Arnie the Rooster, Bacon, and Book Burning

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects freedom of speech. This principle is one of the pillars on which our country was built. Freedom of speech is not an absolute right as there are recognized exceptions (inciting lawlessness, threats, obscenity, defamation, invasion of privacy, and several others). As related to the world of books, Authors and publishers should be mindful of these issues, but as a general rule, in this country writers can freely express themselves. Keep in mind, your readers, reviewers, and critics enjoy the same freedoms when it comes to evaluating your book and voicing their opinions about the worthiness of your content. Something happened at Mascot Books recently that brought these issues into focus. I’ll start by introducing you to Arnie. Arnie is an adorable rooster that resides at the Center for Animal Protection and Education (“CAPE”) Sanctuary in Grass Valley, California. CAPE co-founder, Shelley Frost, authored Arnie Catches a Cold and in March the book was successfully launched at the Animal Film Festival. unknown How I came to know Shelley is where this story gets interesting. In 2014, Mascot Books published I Want to be Bacon When I Grow Up by bacon enthusiasts, Ken and Jessica Skinner. The book was intended to be a tongue-in-cheek tale for bacon lovers. Animal rights groups protested the book’s content with reviews posted on Amazon. And then came an online petition addressed to me via Change.org. Then I started getting emails, Facebook messages, and tweets. Most of the messages offered a reasonable but harsh critique of the Bacon book. Some were angry and less respectful. Here’s what one person thought of the Skinners’ book. photo 2 That’s when Shelley contacted me. As an animal rights activist and devout vegan, Shelley was understandably not a fan of the Bacon book. We had a great conversation in which Shelley let me know exactly what she (and others) found offensive about the Skinners’ book. She asked that we consider publishing her children’s book as a way to present an alternate viewpoint. After reviewing her content and learning more about the great work being done by CAPE, it was an idea we enthusiastically embraced. So what are the takeaways from Arnie the Rooster, Bacon, and book burning? First, authors are free to express themselves largely without restriction. Not everyone is going to be interested in what you have to say and, as was the case for the Bacon book, some people may despise your message. That’s okay, too. As a highly respected publishing company, our goal is to help authors bring their books to market in a professional manner. We take great pride in offering a variety of works from people with different viewpoints and we’re thankful to live in a country where free speech is protected and where informative, constructive, and respectful dialogue can occur. Regards, Naren Aryal CEO and Publisher www.mascotbooks.com

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4 responses to “Arnie the Rooster, Bacon, and Book Burning”

  1. Amy says:

    Thank you for standing by your decision to publish worthy books despite the fact that some people might disagree with the content!
    All too often I see us censoring ourselves as a society for fear of offending people…there is no quicker way to destroy original thought than to shut the doors on anything that is not considered bland enough to be completely inoffensive! If NOBODY is offended you are probably not saying anything worthwhile or meaningful 🙂
    –Amy (librarian and fellow believer in the power of words)

  2. Ken Skinner says:

    As the author of ‘I Want To Be Bacon When I Grow Up,’ I can’t surprised by the angry it cause among people who don’t eat meat. I was a little taken aback by some the more vile e-mails we received.

    However, its easy to hide behind a keyboard and spit out hate. I am happy for Shelley and respect the way she went about opposing our book. Instead of making a fake review on Amazon or e-mailing a nasty letter, she actually went and did something about it in a respectful manner.

    While I like to think our book is against the mistreatment of animals, I understand why a vegan would think just the act of eating an animal is mistreatment. Of course, I don’t believe in that last part.

    At the eat of the day, Mascot now has two books that speak on behalf of both sides and Shelly and I both agree that brutal treatment of animals is uncalled for. We just probably won’t be cooking each other breakfast anytime soon. I wish Shelley the best of luck with her book!

    And please pardon and grammatical errors. I’m super tired and I relied on the awesome Mascot editors to usually help me out 😉

  3. ALISHA says:

    but where do draw the line of freedom of speech when the message is clearly morally wrong and in fact a concern for the morality and integrity of children? What if someone wanted to write a book about a little girl who wanted to be abused when she grows up? Don’t we all as citizens have the responsibility of condoning only the best and most morally correct messages for our children? Where do you draw the line when it concerns freedom of speech? Do you throw aside what is clearly right from wrong in the name of freedom of speech?

  4. Ken Skinner says:

    ALISHA, Not liking the title of the book is not the line on which we should censor a book. I don’t expect Vegans to buy a cook book about different ways to cook chicken any more than I expect them to buy my book.

    Putting aside the fact that we have always said that animals should NEVER be abused; a book about a little girl who wants to be abused when she grows up probably wouldn’t be picked up by a respected publisher like Mascot. Though the author still had the right to write and submit it. Just like Mascot or any other publisher would have the right to reject it. Then again, isn’t that what ’50 Shades of Grey’ is about? Actually I never read the book so I am not going to review it.

    I ask you, have you read our book before judging it by its cover? A lot of people get fired up without reading the book. And if you are a vegan, I suggest you don’t read it because you probably still won’t like it even though ::SPOILER ALERT:: the pig doesn’t die.

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