Ruby Roth is the author of That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals. She’s an artist, author and a teacher living in Los Angeles and a vegan since 2003. She’s been teaching art in an after school program where children’s interest in healthy foods and veganism first inspired her to write That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals. This book has been praised by Jane Goodall and PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk among other leading activists and best selling authors.
Hi I’m Caryn Hartglass. There are a number of articles that have been coming out lately that I’m happy about but I’m also amused about. Time Magazine put out an article recently called Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food and the Washington Post has put out an article called The Meat of the Problem. And basically both of them are talking about all the things that have gone wrong with our food system and how it’s impacting in a negative way climate change. And the solution fortunately both of them have come to pretty much same conclusion that the thing that we need to do is reduce our meat and dairy consumption and eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. And it’s funny because it’s in the news but this information is not new. So, I’m happy to see it finally in mainstream news. I wish it were out there a lot sooner. But people are getting the message. So that’s good news.
And my guest today is Ruby Roth and she’s the author of a book we’re going to talk a bit about today called That’s Why we Don’t Eat Animals. She’s an artist, author and a teacher living in Los Angeles and a vegan since 2003. She’s been teaching art in an after school program where children’s interest in healthy foods and veganism first inspired her to write That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals. Now this book has been praised by Jane Goodall and PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk among other leading activists and best selling authors.
Caryn Hartglass: And Ruby, are you with us?
Ruby Roth: Yes, hi how are you?
Caryn Hartglass: Hi, I’m great how are you?
Ruby Roth: I’m good thank you. It’s nice to be among allies.[laughter]
Caryn Hartglass: Exactly. That’s one thing I love, why I love doing this show. I get to talk to some…
Ruby Roth: Normal people!
Caryn Hartglass: Exactly! Not the extremists! People who believe in a world where well, like in the mission statement I just read, all are fed and no exploitation, everyone is free to do what they want to do and what they are meant to do on this planet. And not just people, but the other living species that we inhabit this planet with.
Ruby Roth: I’m with you, I think maybe its because personally and from what I do day to day I see everything through vegan colored glasses and I think what we eat is the solution to many of the problems that are making headlines in the news today.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely!
Ruby Roth: Everything from, you know, the ethical industry, which people have been paying more attention to since I think ENRON and before and to global warming and climate change to this desperate fight for health care. Nobody is talking about why we are sick in the first place.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right. Well we have a lot to talk about today and you just touched on some huge topics. We’ll see if we can talk a little bit about each of them.
Ruby’s got a website called WeDontEatAnimals.com. So you can check that out either during the show or afterwards. Okay, so, now you sound young. Younger than me.
Ruby Roth: You should see me, I look like I’m twelve. [Laughter] I think that is why I was so successful with the kids at the school; they thought I was one of them.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. So, when did you get started on this path and how did it happen?
Ruby Roth: Well, first I’d say that I used to get sick a lot and would get really bad sore throats, like tonsillitis, six to seven times a year.
Caryn Hartglass: Me too!
Ruby Roth: All the time! Just never made any connection to what I was eating and my boyfriend, who I probably knew due to his artwork, he actually schooled me on what he was doing at the time which was raw food and veganism, and I thought, you know what? I’m just going to try. So it started as this complete health experiment.
And I went vegan cold turkey and started eating a lot of raw food and immediately I slept less, I slimmed down, I stopped getting sick. I could feel my body running on clean fuel and it was like taking off a heavy jacket and starting to run.
And, I was so excited about the health transformation, that it just stuck. And, then the more I learned about animals and the emotional life of animals and the ethics in this industry down to even further how our vitamins are made and just how our entire food system is such a lie. The more my choice was validated.
Caryn Hartglass: Our entire food system is linked to a lot of oppression and exploitation.
Ruby Roth: More than people know.
Caryn Hartglass: And more, yeah…amongst other things…yeah. So, what you’ve described is a very typical path that a lot of people take and something I always encourage people that are really hesitant to try a vegetarian diet but they really aren’t feeling well and they have all kinds of health problems. What I like to say is just try it, give it three weeks. It doesn’t cost anything.
Ruby Roth: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s just a few weeks of your life. It’s not. you know, any major drug with side effects. And just see what happens. And every time people feel better.
Ruby Roth: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s amazing.
Ruby Roth: A couple times people have reported to me that they haven’t felt better, sometimes people do feel better at first and they kind of start feeling bad a little while later and usually what I’ve experienced and from what I’ve read, your body goes through a cleansing.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Ruby Roth: When you start detoxing, getting rid of the stuff that’s in your body, you know, living off of clean fuel, your body is going to get all that toxic stuff out. So sometimes there’s a little hump to get over.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, no, you’re right. My understanding of what happens is that when you are continually eating poor quality food, at some point your body just gives up fighting. There’s only so much it can take in and respond to. At some point it just gives up and so you have a lot less vitality. And you don’t seem to get sick or you don’t seem to respond to a lot of things that if you were really in good shape if something bad came into your body you would respond to. So when you start cleaning out or you start eating clean foods, this gives your body an opportunity to get rid of all the stuff it’s been collecting that it doesn’t want.
Ruby Roth: Right and when you see it walking down any street, you know, these people with these big bellies, and I used to see that one way and now I see it as this is the body’s attempt to protect itself from the inside with this layer of fat and plaque inside the arteries and the intestines and your body’s just doing what it can to survive.
Caryn Hartglass: And I also agree with you that once you start eating this way, the door’s opened to everything that’s going on. When you realize you don’t have to kill to live, kill other things, all of a sudden your perspective on everything changes and your view of the world changes for the better I think.
Ruby Roth: Yeah, it’s really a life changer.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, and you know this show is called It’s All About Food, but it’s, once you open the door, it’s more than food. It’s everything. But I like…
Ruby Roth: It is from health and disease to the cruelty to the animals to the land and air and ocean pollution and water waste and immigration and even getting deeper, to how did we get to eat this way? And there are gender issues and race issues and there are so many layers and it’s such a complex system.
Caryn Hartglass: And how did your family respond to your change?
Ruby Roth: Well, I was raised by a vegetarian mom.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh wow.
Ruby Roth: It never occurred to me to go vegetarian.
Caryn Hartglass: She didn’t raise you vegetarian?
Ruby Roth: No, my father was a meat eater, his parents were very traditional Hungarian food, a lot of meat. So, we did eat meat. She never did, but she would prepare it. And it was the same thing when I went to UC Santa Cruz, which I’m pretty sure is a Vegan Mecca.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah!
Ruby Roth: And, I lived with vegans, and it still never occurred to me. But it became part of my life later.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so then you decided to write this book, That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals. And what inspired you to do that?
Ruby Roth: Well, I was teaching art at an elementary school after school program and the kids were always really curious about why I wasn’t eating their cheese sticks with them, string cheese, and the milk and all the stuff they were being served at recess at this program. And, I was a little hesitant at first to let them in, you always feel like you’re going to get in trouble for talking about this, but I started talking about it little by little and they were really interested and curious and they wanted to know more. And the more I told them, the more they could handle it. And, nobody was freaked out and it was probably the way I delivered it. You know, I didn’t say it in any scary way, just matter of fact. Factual information about what goes on in the industry and why I myself chose not to be a part of it. And when I started looking into books on the subject for children, I couldn’t find one that didn’t sugar coat it, or wasn’t about a talking vegetable or a talking animal. And I decided to write it myself because it was such a passion of mine and I could see the need for resource for these children. There was absolutely no support at their school, even if the child was to go vegan or vegetarian there was no way they could eat at that school and have options. So I thought if there could at least be a resource for families to use at home to feel supported that would be one step.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, it’s a really difficult subject and factory farming and the cruelty that goes on to animals in those farms. It’s difficult to talk to anybody about it. It’s difficult to watch. Adults don’t want to see it, don’t want to hear it, don’t want to know about it. So it’s even more difficult, I think, to explain that to children and some would say is it necessary to do that? I have a really hard time with the whole thing personally. I would, I don’t want to think about it. I live my life in this joyous way and I know that, you know, it’s not. I’m not participating in it, but there is always some darkness in the back of my mind where I know that it’s going on and you know I want to shake everyone and say how are we letting this happen? It’s just so horrible.
Ruby Roth: Yeah. I think a lot of the comments that I get from, you know on these blogs that report about my book and then people leave comments, I see a lot of parents who are fearful about talking to their kids about the truth and I think it comes from the prescribed notion of children that smallness equals frailty and they have to be protected from the facts. But I also see a lot of the parent’s projections and this kind of guilty voice about yes, we know it’s horrible, but we can’t talk about it because they can’t handle it and we don’t…there was one post recently that said, it’s too scary for children and this was from an author who was admittedly a meat eater. And, my thought was, you know; if it’s too scary, then don’t feed your children the end product of it.
Caryn Hartglass: Right exactly.
Ruby Roth: But I see, I’ve never experienced one kid…this author said she envisioned tears from children if this were to be read to her child and I’ve never experienced that once. It’s only parents who are freaked out by the information.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so looking at the book, and the artwork is really lovely, I mean you have quite a talent, and I don’t know what else you’re doing with it, maybe we can talk about that later. But I’m looking, I’m paging through the book now, I’ve done it a bunch of times. It’s interesting because, I don’t know how many of these were conscious choices, but the pictures are not realistic and, although they’re close to reality, and the animals, they’re cute, but they’re not, they’re not like Disney cute, kind of. They don’t seem to have, well; the chicks are kind of cute. [laughing] But they’re not super adorable. The artwork is beautiful, but they are not, I don’t know how to explain it, there’s some…maybe it was intentional, but they don’t look alive. And then, and so when I’m looking at the pictures of them confined, it’s also not as drastic as what really goes on.
Ruby Roth: There’s two things about that: One, the design of the characters was actually influenced by the way I saw the kids drawing, teaching them, and they’re really genius at essentializing the shape of an animal down to its essential geometric form.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it’s really geometric. Yeah, I see that.
Ruby Roth: The chickens, you know, a lot of them were drawing these circular chickens, or crocodiles, they would do kind of a “v” shape on it’s side with these sharp teeth, and so the shapes of these characters were influenced and inspired by the way kids draw. And the other thing is that the caged animals in this book, you’re right, it’s not realistic, like the images you would see if I had used photographs instead. This is created mildly and manageable for what a kid can handle.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, so you touch on all of the essential items involved with factory farming and it’s impact on animals, cruelty and also the environment. And, it’s amazing in the few small pages that are here, that you do that. And, I appreciate that it doesn’t look as horrific as it really is. Ok, and so, kids read this and what happens? What kind of questions do they ask?
Ruby Roth: I find that they have incredible insight. When I first read it, the first reading I did was to a group of third and fourth graders. A fourth grade girl…
Caryn Hartglass: So that’s 7, 8, 9 years old.
Ruby Roth: Yeah, there was a fourth grade girl who told me that their class was studying slavery and factory farms reminded her of slavery.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow.
Ruby Roth: This was no nudge from me. This was a connection she made on her own.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s fascinating because, well there is connection. I’m reading, I just finished reading a book actually, I hope to have the author on this show at some point, called An American Trilogy, I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, by Steven Wise.
Ruby Roth: No.
Caryn Hartglass: And he talks about the pork production in North Carolina in this one particular small town. And his book is all about that how African American slavery and also our massacres with the Native American Indians was like, led the path to where we are today with this horrific factory farming of pork.
Ruby Roth: Yeah, I see the connection clearly, and the holocaust as well. I had, my grandparents and their families were in the holocaust and some were survivors and some weren’t and I have no problem making the connection with the concentration camps to factory farms.
Caryn Hartglass: I frequently use the term, although some people don’t like it, but it is a holocaust what’s going on with factory farms.
Ruby Roth: It absolutely is and,
Caryn Hartglass: But the question is, which came first our horrific treatment of people or our horrific treatment of animals?
Ruby Roth: Well, I think it all comes from the same hateful place, whether it’s racism or Speciesism, and say it’s believing that one belongs above the others and justifying it a myriad of ways to hold that true and keep that true.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, okay. So let’s get back to the kids. [Laughing] And you read this book, and so one of them made the connection with slavery, and what else have they talked about.
Ruby Roth: A lot of them talk about their, you know, their aunt who is vegan or vegetarian and they start thinking about why and I ask have you ever asked her why? And usually the answer is no. But I feel like the book can be a good impetus to start asking good questions.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, this is California, so there’s some exposure to vegetarians and there’s some places where kids still wouldn’t know anybody that’s vegetarian.
Ruby Roth: That’s true and I think more and more I get letters from all over the world, all over America, and I think more and more people are becoming vegan and vegetarian and also in places that we wouldn’t normally think.
Caryn Hartglass: Do the kids turn it back to you, like a lot of adults do when you tell them you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, I find that the questions that adults will give are very defensive.
Ruby Roth: Absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: And do the kids do that?
Ruby Roth: No kids… I’ve never had any kid ask me where do you get your protein. [Laughter] I think it’s just the information makes such sense to them. And they’ve not been on this planet long enough to develop such an emotionally, deep emotional attachment to meat. And, I think that we’re raised from such a young age in a program that normalizes meat eating from KFC commercials to the USDA food pyramid, that people cannot imagine living without it. They think it’s a necessary, God-given biological means of existence, and so to talk about not eating meat seems deprivative and even abusive. I’ve had one comment saying, you know, we need to eat as we did as needed by our biology and to not do so is child abuse. And there’s just so much misinformation, and regardless of what our biology has been over millions of years, it was never fixed and there was never one food chain, food chains were relationships that changed, depending on the weather and the seasons and the area.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely, because you know we have, there were times when polygamy was the norm.
Ruby Roth: Right!
Caryn Hartglass: And it is not anymore. At least in most places. There’s plenty of that.
Ruby Roth: But, I find that kids are really open and the information just makes sense. They don’t, you know, it’s not a question, but a conclusion that if something is this wrong with the way we treat animals that we should do something about it. And I had you know a majority of the kids in my class say oh, I want to go vegan and one girl said I don’t even like honey so I’m going to be extreme. And, [Laughing] I know that they were willing to do it, it’s just that there was just no support.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, what happens when they go home and they tell their parents. What kind of feedback do you get that way?
Ruby Roth: I never have any feed back from the parents. I think there was, you know, a nod here or there, to, but…
Caryn Hartglass: Do you see these kids on a regular basis? A lot of them?
Ruby Roth: I’m not teaching anymore. This book has become my everyday life.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. So you read to the kids, but you don’t find out what happens after.
Ruby Roth: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Unless they come to your site and write something on your blog.
Ruby Roth: Right. I’ve had some feed back from parents through email. One woman saying she’s raising two vegan sons and her son, she felt like her son had a vocabulary that he didn’t have before to express what he was feeling and he felt so inspired after reading the book, that he made all these posters about not eating animals, saving animals, and he posted them in his neighborhood and his school library. But I think kids are you know they’re really apt to feel and react from a feeling and I think that a lot of adults, you know, we come up with excuses about why we shouldn’t react to that feeling.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I just wanted to recap a little bit about something you said a moment ago, and that is whether or not we are required to eat meat, and there’s plenty of evidence that we are not required to eat meat, factory farming should be outlawed. Period. There is this thing called humane animal agriculture. Humane farming.
Ruby Roth: Yes and I think we’re going to see more of that, this you know quote unquote greening of agriculture.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, and you know it’s not my choice, but it’s infinitely better than factory farming, but the thing that people don’t realize, and the more you read about the organic meat or grass fed and free range where the animals are treated well until slaughter is that there’s not enough land mass to grow the amount of animals that we are growing today for food. And so people will have to reduce their animal product consumption.
Ruby Roth: Yeah I think I agree. I think it’s inevitable because the system is not sustainable and sustainable meat is not sustainable because, after all, you know it’s not …who is it sustainable for? Certainly not the animal. I think that factory farming, we’re seeing the starting of it with the swine flu, is going to take itself out and I’m excited for that day because the amount of animals in such close quarters and just the disease and the hormones and everything that is happening on those farms, I think it’s inevitable that those, the way we’re doing things right now on factory farms is going to have to end and it’s going to shut itself down.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, there are so many reasons not to do this and unfortunately, we’re not going to just reflect and say this isn’t a good way to do things. Some unfortunate things are going to have to happen, like swine flu, like some sort of pandemic in addition to people realizing their health is compromised. Just so many different things.
Ruby Roth: Yeah, I think you know I, I kind of joke about it with close friends that I’m kind of excited for swine flu because…
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, but the sad thing is, is that I’d like to think that all of us who do our best to have a strong immune system will be able to thwart off any flu pandemic, but there will be a lot of innocent people hit if there is something like that.
Ruby Roth: It’s true, but I think you build your immune system, you stack, you stack your cards in your favor. And, even we’re already not getting sick with things that people are ill from at the moment.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, so I’m speaking with Ruby Roth on her book That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals and her website is wedonteatanimals.com[BREAK]
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, I remember when I was living in France in the ‘90s. I remember this one 8 year old boy that I was with quite often as our families mixed. He was always quite curious about me being vegan and wouldn’t stop asking me questions like if I was on a deserted island and there was nothing else to eat, would I eat meat then? And he kept trying to come up with these situations where there would be nothing else to eat and my response was, if there’s an animal, there’s always something else to eat because that’s what they’re eating. He just was trying to find a way, I guess, to justify the meat eating in his own mind somehow. Do you get that from kids?
Ruby Roth: I have not experienced that. They do ask a lot of questions but so far it seems, just from an inquisitive…
Caryn Hartglass: Do they ask why it’s happening?
Ruby Roth: I’m trying to think if I’ve had a why? I can’t remember specifically but I think I would answer that question by talking about how the food pyramid is created and who creates it and how there’s many different ways of eating and only some ways are taught. So, just to always give another point of view.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. You were reading this while you were – now you said that you read this book and that’s your sole activity. Do you get invited to read it? Where do you find your venues?
Ruby Roth: We’ve had a few events. We had an event here in Las Angeles and we did one in New York. We’re planning some future events that I’ve read at different eco-festivals, World Fest, Vegan Days and the Veggie Pride Parade; those kind of events.
Caryn Hartglass: So do the kids ask you what you eat?
Ruby Roth: Yes. There’s a lot and adults too.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. And how do they react to that? Because most young kids, they’re not big on vegetables. They’re big on breads and pastas and a lot of them don’t eat meat or don’t like much meat either. So how does that work, what’s your response?
Ruby Roth: I think that chocolate first, for anybody, is a good place to start. The dark chocolates and the cacaos, you can’t really find anybody who doesn’t like a chocolate smoothie. I always mention that one. We have a 4 year old here at home and she’s born and raised vegan. At 2 years old she was sucking on green onions and loved it. You crave what you eat. If you’re eating cotton candy then you’re going to crave cotton candy. If you’re eating raw kale then that’s what you’re going to crave.
Caryn Hartglass: I know some young kids that love kale because that’s what they were raised on.
Ruby Roth: Our 4 year old loves it and she just eats it all up. I talk about the fruits and vegetables and I think a lot of people say “oh, I’m not sure if I’ve ever had vegan food.” But every fruit, vegetable and bean, that’s all vegan food. If you’ve had an apple, you’ve had vegan food.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Ruby Roth: So it’s right in front of them and I ask if they’ve ever been to the farmers market. What do you see at the farmers market? That’s right at their eye level like the candy in the grocery stores. They start naming things and yes, that’s all vegan food. I just tell them, I’ll go through what I eat in a day and a lot of that food they’re familiar with. I try to find the foods that – you know every kid has had beans and rice.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Ruby Roth: Every kid knows what salad is. Every kid knows what a milkshake is. All of those things have either vegan alternatives or they are vegan themselves.
Caryn Hartglass: Now the age group that you recommend this age group for is 6 to 10. Have you read it to younger children like your own 4 year old?
Ruby Roth: Yes, she loves it and she totally gets it and has a lot to say about it.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m curious, what does she have to say about it?
Ruby Roth: Well, you’ve seen the video on my website with the interviews from kids. She’s the last one to talk and she says thank you for all the animals, just a very sweet message. Every time she sees meat on television she always says “boo!” She just has a lot to say about animals, why she loves them and why we treat them right. She’s got an agenda. I think because this is the only book of its kind, I’ve gotten a lot of letters from people with babies, kids that aren’t even born yet and parents that are buying this book because it’s the only one out there.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow.
Ruby Roth: So I think it’s expanding the age range.
Caryn Hartglass: Now what about milk? Do kids ask you about milk? Because that’s something that we’re so socialized to thinking we can’t live without it, especially children. I know people that give their kids a glass of milk before they go to bed. They have to have their milk.
Ruby Roth: I think that’s the first thing kids think of when you say dairy because they’re not thinking about butter and things that are created from that first product. They ask “what do you eat in your cereal?” There are so many different milks now available from rice milk to almond milk to hemp milk to cashew milk. All of these things that you can make at home pretty easily if you have a blender and a cheese cloth. It just starts to make sense to them. If they ask about milk and I have seven or ten different answers about what they can use instead, they don’t see a reason why not.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so have you gotten negative feedback about this book?
Ruby Roth: Yes, there have been terms like propaganda and brainwashing thrown around and like I said earlier, someone even called it abusive. I’ve learned a few things about people from the experience. One, is just the evidence of widespread lack of information and just how successful the meat and dairy industry campaigns have been in normalizing meat-eating. Two, that this prescribed notion that I was talking about children that smallness equals frailty. I’ve seen in my own experience that kids are completely open and receptive to this information. It’s not just because they find the animals too cute to eat, it’s because the information makes sense to them.
Caryn Hartglass: Do they talk about – I want to get back to the bad feedback that you’ve gotten but I’m just thinking, do they make a comparison between their pet animals and the animals that are there to eat?
Ruby Roth: Yes, and that’s why I start my book with pets because it’s very clear why you wouldn’t eat your dog, why you wouldn’t eat your cat, your bird or your fish. The next step is asking why is that animal different than the cow or the chicken that ends up on the plate.
Caryn Hartglass: Do they have any reasons for why they’re different? Do the kids have any reasons?
Ruby Roth: No. No kid has ever come up with an explanation. They look to the sky and start thinking real hard but I’ve never had an answer to that question.
Caryn Hartglass: One of my favorite quotes is a Gandhi quote about how first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight with you, then you win.
Ruby Roth: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m probably paraphrasing a little bit. But I think we’re in the fight stage. I think we’re passed the ignore stage and I think we’re past the laughing stage. Vegetarians are definitely considered part of the population today. People talk about vegetarians in a pretty manner-of-fact way on television and movies and there are plenty of vegetarian products out there. More and more doctors and nutritionists are saying yes, it’s okay to be vegetarian as long as you take your B12. I think we’re in the fight stage so we’re getting close to winning.
Ruby Roth: Yes and I think because of this energy in this fight stage, I’ve experienced being called dogmatic and preachy. I was thinking about it the other day and I think it’s really because a lot of people are waking up to what is in fact preventable, Global warming to disease, and realizing that you just don’t get asthma or cancer most of the time. Like stepping in the puddle, it’s not always something that just happens to you for no reason.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Ruby Roth: You’re eating the cancer and you’re eating that asthma. I think that realization, when people wake up to that creates such an urgent, mobilizing energy. I know that from the response that I got from this book, how excitable and supportive our worldwide vegan community is. It comes all of our, quote unquote, “dogma” and preaching this comes really from a source of love and caring about people and wanting people to live healthier and to live a better life and take care of our planet.
Caryn Hartglass: That brings so many different things to my mind. People frequently talk about, oh you care so much about animals but what about people? Every vegan that I know is not just doing it for animals, it’s for people.
Ruby Roth: And people are animals too.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s for the environment and the whole planet. It’s the whole picture where we’re all connected. I am so passionate about the concept because I don’t think anybody should have to physically suffer heart disease and diabetes. These things are preventable and reversible. It’s just criminal, almost. You mentioned earlier on in the show that so many different types of topics are related to our diet and there’s this whole healthcare discussion going on right now and there’s not enough discussion about prevention.
Ruby Roth: There’s such a despair and desperateness to this fight about healthcare. Honestly, I’m not that concerned about it because either way, most of the doctors I’ve been to have told me things that I know are untrue and have suggested things that are absolutely non-necessary. I think if you’re on a vegan/vegetarian path, you are already putting yourself outside of the argument that is going on right now in the media.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, yes and no. We definitely need some sort of improvement in healthcare.
Ruby Roth: Absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: Although I totally promote and I think the vegan diet, a healthy vegan diet, is the best. It’s not a 100% cure. I know myself, I had ovarian cancer a few years ago but I know that I’m alive today because of my diet. It didn’t prevent it but I survived it because of it.
Ruby Roth: I think a lot of the arguments about how we are going to control the cost of this new program. I think a lot of that can be solved by increased in preventative food and preventative medicine.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. The shame is we’ve invested so many dollars for diseases that are preventable and if people were eating a healthy diet then we could work on the stuff that’s really challenging, people that are paralyzed from accidents or things that aren’t preventable. It’s just all the dollars that are being put into this stuff and it makes you think that they really don’t want to cure these things because they’re such big business.
Ruby Roth: Well they are, I’m 100% sure of that.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Let’s move on to food, which is one of my favorite subjects in terms of what you like to eat. Are you primarily on a raw food diet?
Ruby Roth: The foods I eat mostly end up being raw food but no, I’m not a 100% raw food, it goes up and down, the percentages.
Caryn Hartglass: So you tell the kids what you normally eat and what is that?
Ruby Roth: Let’s see, this morning I had a raw cacao smoothie which was made from cashews, dates and raw chocolate powder. A little agave, mint and parsley in there which I don’t think any kid or any adult would notice there were herbs.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right, once you add your dates.
Ruby Roth: That was my first thing of the day. I’ll tell you, I’ll look in the fridge. There are sprouted Ezekiel tortillas, hummus and there are lots of different herbs. Cherry tomatoes, strawberries, kale salad, romaine salad, cucumbers, avocadoes, hemp seeds and those are all the staples.
Caryn Hartglass: Sound pretty good, I’m getting hungry. The thing is, when people have organic fresh food, especially the fruits, kids can’t resist them. I don’t know if you’ve ever brought food to any of your events but when you put out brightly colored fresh-sweet fruit, kids love it. They don’t need the candy and the Twinkies, just give them the healthy food.
Ruby Roth: Our little one was eating these really sweet cherry tomatoes the other day and she probably was repeating something she had heard one of us say, but she said “why would you need candy when you have these?”
Caryn Hartglass: I know I’ve said that with some of those really sweet cherry tomatoes.
Ruby Roth: But it’s true, they’re attracted to those bright colors. Especially if you grow your own food and they get to watch these things grow from a seed into a plant, into something they can eat, they’re more inclined to try. Something that they’ve seen grown themselves and that they participated in. I think that’s the same in the kitchen. If you’re making a kale salad and they get to pour the olive oil in and spray the Bragg on it that there much more inclined to try.
Caryn Hartglass: Do you talk about growing foods with kids when you talk and read your book or just in general?
Ruby Roth: I’ve talked with parents and I’ve suggested some of the writings that I’ve done, ways to teach about the impact of our choices and what we can do. What else can we do besides choosing what we eat but planting a garden is one thing on many levels. Just the sheer joy of doing it to putting more oxygen in your surroundings and watching it grow.
Caryn Hartglass: I know you mentioned asthma before. Do any of the kids you read to have asthma or other ailments that they kind of make a connection it’s related to their food when you’re reading to them?
Ruby Roth: Not that I know of yet. I know there was a school I was teaching at one point, there must have been because the percentages are so high. There were definitely kids who were obese and I didn’t think it was my job to call them out on that.
Caryn Hartglass: No.
Ruby Roth: I think they start to make the connections themselves.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, how wonderful would it be if in the school system kids could learn about healthy food at an early age?
Ruby Roth: I think if parents want that, they need to be really vocal about it. I know I’ve been not allowed to come to come schools because they can’t endorse one particular way of eating, even though they are, red meat.
Caryn Hartglass: Exactly.
Ruby Roth: But I think with parent support and I think there’s some – I don’t know if it’s Las Angeles only or a national program but there is…
Caryn Hartglass: There’s no soda in the schools in Las Angeles.
Ruby Roth: I’ve seen soda machines filled. I don’t know how tightly that’s enforced. I know there is something called the Child Nutrition Act which I have yet to look into. But I think they’re trying to make alternative choice available in schools.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s very important. Oh goodness. There are just so many things that need to be changed in schools. They were talking a little then about that on the program just before me. Kids need to have some freedom and not be in a structured environment all day long. Just to be creative and so much of that has been taken away from the regular school curriculum because they’re supposed to cram all of this stuff that’s considered necessary.
Ruby Roth: And of course, they’re the first things to go.
Caryn Hartglass: Have you ever worked with any of the food services in any schools that you spoken to?
Ruby Roth: I have not. The school I was teaching at was in the Las Angeles department school so that is a massive bureaucracy. I know there have been some campaigns to do so but that’s what inspired me to create this book, to get a resource out there that can be used in conjunction at home. It really starts at home like anything else.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, absolutely. Is there anything else that sticks out in terms of negative feedback? I wanted to say don’t read your press, weigh it.
Ruby Roth: Yes, I think it’s all good press it brings, even negative, it’s still bringing up discussions and points to talk about. Let’s see, Publishers Weekly. It wasn’t all bad but one of the things they said was this is a single sided narrative which I think is absurd first of all.
Caryn Hartglass: Really? Because you’re just telling it the way it is.
Ruby Roth: Yes, and just the fact that it’s about factory farming and inherently includes the other side with meat eaters.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s really interesting because for how many of us who have been exposed to a single sided fantasy most of our lives or as children where we are read books about Old McDonald and his farm or other farms where there’s the cow and the chicken and they’re all romping around the farm yard. That just doesn’t exist
Ruby Roth: I encourage people to just take one day and count how many references to meat they are exposed to, from conversation to commercials to radio to everything. It’s really outstanding when you start paying attention. When I saw that, I thought, how absurd to suggest that just the vegan voice has to remain neutral and considerate to the meat-eating point of view. And also there’s been a comment, another one from Kirkus.
Caryn Hartglass: Who was it?
Ruby Roth: Kirkus, another one of the big review publications. I think they said something like children young enough for this book are in no position to make dietary choices for themselves. It made me really wish there was a game show how called Guess the Carnivore because it’s such a no-brainer.
Caryn Hartglass: Well again, it’s another ridiculous comment because so many young children do decide what they’re going to eat and they shouldn’t. They should be guided and if they’re going to be given a choice, it should be a bunch of healthy choices. A lot of kids still choose crap and that’s what they’re given to eat.
Ruby Roth: Yes, it’s not actually the kids choosing it. It’s the parent choosing it. The kids aren’t going to the grocery store and buying that food.
Caryn Hartglass: Well no but they can trade for it.
Ruby Roth: You know when the parents say my kid won’t eat that, I say well they wouldn’t if you weren’t buying it.
Caryn Hartglass: Exactly. When you set the example and when you only have healthy foods in your house, especially in the young ages when they’re establishing their taste for things, if you don’t introduce an unhealthy food, they’re not going to want it. I know kids that have been brought up on fresh fruit and they don’t want the really sweet treats.
Ruby Roth: I think it tastes bizarre to them. With my own here at the house, she won’t even – in her pre-school they were serving tofu dogs and she wouldn’t touch it because she hasn’t had processed food like that and she doesn’t know what it is.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow.
Ruby Roth: But I think a lot of people know, from a really young age, that they don’t want to eat animals. Some have the support and some don’t. Alicia Silverstone gave me a quote on my book that said she wished she had this book when she was little because she knew, I think she told me from age 9, that she didn’t want to eat animals.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s great and this is the beginning. I hope this opens the door for a lot of other books on the subject for all ages of course. Now you said you got responses all over the world. Is it written in other languages or is there a plan to do that?
Ruby Roth: We’re looking into foreign rights and getting it published and distributed. It can be found all over the world. It’s distributed by Random House, so they’re very good at getting it everywhere and making it easily accessible. But we are looking into – I’ve had a lot of inquiries from Europe, Latin America and Africa. They had the senator, Niko Koffeman, from the Netherlands from the Party for Animals.
Caryn Hartglass: We love him.
Ruby Roth: He was very excited to support this book and try to help get it out there.
Caryn Hartglass: What about, just before we end, how did you get it published?
Ruby Roth: That was a hard sell.
Caryn Hartglass: I mean it’s hard to get books published to begin with but there’s a known niche here.
Ruby Roth: Well North Atlantic Books is the publisher and they’re really great at getting books out that are alternative to the mainstream point of view. It was still a hard sell but I think they saw the potential that this book had to fill a void in the area where people needed this resource and wanted this resource.
Caryn Hartglass: Well the universe wanted you to put this out there and made it possible.
Ruby Roth: Yes we had a lot of hard working people help me.
Caryn Hartglass: Well Ruby, it’s been great talking to you. I can’t believe we’ve come to the end of the hour.
Ruby Roth: Yes, thank you so much.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you so much for creating this piece of art and for talking with me today. I’ve been talking with Ruby Roth, author of That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals: A Book About Vegans, Vegetarians, and All Living Things. Her website is www.wedonteatanimals.com. Thank you so much.
Ruby Roth: Thank you Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: And I’m Caryn Hartglass and this has been It’s All About Food.
Transcribed by MR 9/20/2014 and Stefan Pavlović 2/2/2015