BEGging For Change: An Interview with Rory Freedman

Posted May 2, 2013 in ,
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Rory Freedman and her three beloved pups.

Rory Freedman lovingly kicked our ass as co-author of Skinny Bitch, a no-nonsense guide to becoming healthy (and skinny) by eating a plant-based diet while avoiding (delicious) bad stuff like sugar, caffeine and alcohol. The benefits of a healthy vegan diet are a no-brainer, but what made Skinny Bitch unique is the message that eating animals is (wait for it) bad for the animals!

It was only a matter of time until Freedman, a longtime vegan, wrote BEG, a straightforward book about our weird relationship with animals. BEG is a call to arms, challenging people to think differently about animals. We love some, we eat some––it’s peculiar.

Freedom gushes about her two labs, Joey and Timber, who share custody with her ex (don’t you love that?!) and how a little Luck Dragon named Lucy stole her heart. I’m a complete sucker for animal love stories, especially ones that remind me of my own little white dog who is lightly snoring and currently curled up beside me.

And then shit gets real. The animals who are not our pets have a much different lot in life than our cats and dogs waiting for us at home. Freedman holds your hand while shedding light on the cruelty involved in using animals for entertainment, experimentation, clothing and, of course, food.

BEG is both inspiring and heartbreaking. There are horrible things happening to animals, and you can easily choose to not participate in them. This book asks if you are an animal lover or just a pet lover.

Freedman was gracious enough to spend some time with SLUG to discuss her new book and how easy it is to speak up for animals.

SLUG: Can you share a little about how you became vegan?
Freedman: Nineteen years ago, I was in college, eating meat for every single meal and then I got a magazine in the mail from PETA. It talked about factory farming and slaughterhouses. I loved animals and called myself an “animal lover,” but I never thought twice about eating meat. I had no idea these things went on and I when I found out, I was completely horrified. I knew my life would never be the same. I went vegetarian overnight. Ten years later, I was at a conference for Farm Sanctuary in New York. They showed video footage of cows on a dairy farm, and these cows were tripping, falling and lame, and their udders were so gigantically swollen they were dragging from the ground. I just thought, “Oh my god. I’m never doing that again.” I stopped eating cheese from that day forward.

SLUG: Why do you think it’s important to take the leap to becoming vegan?
Freedman: I think it’s important for everybody to do the best they can wherever they can. It’s overwhelming for a lot of people, and they will automatically have a knee-jerk reaction and change the channel, close the book, close the tab on the Internet. It’s important to let people know that going vegan isn’t going from 0 to 60 overnight. The first step is education and awareness. I call myself an animal lover, and I simply had no idea what the animals were going through. Just being willing to be educated and informed is a valuable first step for people.

SLUG: I think that’s why your books are so amazing. They’re not confrontational, but they are straightforward.
Freedman: I hope that it inspires everyone. Everyone is on their own, individual path. I’m not any better or further along than anyone. Our path just looks like what it looks like. Being vegetarian and vegan has been a beautiful part of my journey, and it’s something I am happy to share with other people

SLUG: Why do you think people have such a disconnect to how we use animals for food/clothes/entertainment and then dote on our pet dogs and cats, spoiling them, buying them clothes and stuff?
Freedman: There is a disconnect. I wish I had the answer. Most of us don’t spend time on farms, or factory farms, seeing cows, chickens and pigs. This disconnect is born of ignorance. We just didn’t know how these animals on our plate were treated.

SLUG: My favorite part of the book is when you talk about your dogs. I have this connection with Lucy––I know that look in her face because she reminds me of my little dog!
Freedman: I think I need to have T-shirts made with “Team Lucy,” “Team Timber” and “Team Joey.” I’m interested in knowing who likes who. Did I paint them all equally and give them all a fair chance?
SLUG: Yes! But we’re coming in there with our own pet preferences. She just reminds me of my little dog! Freedman: Lucy is sitting right beside me. She got the best haircut of her life and she looks so cute!

SLUG: Can you quickly tell us the story of how you adopted Lucy? It’s just such a great story.
Freedman: I love telling this story. I have two big dogs, a yellow and a black lab. I share custody with their dad. I was perfectly happy having two dogs half the time. I had a friend who would pull dogs from death row. She said she needed a foster for this dog. I didn’t have my dogs, and I was happy to help. I honestly believed that I could keep an emotional distance from this little white muppet dog––be a foster mom and not get too involved. You know how that story ends. We fell in love––she stole my heart. I think if it was any other dog, I would have gotten away unscathed, but she is so sweet and cute and dopey. Now she is mine and I am hers.

SLUG: I love that so much! Can you share a bit about your #BegForChange challenges?
Freedman: For the month of May, there are 31 fun challenges to become a better mom or dad to your animals and other animals out there in the world. Find them on roryfreedman.com.

SLUG: What is the easiest way people can help animals every day besides not eating/wearing them or supporting circuses, zoos or rodeos?
Freedman: There are so many different ways. The easiest way to help is starting with the pets you live with by being a better parent to them. Try to be more present with them. It may sound stupid, but it really makes a big difference. When I pull up to my house, I need to get off the phone because I want to be present for my dogs at the door.
SLUG: That’s a big moment for them.
Freedman: They deserve our attention. Be present for them, like not taking your phone on your walk. Just be on the walk with your dog.

SLUG: That’s something I took away from the book. I play on Twitter and Facebook while I’m walking my dog and it’s not really quality dog time.
Freedman: And there are other ways to help animals. Be an armchair activist. Sitting in front of your computer you can sign petitions to ask for better treatment for animals. So many nonprofits have so many smart ways on working on the behalf of animals. For example, the ag-gag bills that would make it a criminal offense to take undercover video footage of slaughter. Obviously, there is some shady business going on in there if they’re concerned about people taking undercover footage. All you have to do is email your congressional leaders or senators. It takes 20 seconds. It might scare some people, but look at everyday activities that you don’t realize are contributing to animal suffering. What are you eating or wearing? Are you taking your children to rodeos or zoos? Because those places are not fun for the animals.

SLUG: What is the one thing people should take away from reading BEG?
Freedman: If I’m being honest, the dream would come true if every single person stops eating animals. Ten billion animals per year are killed for humans to eat them in the U.S. alone. Do I expect that everyone is going to have the wherewithal to do that? No. One takeaway from reading the book, is understanding that there are some things people can do to help animals. Be willing to do something. We’re ripe when we're ripe. The information finds its way to us.

I’m a better cat and dog mom thanks to reading BEG. Instead of rushing out of the house each morning, I take a few minutes to say goodbye to them. And I try to be in the moment when I spend time with them. Their lives really are pretty small, so being present is really important. That concept hit close to home since my animal friends are getting older: I want to spend as much quality time with them as possible! I was also extremely motivated to work harder to be a voice for all animals. Thank you, Rory, for writing a no-nonsense, friendly, readable book about how we can treat animals better.

If you think you may be an animal lover, you can find BEG here. And if you’re up for the #BegForChange challenge for the month of May, find them here. I’ll be playing along! Find me on Twitter and Instagram as: amanda_eats_slc.

Photos:
Rory Freedman and her three beloved pups.