2018 Essays

Veganism: Our Journey, Not Our Destination

Will Tuttle : February 13, 2018

by Dr. Will Tuttle

As written in The World Peace Diet, veganism provides the foundation both individually and collectively for a world where peace, freedom, justice, sustainability, and widespread health are possible. Animal agriculture in all its forms erodes and destroys our harmony and health on every level. As we understand this deeply enough to bring our individual lives into alignment with our values and transition to a way of eating and living that minimizes abuse of animals, we become part of the solution, and this is a significant contribution to the level of happiness, freedom, and justice in the world.

Compassionate Harvest by visionary artist Madeleine TuttleHowever, going vegan isn’t the end but in many ways the beginning of a new chapter in our ongoing journey of healing and awakening. We have all been wounded by being born and raised in a culture oriented at its core around mercilessly and relentlessly exploiting, killing, and eating other animals. The wounding is not just in our physical health, but in our cultural, psychological, and ethical health as well. For this reason it’s essential that we make an effort to understand veganism as a path of healing and as an ongoing practice in the art of living with kindness and respect for all life.

For example, as we continue our vegan journey, we learn the importance of a diet that is comprised primarily of whole, organic (preferably veganic and local) plant-based foods, and to avoid vegan foods that are processed with toxic preservatives, additives, or other chemicals, or are genetically engineered or sprayed with pesticides. We do this not only for our health, but for the health of birds, fishes, insects, ecosystems, disadvantaged people, and future generations, because financially subsidizing the devastating spread of destructive chemicals and harming our health are both contrary to the spirit of respect and caring that is the essence of vegan living.

Similarly, we are also mindful of all the products we buy, such as personal care products and household products, to ensure that they are free not only of animal testing but also of dyes and chemicals that are harmful to our body and to the ecosystems to which they ultimately return. Mindfully taking care of our bodily health is essential because our being sick not only reduces our effectiveness and capacities, but may also contribute to the use of toxic drugs that end up eventually in ecosystems, harming other animals.

Additionally, being raised in a herding culture organized around entitlement, reductionism, and exploitation, we also discover that we have within us, even as vegans, decidedly non-vegan attitudes such racist, sexist, and classist tendencies in our thinking and behavior toward other people. These are unavoidable, and just because we have been able to awaken from the cultural trance sufficiently to transition to a vegan way of living does not mean that we are also automatically free of the many types of harmful attitudes that are rampant in our culture, and into which we are all routinely indoctrinated from infancy.

For this reason, it shouldn’t surprise us to find within the vegan community manifestations of abusive behavior and attitudes, such as sexual harassment, discrimination, harsh criticism, intolerance, shaming, and so forth. Understanding this, we can make an effort to deepen our understanding and devote our lives to continuing the inner process of healing that veganism is always urging us to fulfill.

Veganism is not a category to divide people, but rather an expression of our true nature, which yearns for greater awareness, creativity, joy, and healing. In daily life, I’ve found that veganism is a practice, and like any practice, is concerned with details. It has its roots in the ancient teaching of ahimsa, that harming others ultimately harms our wisdom, awareness, and inner peace, and damages the cultural fabric on which we all depend. The most obvious dimension of vegan living is in our consuming, but there are far more vast and challenging dimensions that have to do with every detail of our lives and our daily relationships with each other and with our society as a whole.

Abstaining from animal-sourced foods, products, and entertainment is the first step through a doorway that leads us to question every dimension of the cultural narrative by which we have been conditioned. To see others as similar us, wounded and doing the best they can, helps open our heart to respect and wisdom that can bring healing into our relations with others, and this can facilitate us creating a liberation movement that is congruent on every level, and thus both integrative and effective, as well as transformational.

We are called by a more expansive and dynamic conception of vegan living. Besides being an effort to practice non-cooperation with the forces of exploitation in our culture’s outer world and marketplace, veganism is also a practice of doing our best to mindfully practice non-cooperation with the cultural forces of intolerance, exclusivism, objectification, and predation that we have internalized in our underlying attitudes and actions toward others. Outer veganism is a necessary but not sufficient condition for liberating and fulfilling our true potential. We are summoned to the continuing adventure of deepening our understanding and practice of vegan living and this is the inspiring pathway that beckons, both individually and together.

As we question both the perpetrator and the victim mentalities planted into all of us from childhood, and do our best to embody vegan ideals of responsibility and respect, we create a field of liberation and healing around us that naturally encourages others to do the same. It’s a daily practice of vigorous and honest self-reflection, and can be seen as an extension of what brought us to outer veganism. We learn from association with others, and this association can harm or bless us. In our association with others, we are always harming or blessing, also, as well as teaching by our example. We can give thanks for the many opportunities to learn, teach, and contribute that we are given every day during the fleeting and precious lifetime we each have on this beautiful Earth.

Awakening from Scientific Rituals

Will Tuttle : January 21, 2018

By Dr. Will Tuttle

We recently began a seven-week lecture tour as part of our ongoing World Peace Diet vegan campaign to raise awareness, and gave a lecture at California Polytechnic Institute in San Luis Obispo a few days ago,       sponsored by the Ethical Eating Club. After the lecture was over, it was early afternoon, and our host, Erika, an organizer of the Central Coast Vegan Network, offered to give us a short tour of the campus.

Being from the Boston area, I had been under the false impression that Cal Poly is a west-coast equivalent of MIT, focusing on mathematics and engineering, but soon realized that it has a large animal agriculture department with over 6,000 acres of ranching operations. Like most of the public state-sponsored land-grant universities that have been set up in virtually every state, there is a strong emphasis on teaching the “science” of animal agriculture to young students.

We drove by the “poultry center,” where chickens are crammed into a windowless shed and students are taught the science of exploiting birds. There was a similarly bleak “swine center.” We visited the “dairy science” center and besides seeing cows in pens, we got out and visited the roughly fifty calves who were each confined to a small, dark fiberglass doghouse. The stench of urine- and feces-soaked hay permeated the area, and the calves, some so young they could barely stand, looked at us with the most beautiful, trusting, and inquisitive eyes imaginable. Their painful separation from their mothers, their distressing isolation, and the complete frustration of their natural yearnings made the absurdity and violence of their plight palpable and haunting. I tried to go to all fifty of them and apologize for the hideous abuse they will be enduring at human hands. It was ironic that there was no security at this facility, other than signs prohibiting the touching of the calves, due to the fact that these conditions, which were deplorable, are considered state-of-the-art and generously adequate for the animals.

Finally, we went by the “meat processing center.” We entered and were asked by a young woman in a white hardhat and a hairnet if she could help us. She informed us that because it was Tuesday, they would be teaching other students how to slaughter a pig. Erika, Madeleine, and I engaged her in a discussion, and she was obviously proud of her status as a teacher’s assistant. Erika attempted to question the necessity of killing animals for food, and the student informed us that the Cal Poly operation had been designed by Temple Grandin, so the animals didn’t suffer, and that she herself had allergies to certain beans and grains so she felt she had to eat meat to get adequate protein. She said that we could watch the “harvest” of the pig through the window of the room at the end of the hall where many students were congregating. If the unfortunate pig had to endure this, I felt I could at least witness it.

The students, about 20 or so, were mainly women undergraduates in the veterinarian or animal science program, and were all waiting for the pig to enter the room. Soon I heard a loud squealing sound and saw a door open into a box and then a man reached over and down with an electrical shocking device and held it for a good ten seconds on the back of the pig, who wasn’t visible behind the wall of the box. Then a mechanical hoist was attached to the leg of the pig and the pig’s stunned pink body was lifted over to the middle of the room. I couldn’t see what happened next because I was behind the students who were all watching, but I could see the pig suddenly shake and twist her free leg, and many of the students looked away or at the floor, so I knew the arteries in the neck were being cut and the pig was bleeding out. Next the body was mechanically lifted into a large bin with a lid, and after the lid was closed, there was an enormous frothing, with white foam spilling out onto the floor, and with occasional mechanical whirring and grinding sounds. The lid opened, and the now white body of the pig was roughly spun and lifted by mechanical levers and brought back by the hoist to the center of the room.

I knew that at this point the teachers were going to dissect the pig and teach the students about the pig’s anatomy, and so I left the building, feeling that I had just witnessed a bizarre scientific satanic ritual of indoctrination. The pig had been sacrificed on the shiny steel altar of the scientific establishment, and the leaders of tomorrow were being ritually desensitized to the ongoing atrocity of murdering animals and eating their flesh.

As I discuss in The World Peace Diet, we live in a culture organized around eating animal-sourced foods, and imprisoning and attacking animals by the millions every day. This system, euphemized as animal agriculture, offers rewards to those who serve it.

We all have to make a living somehow in this competitive economic society. The young women were perhaps drawn to that program by idealistic yearnings to help animals as veterinarians, or to feed a hungry world as agricultural scientists. These yearnings are co-opted and perverted by the system of animal agriculture, which controls the cultural narrative and requires obedience to its way of thinking for those who will reap its rewards. The young women are working hard to succeed in their chosen career path. Can they understand that the system of animal agriculture is not only completely obsolete but is destroying our environment, harming our society, and sickening us physically, psychologically, ethically, and spiritually? As Upton Sinclair, author of The Jungle, wrote, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

That evening, after a meal at Bliss Café, a local vegan restaurant, we gave a lecture presentation at the Unitarian church about the benefits of vegan living. It seemed that both the devastating effects of animal agriculture, and the joy of participating in our culture’s transition to veganism were more vivid than ever.

The gruesome reality is that animals, especially female animals, are severely and systematically abused for food on a massive scale, and science is a primary religion of our modern culture that promotes this completely irrational and destructive behavior by indoctrinating us into a materialistic worldview that reduces beings to mere physical objects and encourages their abuse. The sacred feminine dimension of consciousness that recognizes beings as beings, and that yearns to respect, celebrate, and protect life, is systematically and harshly repressed, and we see the irony that young women are trained, like young men, to attack, destroy, and steal the bright light of life, individuality, and purpose shining in the eyes of pigs, cows, chickens, and other animals.

Compassionate Harvest by visionary artist Madeleine TuttleIt’s long past time to awaken from the toxic narrative imposed on us by the herding culture into which we’re all born, and to transform our educational institutions, and all our institutions, away from the abusive hoaxes that possess them. An authentic science would realize that there is no reason to imprison animals for food and other products, and authentic spiritual, religious, and ethical teachings are in alignment with this, and urge us to treat all other beings with respect and kindness. These seeds of satyagraha (Gandhi’s “truth power”) are the seeds that the agriculture programs of universities can and should be teaching, and encouraging us to sow, understand, and apply.

The way to a positive future beckons, but only as we question the rituals and narratives that wound us and destroy our intelligence and empathy. Each one of us can help co-create communities of sanity, freedom, health, and more conscious living on this abundant Earth. It starts on our plates and extends to all our relationships. The eyes of the imprisoned animals are on us. Thanks for caring and for acting.

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