In recent days, a few of you have written to me to express your concern over the VegNews debacle. I am, of course, saddened by the situation. It’s good to know that VN has now apologized. Hopefully it will help heal the damage that has been done to the vegan community by all the divisiveness. On a personal level, I am also disappointed that “stockphoto-gate” has cast a suspicious light on the covers of my two recent vegan cookbooks, Party Vegan and Vegan on the Cheap. I’d like to share some facts about the publishing industry in general, and my books in particular, to help everyone gain some much-needed perspective:
In my experience, it is written into most standard book contracts that the author has no “approval rights” in the final cover design of a book. Sure, I can tell a publisher what I’d like to see, but they are under no obligation to comply with my wishes. On good faith, I generally trust that a publisher will choose vegan photos to illustrate my vegan recipes.
When my two recent books came out, I didn’t go searching for the stock photo images to see if they were labeled as vegan or not. I assumed they were. At the same time, I knew it was also possible that certain ingredients weren’t even real food of any kind, since it’s well known that professional food photographers don’t always use real food. For example, they sometimes use shaving cream to represent sour cream and vegetable shortening in place of ice cream. (I actually think the “feta” on my VOTC cover looks more like little Styrofoam pellets than it does feta, vegan or otherwise.) I simply accepted the photos as representations of my recipes. Now that I’m aware of this issue, I will, from now on, insist that vegan-only photography of my recipes accompany my work.
As many of you know, vegan cooking is my activism. My purpose in life is to provide vegan recipes to as many people as possible through my books, articles, and other media. I do this primarily for the animals and also to help improve everyone’s health. I stand by the quality of my work, my books, and my recipes. I encourage all my fans to please continue to enjoy my recipes in Vegan on the Cheap and Party Vegan—the recipes are what really matter, and the content is 100% vegan.
As the old expression goes, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” — don’t punish me, (or yourselves, if you like my work) just because a company chose to illustrate my work with a few questionable photos. I promise to be on guard to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Getting veganism into the mainstream has been an uphill battle for those of us who can consider ourselves veterans. I’ve been writing vegan cookbooks since the mid-nineties (even though back then most publishers wouldn’t even allow “vegan” in the book titles!) I will continue to work hard every day to make veganism a viable force in this world. Because the VN story has been all over mainstream media, it has already done damage to our vegan community that is only now achieving credibility in this omni world of ours. I implore the otherwise well-meaning people out there to please put this issue into perspective and direct your attention and energies to more important matters. Let’s get back to making great vegan food, helping animals, and living healthier, happier lives. I look forward to continuing to develop and share great vegan recipes. If you have any questions about my work, I hope that you will contact me directly.
UPDATE: VegNews has issued an apology. My original letter has been updated to reflect this new development. Maybe we can put this behind us now.