This month we review a picture book for young children that introduces them to basic concepts of vegetarianism and veganism.
That's Why We Don't Eat Animals:
A Book about Vegans, Vegetarians, and All Living Things
Written and Illustrated by Ruby Roth
North Atlantic Books, 2009
After her book search proved unsatisfactory, artist/illustrator Roth decided she would create her own book aimed at young people from ages six to ten that could be read and discussed by both children and their parents.
That's Why We Don't Eat Animals is a step in a different direction for Roth whose paintings, drawings, and sketches can be viewed at DrawOrDie.com. The book is a family venture to be read by parents and children who are made more aware that animals are also part of families that are torn apart by humans who satisfy their desire to eat flesh. As Roth states in the opening, "Vegetarians are people who don't eat animals. Vegans are people who don't eat animals or anything that comes from an animal (like eggs, milk, or butter). We strive for a world where every earthling has the right to live and grow. That's why we don't eat animals."
Depicting animals like dogs, cats, birds and hamsters in her engaging illustrative style, Roth makes the case that all animals should be treated like we treat our pets. The book is divided into to brief sections focusing on the creatures used for food: chickens, turkeys, quail, ducks and geese, pigs, cows, and fish. In each case the author shows the creature's life with its family in natural surroundings as contrasted with its miserable existence as part of a factory-farming situation. A young child will realize the difference when the parent reads,"A free pig never poops where she eats or sleeps, but on a factory-farm she has no choice."
Roth also shows how the oceans and rainforests are impacted by humans who are emptying the seas of fish and mammals and destroying rainforests to create cattle farms, all the while endangering both animal and plant species.
The book concludes with the page What Else Can We Do? Here Roth makes a dozen suggestions including:
That's Why We Don't Eat Animals is a milestone book in children's literature because it effectively introduces young people to the basic concepts of vegetarianism and veganism. With compassion and sensitivity author/illustrator Roth conveys the message that animals need to be treated better and not used for food. She moves into a children's literature area not covered by others and targets a population that is not exposed to this information at an early age. Roth's uniquely stylized depictions of animals are unlike any a child will ever see, yet they are instantly recognizable and add charming appeal to the theme of the book.
For more information about Ruby Roth and That's Why We Don't Eat Animals check her website at http://www.wedonteatanimals.com and click on the image below to watch a two-minute video that describes her book and the ideas that inspired her to write it.