Interview! Rory Freedman on her new book, Beg: A Radical New Way of Regarding Animals »
New York Times bestselling author Rory Freedman is a living legend in the animal rights/vegan world. After launching a revolution with her Skinny Bitch and Skinny Bastard series, Rory Freedman has continued to work tirelessly to promote animal rights issues in Los Angeles and worldwide. The charismatic animal rights champion and kind-hearted dog mom took time out of her hectic book tour schedule to discuss her wonderful and unique new book, Beg: A Radical New Way of Regarding Animals (Running Press).
Vegansaurus: I loved the book! I read it overnight and was really impressed by the depth and feeling you’ve put into this work. How do you consider Beg to be different for readers who may be familiar with the Skinny Bitch series?
Rory Freedman: I think that the good news for fans of Skinny Bitch is it’s the same heart that drove me to write Skinny Bitch that had me writing Beg. I had a spiritual transformation while writing this book, and I’m no longer swearing. The good news is the book is still funny and deep in the way Skinny Bitch is. This language is a lot gentler, for people who might have been offended. Funny.
What inspired you to write Beg?
In Skinny Bitch, I found thousands of people whose lives had been changed and now went vegan. I thought great—now what? Great, these people now know about the animal issues, but will they understand about rodeos, zoos, circuses, animal testing, and other things that cause deaths and misery and torture of millions of animals per year? I thought that people were primed and would get it, so I think it’s a natural follow up for Skinny Bitch. Skinny Bitch is really a vegan manifesto cloaked in a diet book. I wanted to write this book once and for all to document everything that happens to animals.
What can animal lovers learn from Beg?
Researching and writing this book was an important part of my transition from a regular-human animal lover to more aware animal lover. It is about learning each of the ways we can do better for animals. As much as I knew about things in broad strokes, as an animal lover and vegan, I had to ensure details were correct and accurate. It’s always eye-opening to think about things that go on so easily and are so pervasive.
Even still, a lot of people who are dog and cat lovers don’t understand what happens in order for animals to look a certain way we’ve deemed appropriate for breeds. Tail docking and ear cropping, which I discuss in Beg, are examples of this. I didn’t know about this as a child or as a younger adult. Then one day when I was 30 I met a dog that opened my eyes to this. I grew up with a mini schnauzer, and when I was 30 I met a schnauzer that was strange—it had bigger ears than the childhood dog I knew. I didn’t know some had bigger ears, but it turned out they all have bigger ears naturally, it’s just that some when puppy breeders will have the dogs’ ears chopped off or tails dropped off. I stood there astounded when I found this out. I didn’t know what they were talking about. Doberman pinschers normally have floppy ears, but they covet that mean, agressive look in breeders. That will come as a shock to animal lovers.
What are some animal activism tips that might surprise Vegansaurus readers?
I’ve had a transition that’s been happening lately and gradually over many years as an activist and vegan. It’s evolving so I’m becoming a better activist. I am still as passionate, but I am feeling more diplomatic. I’m allowing this journey for many people to come from where they are now from where we’re hoping they’ll end up. Animals are suffering each day. I’m really getting that everyone is on their path and I have to love and accept everyone while on this work, and allow that people will find their own way. By the grace of God I found vegetarianism, animal activism, and veganism when I did. It doesn’t say anything about me. It just works out the way it did. I have to allow that it will be by the grace of God for others to find their own path. It is important to take action while also being loving. The most attractive thing we can be as activists is loving.
The author with her three dogs
Vegetarians and animal lovers often love seeing animals in films and in cute Internet videos/websites. You discuss animals and entertainment at lengh in your book. Care to elaborate?
We’re always being accused of anthropomorphizing animals, of giving animals human qualities we don’t have. Sometimes they’re wrong. We just understand that animals feel pain, like humans do, but as moviegoers, some might be confused when we see a chimp that seems like he or she is smiling in a movie or TV commercial. Chimps don’t smile in the wild. It was something that was new to me when speaking to primatologist while doing research for the book. Chimps have what’s known as a “fear grimace.” Even though it looks like a smile because it seems like our own, they’re actually scared because in the wild when chimps are frightened, they grimace. They don’t do it when they’re happy. There is also no way to provide for them in entertainment the way mother nature could. We can’t provide for their unique needs. We’ve seen time and time again that movie sets are dangerous for animals.
Some of my friends want to adopt pigs (myself included). You have a pretty intense section about pigs and what happens to them on factory farms. Have you ever considered adopting a rescue pig, and how easy is it to adopt?
I’ve never been asked that. Adopting a pig has crossed my mind, but not in my adult years as someone in the animal rights movement. I’ve had dogs now for 12 years. It’s such a big responsibility, it’s so all-encompassing, I can’t imagine adding to my brood right now. I can see the temptation. They’re darling animals. They are so smart and individualistic. I can imagine having one would be great fun and it’d be beautiful for anyone who is committed to taking care of one.
What is the “Beg for Change” campaign?
The Beg for Change Challenge Campaign is an exciting way to get people involved, for vegans and activists and “normies.” You can hashtag #BegForChange and/or share a picture of your adopted dog. You can brush your dog and share a pic after you’ve bushed him or her, you can tag a photo of their pile of hair. Then, we can notice leather or animal skins, and use social media to document what we notice. If you spend 15 minutes on peta.org, you can tell the world what you see that is shocking. You can watch “What skin are you in?” and share your experience. This starts off easy to get people involved and becomes more interesting, challenging, and eye-opening, and activists can spread the world.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us, Rory! Thank you for putting this great book out there.
To learn more about Beg and get involved with the Beg for Change Challenge campaign, check out Rory’s website.
Fox News comes to the vegan side! »
Am I in an alternate reality? Fox News totally jocks us! In a reasonable and complimentary way!: “Once mocked as a fringe diet for sandal-wearing health food store workers…. Today’s vegans are urban hipsters, suburban moms, college students, even professional athletes.” Now don’t get salty about the urban hipsters part, it’s alright in concert with the others.
The article talks about Skinny Bitch, Alicia Silverstone, and Michael Pollan, the health and environmental benefits of veganism, and the accompanying picture has a Post Punk Kitchen apron in the foreground. They even make a comment on the history: “Abstaining from animal products is an ancient practice found in cultures worldwide.” Yeah, bitches, I didn’t make it up!
The post was inspired by a recent study by the National Restaurant Association where 1,500 chefs put vegan entrees as number 71 on their list of 226 trends for 2011. That ain’t bad! WE ARE DOMINATING.
So, are you disturbed? Is your world collapsing? Should I start watching Fox News?
Vegan Thanksgivings taking over newspapers across the country! »
Well, at least in Philadelphia. The above-the-fold (newspaper talk!) article in the Philadelphia Inquirer food section on Nov. 11 was all about accommodating guests with different dietary needs—namely, VEGANS! They featured several vegan recipes from Skinny Bitch and whatnot but I’m kind of more interested in this vegetarian cornbread-stuffed squash pictured left from The Adaptable Feast by Ivy Manning. Care to veganize? Looks like it’d be pretty easy; most of the non-vegan items are in the corn bread and I find baking goes well with the replacements.
Oh! There’s also a vegan wild mushroom and asparagus risotto recipe that sounds BANGING but there’s no picture. I love risotto!
So how about other cities? Anybody spotted any of the local papers with some vegan Thanksgiving-related articles? Holler at your girl!
[photo by Ivy Manning via philly.com]
Nasoya + Skinny Bitch + God’s Own Shorts contest ends TODAY! ENTER NOW! »
OK everyone, today’s deadline for the big Nasoya prize package is 1:30 p.m. Pacific time, which is just over two hours from now. If you haven’t entered already, click through to the original post and enter! What are you waiting for? Do you honestly think you can live one more day without these shorts in your life?
No. The answer is no. So don’t be a dummy and 1.) not enter! or 2.) try to enter by commenting on this post. You’re cleverer than that! Remember: a random number (between one and 2 million) or your halloween costume!
A Vegansaurus Giveaway: Tofu, cookbook, and THE MOST AMAZING SHORTS EVER! »
So, last week, we were invited to The Plant Cafe to enjoy a delightful lunch prepared by Nasoya and Kim Barnouin of Skinny Bitch*. The lunch was to celebrate Nasoya’s unleashing of its new website, Nasoya’s Tofu U. It’s actually super-adorable, and aimed at making tofu cooler, which frankly, tofu needs. Tofu is the Urkel to Bacon’s The Fonz. Does that make sense? Anyway, it’s totally rad and adorable so check it out!
NOW, for the exciting part! We’ve giving away a Nasoya gift pack that includes a copy of Kim’s JUST-released Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook; three coupons for free Nasoya products; a you-won’t-be-embarrassed-to-wear-it American Apparel Tofu U t-shirt, a Tofu U rucksac (best word ever), and most importantly: THESE AMAZING SHORTS WHICH CAN BE WORN SERIOUSLY OR IRONICALLY AND ARE 100 percent MIND-BLOWING AWESOMENESS:
So if you wanted to go as Lt. Dangle for Halloween, you wouldn’t have to buy a costume because GIRRRRL, those shorts are ALL you need! If that pair of shorts were a man, I’d already be pregnant KNOW WHAT I’M SAYING. NEITHER DO I.
For a chance to win all this awesome shit, let me know what you’re gonna be for Halloween. Or your favorite fatty bitch recipe. Or a number between 1 and 2 million. WHATEVER! I’ll pick the winner with random.org anyway! Contest ends, let’s say, next Tuesday, Oct. 26. Okay, good luck!!
*As we all know, I am ill pleased with the whole Skinny Bitch thing, but Kim’s cookbook is good, with lots of healthy recipes and beautiful pictures. Also, when I asked Kim about Skinny Bitch being so super fucking gross she said that she knows you don’t have to be skinny to be healthy and that it’s a marketing thing and she’s moving toward a Healthy Bitch brand which I think is rad SO YEAH THAT’S MY STORY.
I Love the Noughties: A Vegan Decade in Review »
If you had to pick a single word for vegan in the ’00s, it would be “mainstream,” as we watched veganism get wrestled away from the Birkenstocks-and-hemp set. Celebrity vegans and vegan fashion changed the public face of a movement that had been left for dead, and the food came along for the ride, with cupcakes and melty cheese pizza replacing granola. We even went political, passed some laws, lost some rights, and ran for president. Our fad diets beat their fad diets, and now here we are, 10 years later. Older? Wiser? Better dressed and topped with frosting? Let’s see how it all went down.
2000: Alicia Silverstone goes vegan and ushers in the Celebrity Vegan Decade. Yes, there were vegans before 2000, like Ian Mackaye, but it was still a fringe thing, for college activists and crusty old punks. In the ’00s, going vegan equals getting press, with celebrities coming out of the pantry left and right. It was the decade that gave us PETA’s Sexiest Vegetarian Alive award, and high profile announcements from Natalie Portman, Ellen Degeneres, Jonathan Safran Foer, Kristin Bell, and other stars like supermodel Petra Němcová and MMA cage fighter Mac Danzig. Love or hate celebrity culture, it’s here to stay, and now it’s going vegan.
2001: Stella McCartney leaves Chloe to start her own designer label, starting the first high fashion vegan shoe line. While most of what she does is out of the price range of mere mortals, in a very real way, this was a good thing for the perception of vegan fashion. “But if I went vegan, I would have to shop at Payless” would no longer be an excuse, and the false dilemma between ethics and looking good was finally gone.
2002: Atkins Diet goes mainstream and gets cred. Dr. Atkins’ book had been out since 1972, but it wasn’t until the early ’00s that people gave it a real try. In 2002, a Duke University study appeared to confirm the worst fears of vegans, that Atkins dieters lost weight and lowered their cholesterol. Of course we all know what happened in the end. Like any fad diet, the guru died and the company went bankrupt, leading to its fiery demise. Why was the Atkins diet such a big deal for vegans? It was the first fad diet to attack the “eating less meat is healthy” argument at the jugular. In the end, we were still right, but not without spending a few years in the low carb wilderness. Dark times.
2003: Dennis Kucinich announces that he will run as the first vegan for president of the U.S. of A., then wins the election with 76 percent of the vote, dissolves the Senate, and ends factory farming by executive decree. Okay I made up like half of that. But admit it, you decided to vote for this guy, sight unseen, the second you heard he was vegan, and his flappy ears or anti-abortion stance didn’t scare you away. Hell, I did. He also helped heal the left after the Green Party split in 2000 that gave us George W. Bush, by giving all of us lefties some hope that the Democratic party doesn’t have to completely suck. After all, any political party with a high-profile vegan politician couldn’t be that bad, could it? Okay don’t answer that. Anyway, give it up for the D-Kuch for making vegan history! Dennis, I present you with this gold plated dino-statue as Vegansaurus’s highest honor. As soon as I have a sec to ‘shop that up.
2004: Wayne Pacelle becomes the first vegan president of the Humane Society of the United States, making that one for two in the “first” and “vegan president” category. For the first time, a vegan is president of the largest animal protection group in the world. He completely broadened/shifted its focus on to farm animals. It makes sense because the vast majority of animals suffering in this world are the ones we eat.
2005: Vegan cheese that melts hits the stores, with the first known appearance of Follow Your Heart’s Vegan Gourmet. “It melts!” the label proudly trumpeted, reminding us of past disappointments, fraught with casein and other milk-based substances that were needlessly present in the so-called cheese replacements of the day. True vegan pizza was finally possible, and so was GRILLED CHEESE (and the great pre-Vegansaurus Mac and Cheese Bake-Off). And with that, we kicked off a revolution in the greatest vegan technology advancement of all. Teese, Dr. Cow, Follow Your Heart, Daiya—before the ’00s, such things were only found at the Whole Foods on Fantasy Island.
2006: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World takes over the world. Seriously, where would we be without this book? It combined every element of vegan baking into a single handbook, a canonical scripture to be read aloud during holy days of rest. Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World appeared at exactly the right time, just as the global cupcake phenomenon was reaching a fever pitch, and convinced a skeptical omnivorous world that vegan baking is not only passable, but preferable.
2006: The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act passes, expanding the War on Terror to tofu. Last I checked, violence was already illegal, and politically motivated violence was already doubleplus illegal, but apparently we needed a special law to target animal rights activists. I’ll be the first to admit that our cause, just like every other cause, has its extremists that could use a chill pill. However, the new law did nothing to provide exemptions for whistle-blowing and other undercover investigations, and codified the right of animal enterprises to uninterrupted profits at the expense of free speech. The ACLU, unfortunately, allowed this abomination to pass. Thanks, jerks!
2007: Spotted: Victoria Beckham carrying a copy of Skinny Bitch while shopping in Los Angeles. Skinny Bitch had been out since 2005, but it took Posh Spice to get it on the bestseller lists. While the idea of going vegan to lose weight is hardly new, this was the first successful attempt to bring animal rights philosophy and PCRM’s nutritional science to the diet frenzy mainstream, by weaving our beliefs in with the ideals of Americans who desire “skinny” over “healthy” (these ladies are NOT actual nutritionists, you guys). Those of us on the vegan-lifer side of the fence know that being vegan is anything but a fad diet (and come on, we have pizza and cupcakes now, we’re enjoying life as much as anyone else) but as a subversive social experiment, Skinny Bitch was the first of its kind.
2008: Oprah goes vegan for 21 days. You don’t mess with the Oprahnator. Oprah speaks, everyone listens, and in 2008, she spoke about going vegan. “How can you say you’re trying to spiritually evolve, without even a thought about what happens to the animals whose lives are sacrificed in the name of gluttony?” she wrote at the time. Which is a nice thought, but do we stop thinking about what happens to the animals after 21 days? I didn’t really get it. Anyway, Oprah has a way of sprinkling her magic credibility fairy dust on everything she touts, which means “You’re what?” is no longer the Jeopardy answer to “I’m vegan.”
2008: Proposition 2 wins in California! Although not the first animal protection law to win by popular referendum (voters in Florida and Arizona passed laws of their own in 2004 and 2006) we won a truly epic battle that will protect calves, hens, and pigs from horrible confinement. Prop. 2 won with 63 percent of the vote in the U.S.’s most populous state, and as they say, as California goes, so goes the nation. Put that in your gestation crate and smoke it.
2009: Martha Stewart has a vegetarian Thanksgiving, Obama adopts a breeder dog instead of a shelter dog, and Jonathan Safran Foer proposes that we all eat our pets or give up meat. It was a freaky-ass year.
Erika, Maria, Laura, Megan Rascal, and Meave also contributed to this post. We are fam-i-ly! I got all my sisters with me! OK I’ll stop now.