At night when parents tuck their kiddies into bed, they can now read them a bedtime story about all the horrible ways most humans treat animals. Whether we allow animals to be used for food, exhibition or research, we non-vegans apparently are a heartless bunch.

Or so goes the message in a new book— Vegan Is Love: Having Heart and Taking Action, which hit the shelves (and digital vendors) this week.

Sorry, little Johnny and Sally, you can cross the circus, zoo, SeaWorld, county fairs, horseback riding and pretty much any other activity that involves animals off your list of activities. With that thread of logic, pets should be off limits too, as there’s nothing natural about Rover curling up at the foot of your bed-- he really should be outside to have the freedom to roam as his nature dictates and decide for himself when and what he eats.  

Kids, it’s really just best if you step away from animals altogether because you are more likely to harm the critter than help it in any way. Don’t even think about eating meat or drinking milk, as an excerpt from the book explains: “All animals raised for meat and dairy are captured and killed in the end. Their deaths are violent and sad. As vegans we do not bring the pain and suffering of any animal into our happy and healthy bodies.” (You can check out a clip from the Today Show here.)

Okay, now sweet dreams little ones.

Vegan Is Love is actually the activist, author-illustrator Ruby Roth’s second such book. The first was That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals.  

Geared toward children from ages about 4 to 8, Vegan Is Love, addresses animal testing, zoos, animal farming and slaughter, wearing animals and environmental impacts. Found on Amazon.com for $16.95, a description of the book reports that it “introduces young readers to veganism as a lifestyle of compassion and action…Roth illustrates how our daily choices ripple out locally and globally, conveying what we can do to protect animals, the environment and people across the world. Roth explores the many opportunities we have to make ethical decisions: refusing products tested on or made from animals; avoiding sea parks, circuses, animal races and zoos; choosing to buy organic food; and more. Roth’s message…brings into sharp focus what it means to ‘put our love into action’.” In the back of the book, Roth provides action steps that children can take to “create a more sustainable and compassionate world.”

So, Johnny and Sally be very careful, don’t you want to be healthy and happy; don’t you want to be compassionate; don’t you want to love and be loved?

The book is not without its critics, and I’m not talking about ag folks or those involved in any number of animal sectors.

“My concern is the scare tactic; is this age appropriate,” nutritionist Heidi Skolink, told Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today Show. “Guilt and fear is not a good place to come from. I see kids, and adults, that are very anxious and fearful about making the right and wrong decisions about food.”   

Jennifer Hartstein, a child psychologist, said “There is so much fear in the book. Kids have enough to worry about; they don’t need to worry about where they’re getting their food.”

“Teaching kids to fear food is not a very good way to approach nutrition,” Skolink said.

Both women agreed that scaring such young children can have serious long-term effects such as creating eating-disorder behaviors and other problems.

Animal activists have designs on reaching younger and younger individuals. You know, get ‘em while they’re young before they can really decide for themselves. Plant those seeds early and let them sprout.

People can choose to do as they wish, but as I’ve said before, it’s the emphasis of I’m right and you’re wrong, I’m loving and you’re not, I’m superior-- that ruffles my feathers.

I’ve talked before about the importance of agriculture reaching out to youth, whether the message involves food choices and pork’s role in a healthful diet or the real practices on a modern farm or rallying the next generation to consider agricultural careers.  

I know that there is much good work being done today. Nearly every agricultural association and armies of individual farmers have programs that reach into the classroom or bring students to the farm for a real-world look at agriculture. Projects like the Fair Oaks Pork Adventure Center and online, real-time streaming videos that allow consumers of all ages to see how farm animals are raised are increasingly important to your business.

So be aware and committed Share your story with people of all ages-- it’s never too soon, nor too often to get the message out.