Ruby Roth is an author, illustrator and painter, residing in Los Angeles. Roth created her new illustrated book, That's Why We Don't Eat Animals, for elementary schoolaged children, exploring topics such as factory farming, overfishing and rainforest destruction in a manner that is truthful, yet age-appropriate. As Jane Goodall, primatologist, activist and UN Messenger of Peace says of Roth's latest book, "Farm animals have emotions similar to our pets and this is conveyed in Roth's enchanting illustrations. It will make children -and their parents - think."
The following interview is pulled from MFA's current issue of Compassionate Living magazine. Click here to read the full interview, then click here to become an MFA member and to receive the magazine.
CL: What inspired you to write an illustrated book for children about vegetarians?
RR: In 2003, I went vegan as a health experiment and it was like taking off a heavy jacket and starting to run. The more I learned about food, animals, climate change, and our food and health industries, the more my choice was validated. Fast forward, I was teaching art at an elementary school and the kids were all curious about my veganism. Little by little, and very matter-of-factly, I shared my reasons and they responded with incredible insight. Many kids wanted to go vegan, but there was no support system in their schools or homes. I looked, but couldn't find a book on the subject that wasn't based on a talking animal or vegetable, which I felt they were too smart for. So I decided to create the book myself.
CL: Your book is informative and honest, while not "too scary" for young children. How did you approach the text and illustrations in order to strike this balance?
RR: I wanted to provide factual, emotional ideas that children relate to. In my experience teaching, I found that children don't require the sugarcoating they usually get. They respond with great intelligence to facts and in turn, a powerful sense of self-empowerment. Although the book is written in simple, sweet language, it is in fact comprised of factual, ethological information. I wanted kids to identify the incredible similarities and differences between ourselves and animals - the idea being that both inspire wonder and compassion.
CL: What values do you hope to instill in children who read your book?
RR: This book is about valuing all life and feeling connected to animals and the planet. With this kind of conscious appreciation for all living beings, we're more likely to treat the planet and each other and ourselves with great care. Also, being that vegan children get little support in the world outside of their families, I want this book to inspire self-confidence, bravery, and a pride in self-determination. I want vegan kids to feel good about sticking up for what they believe in, regardless of what their peers are eating at birthday parties or in the school cafeteria.
CL: Do you feel that you have a social responsibility as a writer/artist?
RR: Yes, particularly in a poor economy when art and books are luxuries, I aim for my work to be not only practical, but political. But no matter what my career, I would feel a responsibility. Regardless of your profession, be it house cleaner, makeup artist, or lawyer, you have the capacity to be very effective by introducing social, environmental, or food responsibility within your field.
CL: What do you see in the future of veganism and animal rights?
RR: Following the civil rights movement, veganism is the next step for moral progress in our society. I think the movement will follow the same historical trajectory as all previous rights movements - through denial and anger, but finally acceptance. Most immediately, I envision the eradication of factory farms. Be it from the outside in, as a result of widespread education or from the inside out, as the result of widespread diseases like H1N1, I believe that factory farming will inevitably collapse. It is far too unsustainable not to reach that point eventually.