Ruby Roth wrote and illustrated the children’s book
That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals: A Book about Vegans, Vegetarians, and All LivingThings
. It tells the true story of factory farms and the animals whodeserve to be free.
I’ve read that the idea or
Tat’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals
came out o teaching artto children. Can you explain or elaborateon this?I was teaching art at an elementary ater-school program and the kids were alwaysasking why I never ate the string cheese ormilk they were served. Tey were sincerely interested and many told me they wantedto go vegan, but there was no support sys-tem in their homes or school to help themdo it. I centered some projects on animals,but when I looked into nding more re-sources or them, I couldn’t nd a book on the subject that wasn’t based on a talk-ing animal or vegetable—which I elt they were too smart or. Around the same time,I heard that the education o children wasa major actor in the success o recyclingprograms in Los Angeles. Kids learnedabout it and went home to “radicalize”their parents! I was motivated to createa book that had the potential to provideinormation and support, and ultimately inspire activism. What is your response to parents who want to protect their children rom the re-alities o actory arming and where oods(animal products) come rom?I understand the ambivalence aroundtelling children the truth—no one wantsto scare their little ones. But there is aprescribed notion about children—thatsmallness equals weakness and railty. My experience is that children do not requirethe sugarcoating they usually get. At thesame time, I took a lot o care to makethe inormation and images in my book manageable or a child’s capacity. Tere isalways a way to be honest and gentle at thesame time. What is the reaction that children tend tohave to your book?Children show incredible interest and in-sight. Tey ask questions and relate the in-ormation to their own lives—their pets,their gardens, their vegan aunt. One 4thgrader told me that actory arms remind-ed her o what her class was learning aboutslavery! And I have never experienced onechild who was overwhelmed or reakedout by the book. I think they enjoy beinglet in on what seemed to have beena “secret” kept rom them. Tey eel empowered by the truth. I’vereceived a bunch o emails romparents whose kids were inspiredto do things in their communitiesto help animals. I say in the book that each day, we have the reedomto change our lives. I think this is a very important concept or any child or adultto absorb—and one to emphasize whenyou read the book to a kid: we never haveto ear things that we have the power tochange. And they get it! What has been the reaction rom parents(or other adults)? Vegan parents? Non-vegan parents?Te response rom the parents—andeven veg people without kids—has beensupremely positive and enthusiastic. I’veheard rom people all over the world, romthe Czech Republic to Arica to Argentina,excited by the existence o a resource thatrepresents their values and invites theirchildren into the dialogue. And adultsacross the board have told me they learneda lot about animals rom the book! Mean- while, the negative comments have beenew and ar between in comparison, butthey are intense. Te terms “brainwash-ing” and “propaganda” have been thrownaround in reviews, but it only goes toshow that rom birth, people are set on aprogram that normalizes meat-eating as aundamental, God-given means o exis-tence. People are so deeply and emotion-ally attached to meat, they can’t imaginetheir lives without it. Tey consider any departure rom what they consider normalto be deprivative and even abusive. But,as with any historical movement that hascalled or progress and some reection onour destructive patterns, we are going toconront ear and resistance. I recognizethat is the process o change. You’ve gotten a lot o support rom theanimal rights community or
Tat’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals
. What role do yousee this book playing in the animal rightsmovement? Or what role do you hope tosee the book play?I hope this book becomes the go-to re-source or teachers, librarians, parents, andveg amilies who respect a child’s capacity or inormation as well as their capacity to make decisions. Tere has never beena more relevant time to learn about vegan-ism. It is a solution related to every crucialissue in the headlines today, rom diseaseand healthcare to climate change and en-dangered species. What do you want children and parents totake away rom reading your book?I hope the book provides amilies a senseo connectedness to animals and the envi-ronment—a eeling that we have both aplace and power in this web o lie becauseour choices ripple out into the world. I’veseen this idea inspire kids with a greatsense sel-empowerment. Tey respond with great intelligence and learn to choose wisely. Tis kind o upbringing extendsbeyond veganism into all acets o lie...and it lasts a lietime. As an artist, what do you want the impacto the beautiul--and very powerul--illus-trations to be? Were there specic moti-vations behind how you chose to do theillustrations?Te painting style in my book was highly inspired by my students. Tey were re-ally genius at reducing complexly shapedanimals down to geometric shapes and Iollowed suit with their point o view inmind. In the process o becoming vegan,it was visual inormation—photos and thelm
—that really solidied my commitment. Te mind doesn’t alwaysbelieve until it sees evidence. So I knew the paintings would be crucial to the mes-sage o the book. I wanted the paintingsto be emotive so that even i there were no words to explain the details, the illustra-tions would still convey the magical worldo ree animals and the sadness o actory arms.