in zoos, it was a glimpse of light to remind us what we’re fighting for.
Make-up product (or article of clothing) you couldn’t live without?
I love Alba Botanica’s Cocoa Butter lotion, Gabriel’s black eyeliner, and No Miss’ black mascara. Yes to Cucumbers makes great eye makeup remover pads, and Giovanni’s Argan Oil Shampoo and Conditioner provide both nourishment for my crazy curly hair and aromatherapy.
What’s your guilty pleasure? TV show, dessert, etc.
I love binge-watching television dramas that feature complex and layered stories, well-developed character arcs, and social commentary. Favorites include The Wire, Breaking Bad, Battlestar Galactica, and 24. I’m also addicted to MTV’s Catfish, which I find absolutely fascinating.
For those who haven’t heard about it, what is Compassion over Killing and the overall mission of the organization?
Compassion Over Killing (COK) is a national nonprofit animal advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, DC with an additional office in Los Angeles, CA (I work out of the latter).
Working to end animal abuse since 1995, COK focuses on cruelty to animals in agriculture and promotes vegetarian eating as a way to build a kinder world for all of us, both human and nonhuman. We engage in undercover investigations, legal advocacy, corporate campaigns, restaurant outreach, and public education to achieve these goals.
What is your role with COK, what does your job entail?
As the Campaigns Director, I coordinate national campaigns such as USVegWeek.com and WeLoveSubway.com, while also overseeing COK's national outreach efforts. I’m especially proud of developing the organization’s first Spanish-language brochure, Comida con Amigos. The 16-page pocket guide features the vegan versions of 20 delicious cultural recipes, as well as stories about rescued farmed animals, tips for egg-free baking, a glossary of new-to-you foods, quotes from vegetarian labor rights activist Cesar Chavez, and more. Comida con Amigos, which translates to “Food with Friends,” is meant to celebrate the community of cooking valued in Hispanic families, while also emphasizing compassionate cuisine.
It’s safe to say that working at a nonprofit is a demanding yet rewarding job. What do you enjoy doing in your free time? What are your hobbies?
I already mentioned running and watching television dramas, but I also love to cook. I have many cook books by chefs that I admire, though I tend to use recipes as inspiration rather than instructions. I’m very flexible with ingredients and often make substitutions, and am even more cavalier about measurements. But nearly everything comes out great anyway, because it is made with love.
Chris and I also really enjoy making up games for the dogs. We’re up to nearly 20 games, most of them named after natural disasters: Tornado, Earthquake, Tsunami. There’s lots of play in our house.
What do you love most about what you do with COK?
I love vegan advocacy because it’s very efficient, addressing several integrated social justice issues simultaneously. Simply by encouraging people to choose more vegan foods, I can protect animals, the environment, and people’s health, while also supporting worker justice, minimizing public health risks, and reducing world hunger. It’s cutting six carrots with one knife!
What is the greatest thing COK has been able to accomplish so far?
I couldn’t possibly summarize all the amazing work COK has done in its nearly 20-year history, though these videos do a pretty good job. This is what we accomplished last year alone! Perhaps the best thing COK does is empower people to make choices that align with their values. It’s a great way to live, when our actions match our conscience, and we’re helping people do that every day—and saving countless animals along the way!
How can interested readers become involved?
We’re always looking for caring individuals nationwide to support our outreach, campaigns, and other projects. People interested in volunteering can sign up here, and everyone should sign up for our eNewsletter here, the easiest way to stay up-to-date on our life-saving work for farmed animals.
Shop Jaya's favorite animal-friendly items here => www.foranima.com/collection/collectionDetail/jaya-bhumitras-favorite-animal-friendly-finds