Vegan is Love for Some – For Others, it is Frightening

BY  |  Friday, May 25, 2012 8:00am  |  COMMENTS (7)

On a recent trip to Watchung Booksellers, my daughter wanted me to buy the new book Vegan is Love because the elephant on the cover has a heart-shaped trunk.  After flipping through the pages and reading some of the sections, I didn’t buy it. I left it on the shelf even though I’m very sympathetic to the vegan lifestyle.  My children both eat meat once or twice a week, and they certainly drink a lot of milk.  I left the book behind because I wanted time to think about how I could present the ideas in the book in such a way that my children would feel informed but not as though they were “bad” because of their meals and outings to Turtle Back Zoo.  I needed time to consciously think about my choices for them.

Vegan is Love, written by Los Angeles parent and activist Ruby Roth, addresses moral issues in our society’s overall treatment of animals, not just as a source of food.  Specifically, she addresses the ethical difficulties in animal testing, use of animals for clothing, visiting zoos and circuses, food, and so on.  These are all philosophies I subscribe to in theory, but not always in practice.  However, I felt that my three-year-old daughter is too young to understand the topics well enough to make the book appropriate for her.  The book is recommended for seven years and older, and by that age, probably even before, I would feel comfortable reading her the book and talking about the topics and illustrations with her.

The Vegan lifestyle is often at the center of controversy in the United States simply because it’s so foreign to a meat and potatoes country of plenty.  However, the controversy surrounding this book seems to be more about its “graphic” illustrations and “radical” views.  It’s true that the illustrations show animals with sores as well as animal parts on meathooks.  It is written with an obvious bias towards the vegan lifestyle; considering the title, that should come as no surprise.  Yet my son, who is five, has books about ninjas and other fighters, also aimed at the 7+ age group, that are much more graphic than Vegan is Love in their illustrations, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a controversial issue with those.

Children learn where eggs come from and where milk comes from, but shouldn’t they also know where their hot dogs come from? Or where the hamburger on the Memorial Day grill comes from?  The conditions in the egg factories can be horrific, and we benefit from them. The horror over “pink slime” and other issues with meat products in recent media didn’t get much follow-through with addressing the food industry as a whole.  This book is just one piece of the conversation that should be happening.

Those who find the book offensive cite that it is frightening children into veganism and introducing disturbing images about where their food comes from.  To some extent, that’s why I didn’t want to share it with my children – yet.  I want to be able to actively read the book with my children so I can explain our family’s choices, which are not vegan, in a way that they can understand.  There’s nothing wrong with letting children know where their food and clothing and medicine come from.  As parents making active choices, we should  be able to defend those choices.  And if we can’t, perhaps the book will help us to make informed choices just as much as it can help our children.  Perhaps if parents choose Cheetos and Hi-C, we should be just as informed.

For more information about books for families interested in maintaining a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, visit


  1. POSTED BY Right of Center  |  May 25, 2012 @ 9:10 am

    We always tried to keep the kids away from propaganda. Because some of our children are alive because of animal-tested medicines, we’re particularly in favor of animal-testing.

    Personally, I feel that one saved human child is worth a thousand dead monkeys. Though that choice should not be taken lightly nor for less than life saving reasons.

  2. POSTED BY Georgette Gilmore  |  May 25, 2012 @ 9:20 am

    I’m not a vegan or a vegetarian, but I respect those who choose to live that way. I have no problem personally eating animals, but it’s important to me that we choose our food from organic, ethical food sources and farms.

    While I understand what the author was trying to do with this book, I think it’s over the top.

  3. POSTED BY Bill Courson  |  May 25, 2012 @ 9:39 am

    Right of Center wrote: Because some of our children are alive because of animal-tested medicines, we’re particularly in favor of animal-testing.

    Actually, no, they aren’t.

    Your children are alive not because of, but in spite of testing and experimentation done on animals. Scientists continue to use animals in biological and medical research more as a matter of habit than because animal research has proved particularly successful or better than other forms of inquiry.

    In fact, animal ‘models’ have never been validated, and the claim that animal experimentation is necessary is very likely entirely spurious. Computer modelling has proven – or at least has been nearly proven – to be an indisputably more effective and accurate methodology.

    Most animal experiments are not relevant to human health, they do not contribute meaningfully to medical advances and many are undertaken simply of out curiosity and do not even pretend to hold promise for curing illnesses. The only reason that most people assume animal experiments help humans is because the media, experimenters, universities and lobbying groups exaggerate wildly the potential of animal experiments to lead to new cures and the role they have played in past medical advances.

  4. POSTED BY Right of Center  |  May 25, 2012 @ 10:22 am

    Personally, I’d rather know that a drug causes kidney failure in a primate rather than in a computer. But to each his own.

  5. POSTED BY Kristen Kemp  |  May 25, 2012 @ 11:05 am

    I love milk and cheese and especially the occasional trip to McDonald’s. I also buy meat and vegetables from an organic farm in Hope, NJ. It’s okay to be a little bit of everything. I don’t personally subscribe to this kind of book with a heavy, preachy tone. I prefer to take my kids out to the farm and explain how things work myself. Then we hit Taco Bell on the way home.

  6. POSTED BY macky  |  May 25, 2012 @ 11:19 am

    RoC focuses only upon one facet of the whole. Surely we can all agree that animal testing for cosmetics, personal care products and household cleaning supplies is cruel (google the LD 50 test) and unnecessary? That forcibly training wild and exotic animals to perform tricks and be transported around the country in train cars and trucks to sit on stools and jump through hoops of fire in large performance venues is also cruel and unnecessary?

    Digging deeper into our society’s treatment of the way we treat farm animals -yes, even organic, humanely raised animals- reveals unpleasant truths, foremost among them the abject cruelty inherent in the system. Couple this with the significant environmental degradation associated with livestock production, and add on the well established benefits of a plant-based diet and I see no reason not to let children who are *old enough* (a designation that will vary in individual households) know about the hypocrisy of a society which dotes on dogs and cats but treats other sentient beings cruelly. It doesn’t mean everyone will run screaming away from animal products, and it doesn’t have to happen through reading this book but it seems like it is a good starting place.

  7. POSTED BY myshkingfh  |  May 25, 2012 @ 11:45 am

    It seems to me that there’s a dividing line between information and propaganda and that dividing line is truth. A truth that makes one uncomfortable isn’t propaganda, nor is a truth propaganda simply because its content conflicts with a comforting view of the world.

    I have read the book, which is probably not true of most commenters, and I share many of the same thoughts and concerns that Ms. Wald does. The book is important and raises many issues relating to animals and animal products that bear careful thought by parents and from children themselves as they age. It is clearly not for every child, but if every parent read it it would all be to the good.

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