Vegan Is Love: Author Ruby Roth on Telling Children the Truth About Animals
Source Free From Harm
By Ruby Roth
I’d never have guessed my first children’s book would provoke such backlash. That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals, though well received, has also caused some controversy, garnering attacks from the likes of animal agriculture trade magazines and even Farm Bureau CEOs. Though veganism is swiftly gaining momentum, it still provokes knee-jerk reactions— for me, each case of opposition is a study of the invisible forces that shape our thinking about food, health, and animals.
When my subsequent children’s book, Vegan Is Love, was reviewed by Nicole German, a registered dietician on Diet Blog, her critique perfectly illustrated the real reasons why “experts” often dismiss or malign veganism: fear, ignorance, and industry collusion.
“The main problem I have with this book,” German writes, “is that children are impressionable, and this is too sensitive of a topic to have a child read this book.”
We tend to shelter children from the “adult” world because we fear shattering the fragility we imagine they inherently possess. We follow this concept of childhood because we inherited it from the Victorian age—not because it is universally accepted. Throughout history and the world, various cultures consider their children to have capabilities beyond what we acknowledge here in the West. In some cultures kids are contributing members of the community by the time they’re four—watching siblings, pounding grain, helping collect firewood. Kids are more competent and sturdy than we think. Surprised parents have repeatedly told me that their child reacted with curiosity—not fear—when they learned about factory farming in my books. During readings, I’ve never once seen a child overwhelmed—only adults. Kids learn when we teach them.
I do, though, agree that kids are impressionable, which is exactly why they need information at an early age that will help them make educated choices. In my experience, when kids understand options, they choose wisely.
With constant media and technological stimulation, kids are being “impressed” upon by biased messaging up to hundreds of times a day—by whom? Follow the money. Seventy-five percent of government subsidies go to meat and dairy while less than half a percent goes to fruits and vegetables. The Milk Mustache campaign, driven by the National Milk Processor Board (administered by the USDA) spent $190 million in 1998. Colluding industry-led campaigns like these cause massive increases in demand, in this case, billions of pounds of fluid milk.
These profit-seeking systems are the ones we should be concerned about influencing our kids—not a picture book about choices. If we don’t intercept the all-pervasive, concerted efforts between Big Ag, Big Pharma, and federal nutrition programs, today’s youth will inevitably join in the animal cruelty and the dysfunctional cycle of disease and medication we are experiencing in this country at an all-time high. The most important message to teach kids is that we don’t have to fear anything we have the power to change.
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if love were a path
a street on which
where all could live
Karen Lyons Kalmenson