My name is Jaya Bhumitra ("JAY-uh BOOM-ith-ruh"). "Bhumitra" means "friend of the earth," which is apropos in that I've been a lifelong animal and environmental activist. I'm a queer, first-generation Indian woman (pronouns: she/her). I was born and raised in Los Angeles—the unceded territory of the Gabrielino and Tongva people.
I boast 20 years of campaign and public affairs experience in both the private and nonprofit sectors, including a decade in the animal protection movement. I hold a bachelor’s degree in international business and marketing from Georgetown University and master’s degree in psychology from Pepperdine University.
Image description: Jaya hugs a pig in the hay.
I've been a professional animal activist for the last 10 years. I most recently served as Managing Director for Animal Charity Evaluators, a research-based nonprofit, where I oversaw representation, equity, and inclusion; people operations; culture; and capacity building. Before that, I established the corporate outreach department at the advocacy organization Animal Equality and inaugurated the role of International Director of Corporate Outreach. In just three years, I built the department from scratch and trained and led 24 people across Mexico, Brazil, Italy, Spain, India, Germany, the UK, and the U.S. to achieve 120 animal welfare policies from the world’s largest food companies.
I also previously helmed the corporate outreach work at advocacy organization Mercy For Animals, where I helped convince seven of the top 10 U.S. grocers to ban cages cruelly confining hens used for eggs and played a major role in negotiating what was at the time the most comprehensive policy to protect chickens used for meat on-farm and at slaughter by any major U.S. chicken producer. Prior to that, I was Director of Campaigns for Animal Outlook where I ran a national "7-Day Veg Pledge" program and encouraged quick-service restaurants to add vegan options. Cumulatively, my work has contributed to reducing the suffering of 760 million chickens raised and killed for food every single year.
Image description: Jaya pets a lamb at a sanctuary.
Racial and Food Justice
My lived experiences with racism have also made me passionate about racial justice. I served nearly four years on the advisory council of Encompass, a nonprofit seeking to increase effectiveness in the animal protection movement by cultivating racial representation, equity, and interdependence while empowering advocates of the global majority. I served two years on the board of Food Empowerment Project, a nonprofit seeking to create a more just and sustainable world by recognizing the power of one’s food choices—F.E.P. spotlights the abuse of animals on farms, the depletion of natural resources, unfair working conditions for produce workers, and the unavailability of healthy foods in low-income areas. Both Encompass and F.E.P. are women-of-the-global-majority-led organizations.
I'm also involved with New Leaders Council, a national nonprofit that works to train the civically-engaged to become progressive leaders. I was a Fellow of the NLC Institute in 2011 and served as co-director of the Los Angeles chapter for two years after that and as a board member for many years after that. NLC has played an integral role in shaping me: I've left every NLC event more capable, courageous, and connected to my community.
Image description: Jaya leaflets in front of Vons grocery store to promote Food Empowerment Project's "Shame on Safeway" campaign.
Before my career in activism, I was the Manager of Public Relations for the Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology—where I worked full-time while earning my master's for the tuition break (#cancelstudentdebt). I thought I might become a therapist before I started volunteering for a campaign to pass Proposition 2, a measure on the 2008 California ballot that aimed to ban the cruelest forms of confinement for animals used for food (it passed, and an update was passed in 2018 with Proposition 12). That effort was my foray into both vegan eating (I had been vegetarian for the 18 years prior) and animal rights.
Also before my crossover into the nonprofit sector, I was a Public Affairs Manager at APCO Worldwide, a globally renowned communications consultancy. I started as an intern then quickly ascended several levels—the organization was great about rewarding initiative with growth opportunities. APCO set a high bar. Whereas I encountered so much sexism, racism, and gender and racial inequity in the nonprofit sector, APCO taught me what an ideal company culture should look like. From that job I took many valuable lessons that still guide me to this day.
Image description: Jaya fulfills one of her lifelong dreams of visiting the sand dunes at Death Valley.
I'm a two-time whistleblower, once during #MeToo. I've been subject to the gamut of gender and racial discrimination, bullying, sexual harassment, and retaliation throughout my career, but, thankfully, I'm good at turning lemons into lemonade. It's these experiences that led me to draft one of the most protective anti-discrimination and -harassment policies in the nonprofit animal advocacy movement, which defined my people-centered and empathic management approach, and which motivated me to offer the specific kinds of skill-sharing and coaching services I'm offering today.
As a result of my experiences, I'm very pro-union. I wanted to organize a union for the animal protection sector as far back as 2016 and even suggested the idea as my mic drop moment in the closing plenary speech I gave at the 2019 Animal Rights National Conference. For the people, by the people!
Image description: Jaya lovingly holds a sheep's head in her hands as they commune for a moment.
In an effort to provide tangible, long-term support in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, I started a series on Facebook called #365ActionsForBLM. Every day from June 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021, I made a post elevating the voices of Black activists and artists, drawing attention to issues affecting the Black community, and calling the public to action. I held myself accountable by taking every action I posted. Engaging with so many incredible Black and Indigenous authors and accounts has been a big part of my own decolonization. Each day I challenged myself to reexamine my own beliefs, deepen my knowledge around antiracism, and commit to upholding justice. More than a yearlong series, this is a lifelong practice to which I give my whole heart.
Image description: Jaya's painting of the phrase "Black Lives Matter" in black acrylic.
I'm vegan for the animals. I've been vegan for 15 years and was vegetarian for 18 years before that. I decided to become vegetarian at age 9 after observing the astuteness of the companion animal chickens (Cluck and Doodle) with whom we shared our home. They were clearly as smart and sensitive as our companion dogs and cats, and the chickens had big, sassy personalities which I loved. I matter-of-factly informed my parents I wouldn't be eating animals anymore and that set me on my path.
Around the same time, I formed "The Cheetah Club" at my elementary school. Our focus was environmentalism and I successfully encouraged my classmates to pick up litter during their lunch. I was an organizer from the start!
Image description: Jaya wears a hat embroidered with the word "vegan" while on a run.
Besides animals, other loves include the desert, beach (I'm learning to sail and surf), dancing (hip hop, hustle, samba, salsa, mambo, cha cha, rumba, swing, and other ballroom styles), pottery, and playing with colors (painting; flower arranging). I also enjoy the escapism of a good TV drama (favorite genres: social commentary and teen soap).
Image description: Jaya's vase of bouganvillea and hibiscus flowers handpicked from her yard.