2019 Essays

Honoring Mothers and Ending Slavery

Will Tuttle : May 10, 2019

By Dr. Will Tuttle

A disturbing trend over the past couple of decades is the ongoing proliferation of human trafficking and slavery. It’s well known that de facto slavery conditions exist in a number of industries, such as for children on cocoa plantations in Africa, and carpet, clothing, and electronics factories in India and elsewhere, men on fishing boats in southeast Asia, and millions of women and children in the sex slave trade internationally, including in the U.S. and Europe.

Researchers studying the problem report that there are vast sex trafficking rings throughout the U.S. that prey especially on children, and that the problem is under-reported and difficult to stop due to corruption and profiteering in law enforcement and the courts, as well as in governmental agencies that deal with children.

According to a recent study reported in USA Today, youth and child sex slaves are forced to have sex on average over five times daily and there are hundreds of thousands of adults who are buying sex with children, and who are rarely brought to trial. In a recent case, a man who was arrested was asked about his conscience, and if he felt any remorse for the terrible damage that he was causing children by buying and having sex with them. His response was telling: “I don’t want to know how the sausage is made.”

Years ago, I wrote an article titled “The Most Pervasive Form of Child Abuse” published in the June 2001 issue of VegNews before it was a magazine, contending that being compelled as children to eat the flesh and secretions of animals not only harms us physically, but psychologically and morally as well. With every meal, we’re consuming a narrative of materialism, reductionism, and exploitation of the weak by the strong. The subtext is, “Don’t make the connection.” “Stay shallow and don’t see deeply, feel deeply, or care deeply. It’s just an object: a burger, an egg, a breast, a wing, a piece of cheese.”

We are all profoundly wounded by being born and raised in a culture organized around animal agriculture, which is, at its core, a relentless and ritualized sexual attack on the sacred feminine dimension of life, specifically on females, mothers, and offspring. The core practice of animal agriculture is forcibly impregnating females and sexually abusing and killing the beings who are the result of raping them. This is happening millions of times daily; it’s the hidden dark side of our culture. We are compelled from infancy to not only participate and pay for this, and thus cause this ongoing tsunami of sexual violence, but also to then actually eat it and routinely feed it to our unsuspecting children. This injects them with the same toxins and wounds that have been perverting us and hijacking our awareness for generations now, driving ten thousand years of war and patriarchal oppression.

The wisdom at the heart of world’s spiritual traditions is basically unanimous: whatever we sow, we will reap. How can we ever expect that we as human beings are worthy of a culture that is free of slavery and the sexual trafficking and abuse of women and children when we are enslaving billions of nonhuman animals and sexually abusing the females and their offspring? It’s well understood that all the female cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, sheep, goats, and other animals who are imprisoned for food and other products are forced into pregnancy on what the industry terms the “rape rack” when they are mere children in human terms. Cutting costs in every way possible, the industry minimizes feed costs by manipulating young females into early pregnancy through drugs, hormones, and selective breeding.

Our efforts to curb and stop human trafficking are merely ironic in the face of the massive industrialized and invisibilized trafficking of animals that pervades and defines our culture. Going vegan and understanding the deep connections between animal abuse and human abuse is a significant contribution to the healing and resolution of the human slavery and trafficking problem that causes untold misery and suffering in our world. Until we publicly proclaim and explain these connections and they become part of our social conversation, we will never make meaningful progress in our quest for justice and respect in our human world. Eating and buying animal foods and products always requires trafficking and sexual abuse of animals, on both small backyard operations as well as on large-scale factory farms. This injustice permeates every cell of animal flesh, cheese, wool, leather, and egg, and screams for our attention, to wake us up from the cultural trance into which we’ve been indoctrinated, and to heal the traumatic wounds that have been inflicted on us by animal agriculture. The vulnerable—animals and children—always bear the brunt of the full fury of our desensitization and delusion.

Giraffes by visionary artist Madeleine TuttleThere is only one way forward. Human liberation is impossible without animal liberation. There will never be any human justice without justice for animals. The fact that in the thousands of pages of writing about human trafficking and sexual abuse of women and children, there is virtually no mention of the propelling force—the massive trafficking and sexual abuse of animals—demonstrates how deluded, indoctrinated, and blinded we are by our culture’s food rituals. It’s long past time to speak up and embody the truth of compassion and justice for all living beings, and for all mothers and all the children of all species, so that we are finally worthy as a species to live in greater harmony on this beautiful and beleaguered Earth.

This Mother’s Day, let’s remember the millions of animal mothers whose babies are stolen and killed to be eaten and used, and let’s reflect on the ongoing trafficking and sexual abuse of men, women, and children in our culture, and discuss these connections with our friends and family. Slavery begets more slavery. Freedom requires us to question the indoctrinated narratives justifying our exploitation of animals, and to do our best to embody kindness and respect for all. We can all contribute our voices and actions and help build the positive future for all beings that is beckoning.

Satyagraha: The Magic Button

Will Tuttle : January 14, 2019

By Dr. Will Tuttle

It seems that at a certain point, every vegan yearns to discover the magic button that they can push that will light up the consciousness of their non-vegan friends and family members, and transform them into vegans. For vegans, it seems completely anti-rational, self-destructive and untenable that their acquaintances—upon hearing of the devastating effects of animal agriculture on innocent animals, as well as on ecosystems, wildlife, hungry people, and human health—nevertheless continue to take out their wallets and vote for animal-sourced foods and consume them and feed them to their unsuspecting children. “I see it, why don’t they?” “I care, why don’t they?” “I changed, why can’t I get them to see, to care, to change?”

           As vegans, we desperately yearn to find the magic phrase, or image, or set of ideas, memes, gestures, and vocal intonations that would be able to reliably pierce the armor of indoctrination and soften the hearts and open the eyes and minds of the people with whom we share our world. We eventually realize that the search for this magic button is like the search for the fabled fountain of youth or the mythical wish-fulfilling jewel. The fountain of youth and the wish-fulfilling jewel are actually within ourselves, and to transform the world we are called to transform ourselves.

We understand gradually that we are all wounded by being born and raised in a herding culture organized at its core around enslaving, mutilating, raping, and killing billions of animals every day, and eating them and using them as mere objects for products and other uses. As infants, we are all born into this, and it wounds us on every level. Not only is our physical health harmed, and our society and our Earth, but at a deeper level, we are harmed psychologically and also spiritually and morally. This ethical harm is perhaps the most serious wound. Relentlessly stealing the purposes as well as the physical and mental integrity of billions of animals, we collectively lose our purposes and our integrity, and co-create systems of human exploitation, waste, and injustice that are destroying the web of life and our basic cultural sanity. We begin to realize that the violence and conflict we experience as humans is both a direct and secondary result of the abuse that we perpetrate on animals. The animals and our violence toward them are made invisible by our herding culture’s established traditions, language, institutions, and assumptions. We are collectively wounded by our indoctrination, and blinded to the devastating consequences of our daily actions.

            As vegans, we are healing these physical, psychological, and moral wounds both in ourselves and in our world. Our task is to nurture and deepen this healing in ourselves, and also to become increasingly adept as healers to other people who have been similarly wounded and are still trapped in the cages of conformism into which they were forced from infancy. As vegans, we are healers and light-bearers. To the degree that we are authentically healing our inner wounds and opening to the light of inner truth, we are able to help others heal and to awaken from the dark trance of violence that is the essence of our culture, which is animal agriculture in all its forms. Liberating animals is the direct path to human liberation, peace, and justice.

The light that heals and liberates is the light of truth. The truth that all of us, vegans or not, know in our bones is that animals suffer as we do. We also understand that our lives and our welfare are interconnected, and that all life is interdependent.

The ancient Sanskrit word for truth is satya, and graha means insistence or force. Satyagraha, or truth-force, was a central tenet of Gandhi’s approach to social change. Satyagraha can be seen as the magic button that we can discover within and that we can all use to help transform our world. When we speak our truth with respect and kindness, we are fulfilling our mission as light-bearers and healers, and as world-transformers. The hardest part is to uncover this inner truth and to articulate it clearly and without judgment or trying to manipulate others to change.

Sometimes people ask me what the most effective formulation of this underlying truth might be. For example, if we’re in an elevator and only have a half-minute or so, what words could we say to convey the essence of healing truth to another person? What seeds of truth could we sow in their mind and heart? The good news is that even though it’s counterproductive and wrong-headed to try to change others, and reliably prompts them to resist, defend, and fight back, we can nevertheless plant seeds of positive change in others through our words, actions, creative expressions, and example. By deeply and fully embodying vegan values of kindness and respect, our words, gestures, and actions become congruent, and we can plant seeds of truth with effectiveness. Congruence is the key, and with it, satyagraha, truth-force, works through us.

So, in a nutshell, these are the words that we can speak and embody: “I am deeply grateful that I discovered that the only reason I was eating animal foods for all the years that I did was because I was just following orders. Fortunately, I realized that those orders were not in my best interest, or in the interest of our world, and so I’m not doing it anymore, and it’s fantastic.”

That’s it. When we express this truth, in our own words of course as befits the occasion, on an elevator or anywhere else, we are conveying a simple and basic set of transformative ideas, which is our truth. Usually it’s best not to say a lot more, and to let go and let the seed we have planted germinate and grow organically.

Done with respect and without any underlying motivation to manipulate others, we plant a depth-charge, as it were, a potent seed of light, truth, and healing in the consciousness of the person. It will sprout and grow and help them to heal as well, because that is what truth-power does. Basically, our experience is all the same growing up in this herding culture, and our personal truth is also a universal truth.

The only reason any of us eats animal foods is because we’re just following orders, and we all know this deep down and also understand that it’s not in our best interest. When any of us articulates and embodies this fundamental, world-transforming truth, and then follows up with how fantastic it is to be free of this indoctrination, we are essentially opening the door to the invisible cage that keeps human beings imprisoned in destructive, anti-rational behavior. At our core, none of us wants to be a mere automaton blindly following toxic and destructive orders. We can point out that we have discovered this for ourselves and how liberating it is, and this is non-threatening to others and beckons them out of the prison into which they’ve been born.

If we do it well, the person will forget us and the conversation, and yet the seed we planted in a seemingly casual way is alive deep inside them, growing every day, and propelling them to awakening and freedom. It is their own wisdom and compassion that are actually growing, and when they go vegan, it will not be because they are being shamed into it or pushed, but because their own inner caring and basic intelligence is liberated and activated. An inspired, creative, empowered vegan is born.

  So even though there is no outer magic button, we do have within us the capacity to be an instrument of satyagraha, and to speak our truth, which is a universal truth, planting seeds that will positively transform our world:

“I am deeply grateful that I discovered that the only reason I was eating animal foods for all the years that I did was because I was just following orders. Fortunately, I realized that those orders were not in my best interest, or in the interest of our world, and so I’m not doing it anymore, and it’s fantastic.”

This embodied truth is an unstoppable force for awakening humanity, and each of us can strive to ever more fully discover and express it, and to live and celebrate it, for the benefit of all.

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