By Aaron Traister, REDBOOK
Have you heard about the children's book Vegan Is Love by Ruby Roth? It's been "sparking controversy" across the country. Did you know that? VEGAN: It's controversial! Oy vey.
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I'm a dude who grew up on meat and dairy. My mom grew up on a farm, and if she had written a children's book about diet, it would have been called "Butter is Love." I'm also a Philadelphian, which means I grew up worshiping Pat the patron Saint of Cheese and Steaks (not to be confused with St. Patrick, who was famous for something else entirely). Even with that background; however, I'm sympathetic to a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle. I don't find the concept of a meat- and diary-free lifestyle controversial in the least bit. I even went vegan for a month last year and have been observing "vegan days" once or twice a week (most weeks) since. I know I eat too much animal protein, and that it's not good for my health or the health of the environment. I also know about the conditions on factory farms, and I try to be careful about where the meat I consume comes from.
Food production and the decisions we make about the food we put in our bodies has become a very real social issue that we as Americans need to start taking seriously and having real conversations about. Sadly, this book and Ruby Roth add nothing substantive to those conversations, nor do they offer young people a point of entry into veganism or vegetarianism because no parent in their right mind would let this book within 50 feet of their kid.
Ruby Roth has written and lovingly illustrated a children's book that, while decrying the violence, pain, and suffering of animals, also fetishizes said violence, pain, and suffering with competently crafted illustrations, loaded language, and a healthy dose of self-satisfaction and judgment. Vegan Is Love reads like a snuff book for kids complete with illustrations of dead animals with their flesh hanging off and bloody meat on hooks.
The illustrations may be rendered in full color, but the sentiments in the book are strictly black-and-white. While decrying animal testing, Roth fails to mention that animal testing is part of the process used in the fight against epidemics like AIDS and cancer. In the hunting section Roth writes, "Today, most hunters prey on animals because it makes them feel courageous and powerful. But killing an animal is not brave-it is cowardly." She fails to mention the role hunting plays in population control and wildlife management. I'm sure that Ms. Roth would have counter arguments to these two examples, and I'm afraid that's the real point of this book.
This is not a book about love in any way, shape, or form, it's a bullying, fear-mongering book that is intended to frighten children (if any parent accidentally let them get their hands on it) and inflame the media so folks like me write about veganism. This is a confrontational book written solely to get attention for a specific agenda. It is a cynical technique that is employed by the most callous and angry of activists-and that's coming from someone (me) who generally likes activists.
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There are one million different ways to get kids interested in a vegan lifestyle and to make them think about treating animals and the planet thoughtfully and respectfully. Not a single one of those one million ways needs to involve the kind of gore, violence, or scare tactics found in the pages of Vegan Is Love. Many vegans and vegetarians have come to the realization that you catch more carnivores with honey than you do with shouting and buckets of blood. Maybe Ms. Roth will have the same realization when she writes her next book.
So here's my final assessment: Be healthy, eat more veggies, eat less meat, think about the food your family is eating and where it comes from, think about the environment, and don't waste a single second thinking about Ruby Roth or her book Vegan Is Love because it's bad for you. Oh, and it should be noted again that Ruby Roth is a competent illustrator.
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