2018 Essays

False Friends and the Five Dimensions of Health

Will Tuttle : April 2, 2018

Dr. Will Tuttle

One of the primary thematic elements in world literature and in our shared human life over the past few millennia is that of the harmful false friend. We see it everywhere, from the ancient gift-horse at Troy that actually contained murderous enemies, to the many court intrigues of both Europe and Asia, with seemingly loyal ministers actually plotting to betray, assassinate, and usurp the powers of their benefactors, to our current lives today, when friends and colleagues may, either unwittingly or deliberately, do things that harm us. For this reason, wise people have never tired of admonishing us to practice Right Association: to be discriminating and careful about whom we trust and with whom we associate. We tend to become like our friends, and on top of this, those posing as trusted allies are all the more able to manipulate and harm us, either intentionally or unintentionally.

This also applies to many traditions and institutions that we are taught to trust as well. We’re told that the mainstream media are our friends who work hard to inform us accurately about our world, that governmental agencies are doing their best to help and protect us, and that pharmaceutical corporations’ main desires are to help keep us all healthy. They are all our friends, according to the official narrative. The same holds true for the conventional foods we’re taught to eat. For many of us, food is one of our very best friends: intimate, loyal, and fulfilling.

With time we may begin to realize there is a deeper and more accurate understanding of these seeming friends, and we discover that in many cases, the most liberating, wise, and empowering action we can take is to question, resist, and abandon these false friends as best we can.

Food: Friend or Fiend?
From infancy, we are fed our cultural narrative by well-meaning parents, teachers, doctors, relatives, and neighbors. They all demonstrate to us unceasingly that animal-based foods are our trusted friends. Hamburgers, hot dogs, bacon, cheese, omelets, fish sticks, yogurt, fried chicken: these are all celebrated, praised, and honored as good friends that are not only delicious but that also provide necessary protein and calcium, and are what make our country great and define us as a people.

However, we are urgently called today to question this prevailing narrative—that animal-sourced foods are our friends—and to wake up and recognize them for what they are: destructive enemies to our well-being on all five levels of our individual and collective health.

Animal foods are harmful to far more than our bodily health. It’s helpful to realize that being healthy is not merely concerned with our physical health, and that while bodily health definitely plays an important role in our overall happiness, there are four other dimension of health that are equally and perhaps even more important than our physical health. These other four are our environmental, cultural, psychological, and spiritual health. Together with our physical health, these make up the five dimensions of our health, and the key point to understand today is that animal agriculture itself—and eating foods of animal origin—devastates and erodes not just our physical health, but our environmental, cultural, psychological, and spiritual health as well, more than any other single activity. Meat, dairy products, and eggs are absolutely not our friends in any way but actively work to harm our well-being on every level. Animal agriculture is the Trojan Horse within the walled gates of our city, and the insidious and destructive forces it unleashes every day are ravaging our ecosystems, our society, our health, our intelligence, and our natural sensitivity and wisdom.

Environmental Health
Animal agriculture is intensely wasteful of land, water, and fossil fuel resources because the millions of animals we kill daily for food (cows, pigs, poultry, and farmed fishes) eat enormous quantities and create toxic sewage, methane, nitrous oxide, and other waste that cause river and aquifer pollution, oceanic dead zones, soil erosion, air pollution, and climate destabilization. Additionally, animal agriculture is the primary driving force behind deforestation, habitat loss, species extinction, and ocean destruction due to overfishing and pollution. According to studies by the National Academy of Sciences, it takes about one-sixth of an acre per year to grow enough food to feed a vegan, and about three acres (18 times as much land) to feed someone eating the Standard American Diet. Transitioning to a whole-foods plant-based diet is the single most potent step we can take to reduce our environmental footprint.

Cultural Health
The inherent and damaging wastefulness of animal agriculture also harms our cultural health as well. It’s well understood that food shortages are one of the main causes of conflicts in the world, and that there can never be peace without justice. It is not difficult for us in the more industrialized nations to drive up the price of grain on the world markets in order to feed most of it to our imprisoned cows, pigs, chickens, and farmed fishes. In doing so, we price it out of reach of people in less industrialized nations and economies who are forced into hunger. They are also driven into overcrowded cities because large-scale animal agriculture operations are buying up their land to grow grain to fatten and export livestock. Gandhi summed this situation: “There’s enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.” The unremitting injustice—of mothers holding starving children while the meat- and dairy-eating wealthier populations squander most of our land, water, grain, and petroleum resources—erodes our cultural health and causes conflict, as well as refugees from hunger and war, which make matters worse. Additionally, we compel armies of workers to stab, beat, shock, and mutilate millions of animals daily, propelling them into perpetrator-induced traumatic stress disorder that increases their rates of suicide, alcoholism, and violence. Animal agriculture is actually a massive web of trauma inflicted on farmed animals as well as on wildlife, workers, hungry people, habitats, ecosystems, economies, and every aspect of our shared social life.

Physical Health
The products of animal agriculture are well understood today to be harmful to our physical health. Animal agriculture converts grains and greens into massive amounts of misery, toxic sewage, drug residues, and other pollutants, as well as the three primary constituents of animal foods: saturated fat, cholesterol, and acidifying and inflammatory animal protein. Because the media are beholden to their largest advertisers—the pharmaceutical, chemical, petroleum, and fast-food industries—we as consumers and citizens don’t learn that meat, dairy products, and eggs are not a helpful source of calcium and other nutrients, and are linked with diabetes, osteoporosis, liver disease, kidney disease, obesity, heart disease, strokes, dementia, breast, prostate, and colon cancer, and other debilitating diseases. The problem of course is that great profits for the wealthy elite are generated by disease, war, and environmental pollution, and these also make people weaker and easier to control. The shining truth though is that all of us have been given the gift of physical bodies that do not require any animal to suffer or die to get all the nutrients that we need to thrive and celebrate our lives on this beautiful and abundant Earth. The ever-growing presence of millions of healthy vegans is making this undeniably clear to everyone.

Psychological Health
Cow by visionary artist Madeleine TuttleThe first three dimensions of health just discussed are essentially external, and thus tend to be more obvious, though the devastating effects of our false friendship with animal foods still remain mainly unrecognized in our culture. This is because we live in a herding culture organized around animal agriculture with its consequent narrative of human supremacy. This narrative justifies and rationalizes our ruthless exploitation of animals and nature, and blinds us to the harmful consequences of this behavior. However, it’s vital to understand that animal agriculture is not only destroying the outer world of our environment, our society, and our bodily health; it is also devastating to the inner landscape of our consciousness. Being compelled from infancy to participate in animal-based meal rituals, we are not just eating animal-sourced foods that are harmful to our health, we are also eating attitudes that destroy our natural capacities for sensitivity, empathy, intelligence, self-respect, and harmony with nature and with each other. This is where the violence inherent in meat, dairy, and eggs most insidiously wounds us, and yet it is strangely invisible to us, because the wounding also reduces our capacity to recognize and respect our original nature as radiant, free, and magnificent expressions of life. From infancy, unfortunately, we are required to ritually promote and partake of dysfunctional attitudes with every meal.

One such attitude is disconnectedness. We are taught to stay shallow and to avoid looking deeply, caring deeply, and making the obvious and necessary connections between what is on our plate and the actual living being abused to produce it. This has serious consequences because the essential definition of intelligence in both individuals and societies is their capacity to make relevant connections. Animal agriculture is a direct assault on this capacity, eroding it relentlessly. Another attitude implicit in animal foods and required of all of us in this culture is the attitude of elitism, privilege, and might-makes-right. This is what we are actually eating and cultivating in every meal at the deepest levels, so of course we reap a world of social injustice that defies all attempts at resolution. We are causing abuse and injustice and then literally incorporating these actions into every cell of our being with our meals, which are in every culture the primary social rituals. A third devastating attitude is that of commodifying life: everything and everyone has a price, and animals, nature, and humans all are reduced to mere commodities in a heartless and competitive economic system. A fourth attitude is the complete domination and exploitation of the feminine dimension of life and consciousness, referred to in The World Peace Diet as Sophia. Sophia is our inner feminine wisdom that naturally yearns to protect and nurture children, communities, and our shared life, but animal agriculture is based at its core on impregnating females on rape-racks, stealing and killing their babies, and then killing the mothers, and doing it millions of times daily. How can we have healthy family and gender relations, or respect the feminine dimension of life and consciousness, when these opposing attitudes are being injected deeply into us on a daily basis through our meals?

Spiritual/Ethical Health
This fifth dimension of health is perhaps the most important of all, because it has to do with our basic sense of purpose and our connection with our true nature as conscious beings capable of living lives of authenticity, creativity, awakening, and fulfillment. However, animal agriculture is the absolute antithesis of all these qualities. Animals are born into slavery and misery, their purposes stolen, their lives, milk, eggs, autonomy, sovereignty, children, and meaning all stolen and destroyed. We are taught to see beings as mere material objects whose value is determined by their weight! Can anyone imagine any system more barbaric, insane, and demonic? Disconnected from basic wisdom, ethics, and awareness, animal agriculture lays waste not just our outer world, but reaches to the intimate depths of our basic connection with the source of our life, and poisons and perverts our consciousness by colonizing it with a narrative based on abuse, exploitation, fear, and separation.

False Friends and Genuine Friends
We live at a critical juncture in our human journey. A false friend—animal agriculture and the meat, dairy products, and eggs that fill our supermarkets, restaurants, meals, and cells—is unleashing an ongoing barrage of destruction and chaos that is bringing us to the brink of oblivion. Nuclear weapons, plutocracy, disease epidemics, and ocean collapse are just a few of the many outer manifestations of our old false friends, meat, dairy products, and eggs. If we were born as cows or chickens, we would understand intensely just how harmful these “foods” are. Now, more than ever, it’s imperative that we make an effort to understand their true nature, awaken from our culturally-induced trance and call them by their true names: the destroyers of our life, our Earth, our society, our sanity, our inner and outer peace.

Compassionate Harvest by visionary artist Madeleine TuttleFortunately, genuine friends surround us everywhere. Trees, flowers, gardens, orchards, and fields can provide all the healthy nutrition we need on a fraction of the land and resources we are currently using and harming. We can transform the foundation of our culture from the misery of herderism to the abundance and freedom of veganic plant-based living, based on inclusion and respect for all expressions of life. The door to our prison is open. Can we help each other walk through it? Can we joyfully abandon and put an end to our false friendship with animal agriculture, the demonic fiend crushing us, animals, and our world? There is no more pressing task than this!

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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