My favorite memories growing up usually involved animals. Whether it was a book about a pig on a farm who wins the heart of a young girl, a film about a baby circus elephant's longing to be with his mom, or a television show about a bunch of animals and creatures who live on Sesame Street, I fell in love with animals every time I was given the chance to.
As children, we were and continue to be taught goodness, kindness, and compassion through books, films, and shows that use animals as subjects for each lesson. One of my personal favorites is The Cow That Went Oink by Bernard Most, a book that helps children to understand the importance of kindness and respect for the differences in each of us. Most's fun, creative book begs the question - why do we use animals for this purpose? And even more so - why do we eat and abuse the very animals we use to teach our children how to be good?
"Every day, we have the freedom to change our lives. In fact, when we treat animals respectfully, we practice world peace." ~ Ruby Roth, That's Why We Don't Eat Animals
A book written for children and their families, That's Why We Don't Eat Animals is just as vital an addition to the veg-friendly library as John Robbin's The Food Revolution or Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals, because it's simple, yet profound message - that the animals of this world have as much a desire to live and love their families as we do - is enough to become a seed of change for good in the hearts of children and grown-ups alike. I've never seen a book that handles the subject of factory farming, overfishing, and the destruction of our fellow animals and planet so delicately. With her words, Ruby creates a wonderful balance of giving a spoonful of truth to kids without completely overwhelming or alienating them. In fact, Ruby's words have the ability to empower children with the knowledge to actively think about the animals that many of them eat on a daily basis.
"Pigs need the sight, sound, and touch of one another. Sometimes they snuggle so close that it's hard to get them apart. Love is part of their nature." ~ Ruby Roth, That's Why We Don't Eat Animals
As a lover of children, I applaud Ruby for talking to young readers as equals, and it is with this respectful, generous spirit that Ruby truly captivates her audience. The gorgeously drawn illustrations are enough to stir your soul into action, and Ruby's heartfelt narrative complement them perfectly.
There's a video about That's Why We Don't Eat Animals on Ruby's websitethat is a great way to learn more about this beautiful book:
And, of course, I had to learn more myself, so I interviewed Ruby about her personal journey towards veganism, as well as the process of constructing That's Why We Don't Eat Animals.
Kiss Me, I'm Vegan: What was the turning point in your life that led you to veganism? Was it one huge moment, or a collective group of small moments that changed you?
Ruby: I used to get tonsillitis six times a year, I had panic attacks, and backaches… and I was tired of it. During a summer job, some raw-food vegan coworkers schooled me and even though my first question was “Where do you get your protein?”, I went vegan cold-turkey as a health experiment. Immediately, I slimmed down so my backed stopped hurting, I was calmer but slept less, and I stopped getting sick. I could feel my body running on clean fuel. It was like taking off a heavy jacket and starting to run. The more I learned, the more my choice was validated. I was always involved in politics and justice and I realized that animal consumption is inextricably linked to world-political issues: health and disease, animal cruelty, land/air/ocean pollution, environmentalism, water waste, immigration, even gender and race. So I put my money where my mouth is and I’m thrilled to have plucked myself from a chain of deplorable issues.
KMIV: What have been the greatest rewards of your vegan lifestyle? What have been the greatest challenges?
Ruby: So many! Going vegan really blows your mind open. There is a clarity about health and the body, the world and about the way people function, and the earth beneath your feet that becomes so sharp. No matter how clear-thinking I thought I was before, going vegan really changed my mind and life for the better. Plus, I’m eating superfoods like cacao, maca, kale, reishi, things I don’t know how I lived without.
The only real challenge, as I continue to learn and study, is being faced with the reality of what’s going on with peoples’ health, with animals, and the environment. It weighs unbearably heavy. But the reward and the challenges of veganism are the flip sides of the same coin. Both lead to activism, and when you’re awake and active, nothing can get you down for long.
KMIV: I read on the website that you were teaching art in an after-school program when you were inspired to write That's Why We Don't Eat Animals. Can you tell me more about that?
Ruby: Yes, I was teaching art to kids. During their recess, they were served milk and string cheese snacks and once when they noticed I never ate with them, they wanted details. I answered every question truthfully in a nonchalant, kid-friendly way. I was shocked by their sincere interest, and many of them said they would go vegan. But there was no support system for them at home or at school, so I looked into finding a kids book to share with them. I couldn’t find one that wasn’t sugarcoated, or based on a talking animal or vegetable, which I felt they were too smart for. In the end, my students inspired me to create the book myself.
KMIV: What do you hope children and families will take away from the book?
Ruby: The book is meant to inspire a sense of connectedness to the world around us. And I seriously do not mean this in a hippie, kumbaya way. And kids get that. What I mean is for adults and children to live fully awake and aware that what we do every day matters - for our health, for animals, and for the planet. This idea inspires self-empowerment and a practice of wise choices, and it lasts a lifetime.
KMIV: What advice would you give someone who is interested in veganism, but afraid of taking the leap?
Ruby: The more you add fresh, nutrient-dense foods to your regime, particularly superfoods, the less room you have (psychologically and physically) for meat and dairy, which in comparison are rather poor sources of nutrition. As your body sheds mucous and toxins and adjusts to absorbing minerals, you’ll naturally start craving the foods that deliver them best, and most likely, leave the others behind.
KMIV: Okay - you're stuck on a deserted island with three vegan food items - what are they?
Ruby: Sounds like a good time! This is no contest: Kale, Raw Cacao, Avocados. Kudos to Ruby Roth for sharing her book and story with the KMIV family. To learn more - or to purchase a copy of the book, visit www.wedonteatanimals.com .