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Thursday, August 22, 2013

In Conversation with Ruby Roth: “Kids learn what we’re brave enough to teach them!”

Recently we asked one of our young readers what he would like to see on the blog. The 16 year old replied instantly, “Publish more interviews.” Around the same time, a big noise was brewing in the world media about the demise of an infant born to vegan parents in France, in 2011. Why it was being made such a big deal about after two years could be anybody's guess. Expectedly, opinions were hugely polarized on the matter. It became some sort of a virtual battle between the vegans and the non-vegans.

However, one positive outcome that came off the debate was a consolidation of the numerous studies and case studies demonstrating that vegan pregnancies are absolutely healthy, vegan infants thrive on plant-powered diets, and vegan children can transcend into wonderful young adults. Then, as if by a miracle, we received a newsletter from Ruby Roth and a floodgate was opened to explore the topic, veganism and children with the accomplished writer, artiste, and designer. One thing led to the other and today we are here with an interview of Ruby Roth, the author of three outstanding books on the vegan ethic for children that she has herself illustrated:

1.    That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals: A Book About Vegans, Vegetarians, and All Living Things
2.    Vegan is Love: Having Heart and Taking Action
3.    V is for VEGAN: The ABCs of Being Kind

Ruby’s books are a first in children’s literature to address the emotional lives of animals, factory farming, environment, world hunger, and endangered species in the context of the foods we eat. Ruby grew up in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and Kauai and attended UC Santa Cruz where she earned two BA degrees in American Studies and Art. She has also researched animal agriculture, health, nutrition, and the benefits of a plant-based diet for nearly a decade. She currently lives in Los Angeles and travels all over as a vegan consultant and speaker. Today we talk to Ruby to find out more about herself, her activism, her vegan journey, her books, her vision, and the way forward. The blog is very grateful to her for this interview.

In Conversation with Ruby Roth
“There is NO universally accepted concept of childhood. Kids can handle the truth, they learn what we're brave enough to teach them.” ~Ruby Roth~
Photo courtesy: FOX News archives

Vegan India!: Thank you Ruby for consenting to the interview with the Vegan India! blog. We are excited to speak to you, the author of several children’s books on vegan ethics. Please tell us your story, how did you turn vegan and when?

Ruby Roth: In 2003, a friend pointed out that my eating habits did not match my morals and values. I had always 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. 

Vegan India!: How has the response to your books been so far – both from the viewpoints of children as well as their parents?

Ruby Roth: I’ve never once seen a child overwhelmed by the facts in my book – in fact, just the opposite. Kids respond to the ways we hurt animals and the environment with a great sense of diplomacy – they think, reflect, ask questions, and want to know how to help. Veganism is inherently a solution and because of that, kids feel empowered by participating. I hear from parents all over the world whose children feel inspired, motivated, and confident in their way of life because they have my books as friends! There has been some outrage in the mainstream media over my books – but this is only because society gives children very little credit for their capabilities to process the truth and participate in the public realm.

Vegan India!: You have a degree in Art and American Studies; did your educational qualification help your activism? What is the most important tool you have used to connect with children and their parents?

Ruby Roth: My interest in justice, anti-racism, and politics during high school and college informed my eventual embrace of veganism. That education prepared me to think critically and always seek what lies beneath the veil. That outlook on life helped me formulate my mission and motto for my work: love deeply, think critically, act responsibly! It is the overall message I use to reach parents and children in each of my books.

First book by Ruby Roth

Vegan India!: What is the age group of children you write for? Please tell us the areas you have covered in your books and how you introduce key topics.

Ruby Roth: My newest book, V Is for Vegan is officially for kids ages 3 and up. My other two books are officially for children ages 7 and up. However, I believe you can start much earlier. You can look at pictures and have important and educational discussions with your kids as soon as they begin becoming aware of the world around them.

Vegan India!: Various studies have confirmed that children are born compassionate and societal conditioning plays a big role in shaping their behavior. Do you believe in this postulate, please share your thoughts.

Ruby Roth: No matter how we begin, I believe we are all affected by bad social shaping that becomes completely normalized as we grow. Meat and dairy production make no logical sense in this day and age – not for health, not for animals, not for the environment or sustainability, nor for energy, water, or world hunger. Most people continue to eat meat and dairy solely because of conditioning, not because they’ve ever made a conscientious choice about what they will or will not put into their bodies. Children are more empathetic to animals and nature because they’ve not yet been so conditioned.

Vegan India!: If you had to make key suggestions to parents of children who seem to naturally ask fundamental questions about their relationship with animals and express their discomfort at eating animal parts and secretions, what would they be? What should parents make of it? How should they respond to their children and what should they absolutely avoid saying?

Ruby Roth: I don’t think there is anything we should avoid discussing. We always need to tell the truth, even if it’s painful or difficult to say. Just stick to the facts without getting very emotional. That way, kids will hear the information without feeling fear. When kids ask me why people eat animals if it’s so hurtful and bad for the environment, I tell them, “Some people don’t know as much as you know… and some people don’t care! That’s why it’s ever so important for you to keep caring and put your love into action.”

Vegan India!: If you had to extend some tips to vegan parents, what would they be? How could vegan parents get their children involved in making moral choices like themselves?

Ruby Roth: It is easier than you think! Just involve your kids as you, yourself, are learning about food, animal agriculture, the environment, and all sectors affected by our food choices. When you see an ad for meat, talk about who’s behind it. When you are shopping for food, have your kids help make choices and involve them in the kitchen with tasks that are a challenge! Even if you think the topics are too complicated, talk anyway – you are planting seeds of knowledge and critical thinking skills.

Second book by Ruby Roth

Vegan India!: From time to time, noise is made against vegans raising their children vegan. Health of the child has been cited as the primary concern. What is your stand on this matter? Could you please guide our readers to your favorite resources on how to care for the nutrition of vegan infants, babies, and children?

Ruby Roth: Throughout time, cultures around the world have thrived on plant-based diets. People must learn that we have our own plant-food “pyramid” with everything we need and more—including recommendations for many nutrients that the average American, for example, is lacking—B12, D, antioxidants, etc.  There are several books out about vegan pregnancy and Dr. Gabriel Cousens has also written about infant and childhood nutrition in his book, The Rainbow Green Live Food Cuisine.

Vegan India!: Who are your favorite vegan authors? If you were to recommend some books and materials that shaped your own ideas, what would those be?

Ruby Roth: Most significantly, Dr. Gabriel Cousens and David Wolfe and all their books, videos, and articles. I think these two men are always on the forefront of the knowledge that exists and that is available today.

Vegan India!: You have just released your third book. Could you please walk us through it, what is it about?

Ruby Roth: Yes! It is called V Is for Vegan: The ABCs of Being Kind. It is veganism for the youngest audience ever! In just 26 rhyming sentences, kids will learn the main food groups, some “non”-food groups, and other concepts about being kind to animals and the environment. It is bright, funny, and I promise your kids will light up with laughter and learning! And I recommend that adults get it, too – keep it on your coffee tables, in your offices, or waiting rooms to share with others who might pick up the book out of sheer curiosity. It’s the easiest read yet, for kids ages 0 to 100!

Recent release by Ruby Roth

Please note: All three books by Ruby Roth are available at many of the online bookstores in India. You can use the India Book Store link to check them out.

  • To receive regular updates from Ruby Roth, please join her on Facebook by clicking this link.
  • To watch and read about toddler, Luiz Antonio who shot to fame as the world watched the little one experience the moment of truth with regard to eating animals, please click this link on Huffington Post.
  • To check out a bibliography on the topic of Vegan Pregnancy, Infants, and Children, please click this link on Gary Yourofsky’s website, ADAPTT.

For more interviews featured in this blog, you can click this link.


  1. Thank you so much for the wonderful interview.

    Thank you so much for inspiring people to try plant-based fare, good for our health and environment...

    Please watch this inspiring video of 98 years old vegan

    1. Thank you for your comment, Kumudha. Also thanks for sharing the story of this endearing 98 year old vegan, he is so strikingly articulate even at that age! It is interesting when he says in his childhood although meat was available in their household, he was never inclined towards it. Kind of makes us come full circle with this children-focused interview and his story! :-)

  2. Your interview with Ruby Roth made a very interesting reading. Your words of introduction to the author and her works are also very noteworthy.
    What I liked about Ruby’s work is her way of illustration. Each book really grabs our attention and the book titles are equally catchy.
    I believe that only young children hold the future for a vegan world and it is only appropriate that Ruby is reaching out to this segment of readers.
    It is extremely hurting to note that there is a lot of campaign by vested interests against raising kids with a vegan diet. The kids may have died due to malnutrition and negligence which have nothing to do with the fact that their diet was vegan. After decades of research and case studies the American Dietetic Association has clearly stated that “appropriately planned” vegan diets are suitable for people of all ages including infants. We are born as herbivores and the plant kingdom has all that is needed for humans to lead long and healthy lives.
    Once again heart-felt thanks to Vegan India for bringing out this wonderful interview. We really love to see more such illuminating interviews on your blog.

    1. Dear Dr. KV Rangan, Thank you for your observations and encouragement. Also thank you for adding facts about vegan nutrition for children.

      The importance of reaching out to children cannot be overemphasized. In our predominantly "adult" world where children are categorically kept out of important discourses although they are the first recipients of the socialization process, vegan warriors such as Ruby Roth play a crucial part. Her books compel children and their parents to engage with perhaps the most important topic of this century: the interrelations between humans and other life forms or the interrelationships between all life forms on Earth.

      We mustn't any longer wait for children to "grow up" become "adults" and then leave it to their "choice". To do what? To undo the process of socialization? Ruby Roth shows us the bottom up approach with her fascinatingly engaging style, as you rightly pointed out, her illustrations are a delight.

  3. Yes, the "bottom up" approach is the best approach, because children are more open minded, inherently compassionate and receptive to ideas. In India children are also taught to "fear" their parents and elders. We need to empower them with the right for their choices at an early age. Only empowered children can salvage humanity from the massive ethical crisis that we are witnessing.


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