Ruby Roth, a former elementary school art teacher, has published a children's book about the suffering animals face in factory farm operations for the sake of our food supply.
Endorsed by Jane Goodall, That's Why We Don't Eat Animals (NorthAtlantic/RandomHouse) has been described as the first children's book to address the emotional lives of animals, factory farming, the environment, and endangered species. Roth says she was inspired to write and illustrate the book after noticing the interest her students took in animal welfare.
Roth recently answered a few questions for Green Parent Chicago about her book and reader reaction to it:
GPC: You've done some readings and events with children since publication of the book. How do kids initially react when you begin reading That's Why We Don't Eat Animals or talking with them about the animals in the book?
Roth: Children show incredible interest and insight. They ask questions and relate the information to their own lives-their pets, their gardens, one 4th grader told me that factory farms reminded her of what her class was learning about slavery! And I have never experienced one child who was overwhelmed or freaked out by the book. I think they enjoy being let in on what seemed to have been a "secret" kept from them. They feel empowered by the truth. I've received a bunch of emails from parents whose kids were inspired to do things in their communities to help animals. I say in the book that each day, we have the freedom to change our lives. I think this is a very important concept for any child or adult to absorb -- and one to emphasize when you read the book to a kid: we never have to fear things that we have the power to change. They get it!
GPC: You described in your website video how children often go with their instinct and how adults could learn from their example. Could you explain this statement briefly?
Roth: Children are entirely more open and receptive to the idea of sparing the lives of animals. And it's not because they are merely influenced by the "cuteness" of animals. It's that they haven't been on earth long enough to develop deep-seated emotional attachments to meat or to be so shaped by the moral tyranny of the majority. By the time we are grown, we've learned to disconnect to a lot of feelings. We become desensitized to everything from violence to knowing how to heal ourselves, to the way cooked, dead, junk food makes us feel. But kids function from a much more instinctual and thus responsive place. Their gut feelings are not filtered through what others might think or what the food-pyramid dictates from one year to the next. And we adults are entirely capable of tapping in to that wisdom at any point, too.
GPC: Have you faced any controversy since it's publication this past May? How do you deal with controversy regarding your book ?
Roth: A lot of people have knee-jerk reactions to veganism because most of us are set from birth on a program that normalizes meat-from KFC slogans (the latest is:"Unthink!") to our food pyramid which is created under the influence of food industry lobbyists like those from Atkins. The terms "brainwashing" and "propaganda" have been thrown around in reviews because the mainstream believes that meat-eating is a neutral choice while veganism is political. Well, neither is neutral. Both are political choices. You are either voting for or against a system that is destructive to our bodies, to animals, and the planet. Whenever I see an attack on my book, I'm reminded that people are confronting what, in classical yogic philosophy, are called our "samscaras," the patterns that cause suffering to ourselves and others. When we're faced with the reality of the destructiveness of our patterns, it is very common to become defensive. For me, those types of emotional reactions only further my belief that we are in need of serious change.
For more information on Roth and her book see her website: www.wedonteatanimals.com