Illustrating compassion

Artist and author-illustrator, Ruby Roth, talks us through her vegan children's books

It's so important to start people on their journey of compassion towards animals from a young age - the only way for children to know that it's not okay to harm animals is to teach them this when they are young. This is where Ruby Roth comes in.

The vegan artist and author-illustrator has penned and designed a myriad of wonderful books for kids to help them be better animal lovers. We find out more from the artist herself.

Hey Ruby! Tell us about your vegan journey.

Although I had grown up around vegetarians and vegans, it had never occurred to me, personally, to make that choice. In fact, I was proud of eating
meat - and as somewhat of a tomboy - it often made me feel like 'one of the guys'.

But I was always interested in health, and I was also interested and involved in political and social activism. It wasn't until I was 20 years old, that someone pointed out to me that my diet did not match my morals and values. I took that very seriously and did my research.

Once I witnessed what I was participating in, I remember thinking that none of my previous activism had ever mattered, because I hadn't been truly embodying foundational change, from the inside out. I went vegan for a summer as an experiment, and felt so good, and learned so much, I never went back.

\"Art in all forms is a great teacher. Art, music and bands, books, film and media\"

When did you decide to combine animal activism with the arts?

I was teaching art at an afterschool programme and the kids took notice of my eating habits and started asking questions. When I searched for a book we could read together, I barely found anything, and what I did find focused on a talking animal or vegetable, and I felt my kids were too smart for that. It hit me then to combine my art with my political activism and create the books I wanted to read to my students.

What do you aim to achieve with your work? Why children's books?

I know from working in schools and closely with children, that Western society doesn't give kids the credit they deserve when it comes to what they're capable of processing, understanding, and conversing about.

Before veganism even came up, I was having conversations with my kids about their lives - and they would bring up topics like family issues, history, meditation, stories about friendships - we were having very meaningful conversations about a broad spectrum of subjects.

And then I'd look at their schoolbooks, and listen to how their teachers spoke to them, and felt that everything directed at them was being dumbed down below their capabilities. The books I wrote came out of the respect I have for children's intellects.

How does the art in your children's books approach veganism?

I made sure to paint images that were neither sugar-coated nor too graphic, as photographs would be. The aim was not to scare children into veganism, but to present facts about the emotional lives of animals, factory farming, the environment, and endangered species, so that coming from a place of being informed, they could begin to formulate opinions and make decisions of their own as they grow.

How useful are the arts (including literature) in spreading awareness of animal welfare and vegan issues?

Art in all forms is a great teacher. Art, music and bands, books, film and media - I've learned from and been influenced and formed by all of them, throughout my life.

We need people working in all kinds of fields, though - from business to economics to sports, medicine, law, etc - to voice their values in their respective communities in order for there to be the kind of global shift toward a more sustainable and sane world that we aim to see.

I value all the different types of voices explaining veganism to the masses. Together, it's working. I know change can't come soon enough, but I've seen swift change over the past decade, and expect more to come.

Tell us about your newest book, Bad Day.

Broadening my themes from physical and planetary wellness to emotional wellness, this book is about helping kids learn to manage their inner lives. It follows a little boy named Hennie (which means 'Ruler of the Home') through a meltdown as he uses the help of a paper bag to look inward and take a pause and a deep breath.

From there, he makes sense of his feelings and gets himself to a good place. There are no adults in the book. I wanted the process to represent a journey we can all take using our own strengths.


For more from Ruby, visit @ruby_roth and @wedonteatanimals


The lifestyle magazine written by vegans for vegans.