V is for Vegan
by Renee Ratliff
We had the pleasure of meeting Ruby Roth at VegFest this spring, where she presented on The Transformative Power of Veganism. She captivated the audience sharing her journey and exploring her controversial children’s books.
Author of Vegan is Love and That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals, Roth is at it again with her new book, V is for Vegan: The ABCs of Being Kind. Audiences of all ages are taken on a journey through memorable rhymes and charming illustrations presenting the basics of animal rights and the veganism.
We had the chance to interview the author on her life and her new book. Here is what she had to say:
How/when did you become vegan?
In 2003, a friend pointed out that my eating habits did not match my morals and values. I had always been interested in health, social justice, and politics, counter-cultural movements and activism. I was raised by a vegetarian mom and had lived on an organic tree farm. At that moment, I had to question what kind of person I really was! I ended up trying veganism for a summer as a health experiment and I stopped getting tonsillitis, lost weight, and had so much energy, it felt like taking off a heavy jacket and starting to run. I started researching the underbelly of the animal agriculture industry and never went back.
Are your family and friends vegan? Are they supportive of your lifestyle choices?
Yes! My parents and sister are now vegan as well—though my mom was already vegetarian since her teenage years. My honey, Justin Bua, has been vegan nearly 17 years and his 8-year-old daughter is born and raised vegan. We are part of a large community of Los Angeles vegans, but of course we have non-vegan friends, too. If anyone is unsupportive, I suppose they keep it to themselves…or they’d be met with a tsunami of information from me! Even if I were the only one in my community, I’d still be vegan!
What does veganism mean to you?
For me, veganism is the most far-reaching political tool we have today, much more powerful than the voting booth. From our economy to healthcare, energy, water shortages, environmental degradation, and pollution, we’re facing many grave issues—most of which we’ll never have legislative control over. But we do have de facto control over the markets. By pushing and pulling our support in the public realm, our vegan choices affect every major industry and every corner of the earth. My motto is “Love deeply, think critically, and act responsibly”—I believe veganism has provided me the vehicle through which I can effectively exercise my values.
Why did you choose to focus on writing children’s books?
I have been aiming for a career in the arts since childhood, but I’ve also loved social justice studies and politics since high school. In college I doubled majored in art and American Studies and later put those two loves together to create resources for a new generation of kids who will eat, think, and live differently. I don’t think we can wait for the next generation to grow up before we teach them to live consciously.
What inspired you to write this book?
The vegan population has more than doubled since 2009—we are the fastest growing food movement there is! I wrote V Is for Vegan as a prequel to my other works to serve a demographic I know will continue to grow over the years. More and more parents are experiencing the practical and far-reaching benefits of veganism and want to bring their children on board. I believe kids need to understand the motives as much as adults do, especially when veganism is a new practice to the family.
How is this book, V is for Vegan: The ABCs of Being Kind, different then your first two books?
V Is for Vegan is written for my youngest audience yet! It’s a bright, rhyming, funny book that provides a joyful overview of the lifestyle that even the youngest of kids will understand. The first two books delve deeper and introduce the concept of personal agency. That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals addresses the emotional lives of animals, factory farming, the environment, and endangered species in regards to our food choices. Where it covers the “why,” Vegan Is Love covers the “how,” offering the many ways we can put our love into action—from food and clothing to entertainment, zoos, and circuses.
What was the most challenging part creating V is for Vegan: The ABCs of Being Kind?
Narrowing down what to cover! I had 26 sentences in which to embody a whole philosophy and practice—and I decided it needed to rhyme to make it as fun as possible. I covered what I believed were the most important and pertinent ideas for the youngest of kids to know—and I trust that those 26 sentences will serve as a jumping off point for everlasting discussion and discovery.
Was there any difficulty illustrating topics such as factory farming?
Yes, I didn’t want to sugarcoat the paintings and yet I didn’t want to illustrate horrors as they would have appeared in photos. I had to balance the images delicately so that they were honest depictions while being manageable for a child’s capacity. With color, composition, and character, I believe I created imagery that piques interest and gets kids to engage without turning away in fear.
Your books are written for children, however a lot of adults also don’t understand the issues. How do you think these books have helped share your message with an older audience?
I always say…these books are so easy even adults can understand! It can be hard to articulate why we’ve gone vegan to others because the motives are overwhelming and complex—it’s animals, health, dirty politics and corruption, violence, environmentalism, philosophy, and more. These books put the main tenets in the simplest, most stripped-down terms. That’s why I suggest that adults keep the books on their coffee tables, office desks, or in their waiting rooms! Because veganism is still so relatively new to the mainstream, the concept can still spark controversy. I think a lot of non-vegan adults pick up the book out of sheer curiosity for this reason—to see what in the world is inside! And they might learn a thing or two in a non-threatening way since it’s not addressed directly to them.
There has been a lot of controversy surrounding your books, how has the media responded to this book? How is it different from when you published your first book, That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals?
There’s not as much “outrage” this time around! I truly believe it’s a result of every year past since 2009 in which veganism has made its way further into the mainstream lexicon. More people understand the definition, know vegans, are borrowing eating habits from the movement, and are experiencing the benefits. The information-sharing is working, y’all, so keep it up!
Final words of advice?
Let’s work to increase our knowledge of health and the animal agriculture industry and grow this network of activists! Please join my mailing list at www.WeDontEatAnimals.com so we can continue the conversation!