As I previously reviewed the book, I wanted to follow-up with some interview questions with the author of Living Cruelty Free, Jennifer Thomson. Jennifer is currently residing in the UK, hence some of the spelling, for those US readers.
First, for those who may not have read Living Cruelty Free yet, I’ll list the chapters:
What’s Cruelty Free?
Things that Can Never be Cruelty Free
Going free-range & cage-free
Going Vegetarian or Vegan
Cruelty Free Cosmetics
19 Ways to Create a More Compassionate World
Jennifer, it was a great book, but very difficult for me to read. How long did it take you to write the book, and how were you able to write about such a difficult topic?
Thanks, Moxie. It was so difficult to write and took me six months to write and research, but I think a book like this is so important because even people like me who’ve been living a cruelty free life for 26 years may not know about things like dead bugs being in confectionary and desserts. When I was writing about some horrendous things like cosmetics testing on animals, I would take breaks and read a good book or watch a funny TV show to take my mind off what I’d read or written.
Most difficult chapter to write?
The research for the chapter on Cruelty Free Cosmetics still gives me nightmares. Generally, I think that even people who are not vegetarian think that cosmetics shouldn’t be tested on animals, and most people believe that they are not, because of misleading labelling and statements from companies on their websites. The worst thing of all was that all of the suffering was pointless because in most cases testers knew exactly what the result would be because the experiments had been done countless times before. Yet they still do ridiculous tests like LD50, which stands for lethal dose 50. This means they find out how much of a substance or chemical it takes to kill 50 per cent of the animals experimented on. What’s the point of that?
Please tell my readers about including human rights, in what is mainly an animal rights book.
I did this because I think it’s important to show that compassion doesn’t need to be exclusive to animals or humans. Compassion is inexhaustible and should extend to all living things.
(photo from Living Cruelty Free Facebook Page)
Was there a defining moment in your life that made you decide to become a vegetarian?
When I was 13 years-old I watched a programme on factory farming. That’s when I had my Eureka moment and thought ‘what am I doing eating these poor animals?’ I stopped eating meat that day. I’ve never looked back and going vegetarian is the thing that makes me most proud.
I realize that this is in your book, however, would you please explain the difference between being a vegetarian and being a vegan?
Vegetarians don’t eat any animals at all and that includes fish. You wouldn’t believe the amount of people who don’t consider a fish to be an animal. Vegetarians tend to have milk and eggs in their diet (I say tend, because some vegetarians don’t have dairy, but they do have eggs and vice versa and some vegetarians like me don’t have either) and they tend not to wear leather. Vegetarians also shy away from any ingredient in products that were made from killing an animal, like cochineal – little bugs that are killed and used as a colorant in everything from candles to candies. They also don’t tend to buy cosmetics that are tested on animals.
Vegans have no animal products at all in their diets and that includes things like milk, eggs, honey and beeswax. Vegans don’t wear leather or wool either. To a vegan, anything that is derived from an animal is not cruelty free, so they don’t eat it/wear it/own it. For the past year, I have been vegan.
Please explain why Living Cruelty Free is not just for Vegetarians.
The book is aimed at anyone who wants to make the world a better place, and no they don’t need to be vegetarian to do that. In fact, even having one day where you don’t eat meat can make a difference. There are other small changes everyone can make to create a better world that are mentioned throughout the book that non-vegetarians can do. Things like not wearing fur and avoiding some of the cruellest foods on the planet like Foie gras (made from the livers of ducks and geese who are force-fed until their livers go to many times their normal size) and lobster (they’re thrown alive into boiling water and there’s scientific evidence that they do feel pain). If you buy Fair Trade goods, you are also making a real difference to people’s lives.
Is it ever awkward or difficult to dine with people who eat food that you wouldn’t?
How would you advise people to deal with friends/acquaintances who do not share your beliefs in living a cruelty free lifestyle? Be it in their choice of clothing or what they eat, etc.?
Rather than criticising people, I like to encourage them. I’ll tell them about the range of vegetarian food available and talk about the health benefits and if they’re wearing Ugg boots or fur, I’ll tell them about the cruelty that’s involved in each pair and mention celebrities like Pamela Anderson and Paul McCartney and their cruelty free views.
One thing I don’t do is dictate to people and say ‘you should do this and eat that.’ You catch more people with honey than vinegar.
It’s also important that you don’t let your beliefs define you. By that I mean you need to have a thick skin and a sense of humor. Don’t get offended every time someone questions your beliefs, go on a charm offensive.
Do you write full-time?
I’m a freelance writer by day and have had 6 books published so far, including this one. I specialise in how to beat bullying and dog care. I’ve also signed a contract to have my first novel published and have publisher interest in the novel I’m currently writing. It’s as far removed as Living Cruelty Free as you can get – it’s about zombies!
I have read that black dogs are more difficult for shelters to adopt out. Is that why/how you chose your adopted dog, Benjy?
Wow, I didn’t know that. It wasn’t a deliberate choice to get a black dog. Our lovely dog Vic, who had epilepsy, sadly past away at the age of 13 and a half. We were devastated and felt that we could give another dog a great home, so we visited the Dogs Trust shelter in Glasgow in Scotland. We didn’t want to go past rows of kennels to pick a dog, so we let them choose a dog for us. We were so lucky to get Benjy who was 17 months-old at the time as he had an ear infection and generally, unless a dog is 100 percent healthy they don’t adopt them out.
Anything you discovered in the course of your research that was positive?
I was delighted to discover how Fair Trade was helping so many people to earn a fair wage for the goods they produce. There are also so many amazing charities out there that help people and animals that I was unaware of.
The prevalence of cruelty free companies was also very pleasing. They are definitely signs that producing cruelty free, ethical products boosts sales and that can only be a good thing.
It was also heartening to find out that there are so many celebrities out there standing up for animal and human rights. People like Paul McCartney, Pamela Anderson, Forest Whittaker and Joaquin Phoenix. Thanks to them vegetarianism has a very positive image.
Living Cruelty Free is available on Kindle both in the USA and UK. The paperback is available in the USA, Canada, UK and many other countries via Amazon, and The Book Depository. Note – there’s a ‘Look Inside’ function for the book.
Disclosure: I received Living Cruelty Free in an ebook form. All links are for your convenience only; I do not profit from any clicks or purchases.
Moxie Reviews™ 2012. Content copyright. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner, Moxie, is strictly prohibited.Pin It