Skinny Bitch's Rory Freedman on Beg and her reading tonight
Most fans will know author Rory Freedman as co-author of the best-selling Skinny Bitch, a lifestyle book disguised as a diet book. Now she's back to expand on her philosophy about animals in Beg: A Radical New Way of Regarding Animals. And to some people, it will seem radical.
We talked to Freedman -- who'll be at the Tattered Cover, 2526 East Colfax Avenue, to read from Beg at 7:30 p.m. tonight -- about the different tone of Beg (she's given up swear words!), the Beg for Change challenge and how she's shaped her lifestyle to match her feelings about animals.
Westword: Even though one is a diet book and one a book about your relationship with animals, how does Beg relate to Skinny Bitch in terms of your overall philosophy about animals?
Rory Freedman: To start with, it was my love for animals that had me write Skinny Bitch. And the same way I'm not advertising this book as a way to become a full animal-rights activist, Skinny Bitch was the same kind of wolf in sheep's clothing. It's the same thing, a love for animals, and even though Skinny Bitch might have seemed like a diet book, it was a love-for-animals book wrapped in a diet book. It's my love for animals that had me writing it and doing much of what I do.
I love animals; I've always loved animals. It's how I identified myself for so long, but I didn't know that in so many ways, I was living my life not in alignment with that. And once I learned about those ways I could be loving animals better, I made those changes, which made me happier and had me living a life that had me contributing.
What would you say to people who think we need to worry about human rights before we concern ourselves with animal rights?
Compassion and mercy are important, period. It doesn't matter who's at our receiving end, but we need to be flexing those muscles. It's not mutually exclusive: If you have compassion for children starving in Africa, it doesn't mean you can't have compassion for adults in Africa or animals that are being tortured and abused. So many of the animal-rights activists I know are involved in many causes. Often the people who are asking that are not involved in any causes at all, because I know other people who do many things in the non-profit sector -- we're all happy to know each other, that there's somebody doing something to make the world a better place.
Can you talk about the difference in tone between Skinny Bitch and Beg?
It is a totally different tone. You write a book, it's out for however many years, and with the passing of time, you're not the same person. I'm not the same person I was when I wrote those books; I'm not even the same person I was when I started writing Beg. I had many shifts spiritually, and one of them was in the use of language. During a meditation, it became really clear to me that I no longer wanted to use profanity. For people who read Skinny Bitch, they'd probably be surprised, and I was surprised. I swore all my life, and I was good at it. But I decided I wanted to be more virtuous in many ways, including the ways of language, and I had to call my agent and say, "Wait, I have to change the title and take all the swear words out. Do you still want the book?" And he said, "Yes!"
I used to think it was really innocent and thought other people needed to lighten up, and now when I hear other people, it feels really rough to me. It feels like something difficult for my body to handle. So I'm having a new respect and feeling regretful. I'm glad Skinny Bitch had such a positive impact, and I'm trusting that I was where I was, but I'm glad I am where I am now and that this book has wider appeal.
Tell me about your decision to start with some of the more cute and cuddly animals in your book -- cats and dogs -- and then the move to talk about animals like livestock.
I think it's an astute observation; that's exactly what I did. As I was calling myself an animal lover, I knew I loved chimps and I thought lions were beautiful, but the most I related my animal-lover to were my dogs and cats because those were the ones I would see the most frequently. It's the easiest way for us to identify ourselves as animal lovers, but the love we have for cats and dogs extends to other animals, too. I don't think it exists in a box. I just wanted to remind people of that, ground them in the love for dogs and cats, and from that point of view and frame of reference to start talking about other animals and keeping them connected to their hearts.
And there is a lot of disconnect between the way we eat our food and the way we treat our pets.
It just never occurred to me. I was nineteen when I had this shift, but before that it didn't occur to me, and I ate meat for every single meal. I think a lot of people who have pets in their house, some of them know about puppy mills and purebred issues, but many of them don't know. They still think that the best way to get a dog is through a breeder when, in reality, mutts don't have breed-specific ailments. I think there's a lot of misinformation. A lot of people are ignorant, some willfully, some because they just don't know.
But this also really isn't a book about changing your entire way of living or going full-blown vegan. Can you talk about some of the smaller steps people can take to be more kind to animals?
People don't want to change their whole life overnight. That's why I had to call Skinny Bitch that instead of a vegan diet book. One specific way, for example -- when I'm coming home and I'm on the phone, as soon as I come into my drive, I say, "I'm so sorry, I'm home now. I'm about to walk in the door and I want to be present for them." And I hang up the phone. Don't phone it in as far as being a pet parent. Don't be in a rush, you're out for many hours, you want to change and get dinner started, but be present. They've been waiting for you all day long. Allow it to be a special time for them to celebrate that you're home. Same thing with -- don't bring your cell phone when you're walking your dog. Be present with your dog and your dog's experience with the walk.
And bigger things, like spaying and neutering. Don't crop ears or tails or declaw cats; it's really painful. People think it's necessary, but it's painful for the animal and it's completely unnecessary. There are other ways of being an armchair activist. There are petitions you can sign online, or sending a quick e-mail to people doing things you are not keen on for animals and asking them to stop that practice, and letting them know you're not going to purchase their products.
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