By Dr. Will Tuttle
One of the most persistent ethical and social dilemmas in our culture is the abortion issue, yet rarely do we make the critical connections between our culture’s routine exploitation and abuse of other animals and our ongoing struggle with this abortion issue. It is an aspect of what I refer to in The World Peace Diet as the boomerang effect: the abuse we inflict on animals inevitably returns to haunt and harm us, but we typically fail to trace the consequences of our actions to their source.
Animal agriculture is not merely humans exploiting other animals; it is and always has been, more specifically and accurately, male humans exploiting female animals. The two defining practices of animal agriculture are killing them and routinely sexually abusing the females: impregnating them against their will and stealing their babies. Violence begets violence, and our relentless and deliberate killing and raping of millions of other animals daily has profound consequences not just for the unfortunate beings who are the victims of our actions, but also for us as perpetrators.
We are all born into a culture that forces us from infancy to participate in mealtime rituals that require us to pay for and eat products that require viciously violating the sacred and celebratory forces of sexuality, birth, and the nurturing caring of motherhood. What are the consequences of this systematic and unrecognized abuse? Given the ever-increasing devastation caused by our attitudes, actions, and technologies on our world and each other, we are called more than ever to understand these typically hidden connections.
For example, we have the dairy industry. Our infants and children are routinely forced to drink milk intended for baby cows, and to eat products made from this milk. Cow milk is naturally toxic to humans for
many obvious reasons, because we are not calves who will put on 600 pounds in the first year of our life. Besides the acidifying and inflammatory casein and other milk proteins, the high fat content, the carcinogenic IGF-1 growth factor, and the pesticide and other toxic residues that concentrate in dairy products, there are the bovine hormones.
From the perspective of our human abortion issue, the naturally occurring estrogen in cow milk is a fundamental driving factor. Cow estrogen and human estrogen are molecularly identical, and when we as children consume dairy products, especially cheese, ice cream, and other high-fat products (because hormones ride in fat), we consume unnaturally high levels of estrogen, and it is well-established that this bovine estrogen pushes us as young girls into early sexual maturity. It is certainly not healthy for us as boys to have all this unnatural estrogen flowing through our systems either, and the consequences could be worse and more complex than just the “boobs” that some boys get. However, for us as girls, we find that we are inhabiting a body that is fully sexually mature, complete with sexual drives and the capacity to give birth, at an age when we are still too young mentally and emotionally to deal with all that this requires of us.
The average age of menarche, of first menstruation, instead of being seventeen as it was in the mid-nineteenth century, is now 12.5 years. This was made startlingly clear in Japan after World War II, where in the space of just one or two generations after dairy products were introduced there, the average age of menarche went from 15.2 to 12.5.[i] According to researcher Kerrie Saunders, “Both African villages and the Chinese have retained many of their dietary traditions of eating plant-based foods, and they both average an onset of female puberty at seventeen years of age.”[ii] The unnaturally early menarche in our culture causes untold anguish, with unnecessary teen pregnancies, abortion dilemmas and debates, and unnatural physical, psychological, and social stress that is simply a result of pushing our girls into sexual maturity too early, just as we do to the young cow slaves on the dairy.
In addition to surreptitiously generating the high levels of abortions in our society by forcing our young girls into unnaturally early sexual maturity, the dairy industry also engages in violent abortion procedures as part of its routine operation. On any dairy operation, organic or not, newborn calves are immediately stolen from their mothers, causing terrible grief, anxiety, and despair to both. I have heard the desperate wails of cows for their calves that pierce the night unremittingly for hours at a time. These mothers are immediately re-impregnated against their will on what the industry calls the “rape rack” and after nine months, she delivers another calf, who like the first will be immediately stolen from her. This happens an average of four times, with three of the calves being killed either immediately as useless, or after a few months for veal, or after two years if used for beef. One will be kept as a slave to replace her mother on the dairy. At this point the mother cow is physically exhausted, having endured the unnatural trauma of being pregnant and lactating simultaneously for four pregnancies, and even though she’s only about five to six years old and would live naturally about 25 years, she is sent off to slaughter to be used for cheap hamburger.
However, the dairy industry isn’t through with her. It is common practice to impregnate her one last time, and send her to slaughter when she is about eight months pregnant or so, for the extra profit that her unborn fetus can bring at the slaughter-plant. So after hanging her upside down and slitting her throat so that she dies by the slow and painful death of being bled out, workers cut her open and perform a late-term abortion, stabbing her unborn calf because of the extra profit this calf brings to the industry in three ways. First, the skin of unborn calves can be used to make fine leather that fetches a higher price. Second, the stomachs of these unborn calves have already started to produce rennin, the hormone substance that we don’t have that breaks down the main protein in cow milk, casein, and this rennin is used by the cheese industry to coagulate milk to make cheese. Third, the pharmaceutical industry wants to use the “fetal bovine serum” that is in the calf’s heart and circulatory system for their vaccines, and so workers insert a long needle into the beating heart of the calf to extract this substance, before slitting his or her throat.
Why don’t we hear any protests against the grisly abortions happening around the clock at slaughter plants because of our continued appetite for dairy products? Why no outcry against the violence of forcing our girls into early menarche, considering the pain and trauma this causes them and their families and our society? As we sow, we reap. How can we expect that we are worthy as a culture to be free of abortion and its devastating effects when we force millions of sentient beings into abortions against their will?
The abortion issue is, at is roots, the byproduct of a society that does not honor the sacred feminine aspects of life. At is living core, our herding culture is organized around enslaving and killing animals at an industrial scale, and thus all of us are injected from infancy with participatory attitudes that reduce our natural intelligence and sense of respect for life. Animal agriculture requires men to view females as mere breeders, reducing them to objects to be used as baby-making machines, for the profit and pleasure of their exploiters. Thus we find ourselves in a competitive and disconnected society that reduces our sensitivity and compassion for animals and for each other. This reduces the sacred feminine wisdom in all of us that is the foundation of the nurturing, strong, and loving family life that would protect and nurture our children, youth, and all of us so that abortion would be a non-issue. Destroying the families of other animals on a massive scale, dishonoring their sacred mother-child bond, and reducing them to lone units of production in a heartless economic system, we find our families and bonding similarly broken down and ourselves similarly reduced, and saddled with abortion dilemmas that arise inevitably from this and from our culture’s lack of supportive attitudes toward women and our loss of nurturing family and relationship networks.
The deep structure of our animal-enslaving culture wounds us all, training us from infancy to view other beings as things to be used and from this, the abortion issue (and many others) inevitably arises. There is a lasting solution to the abortion issue and that is to question the violence on our plates and as individuals to go vegan and strive to embody vegan values of justice, kindness, and respect for all animals, both human and nonhuman, and to share these ideas with others through our example and efforts.
Evolving toward a vegan culture is the way to access and heal the roots of our many struggles with war, violence, and injustice. All animal agriculture requires imprisoning and sexually abusing other animals, and their interests and suffering are to them as significant as ours are to us. This is the unyielding dilemma that we can no longer ignore. Our future, if we are to have one, will be vegan.
[i] Kagawa, Y., “Impact of Westernization on the Nutrition of Japanese: Changes in Physique, Cancer, Longevity, and Centenarians,” Preventive Medicine, 7 (1978), pp. 205–217. Cited in Saunders, The Vegan Diet as Chronic Disease Prevention, (New York: Lantern Books, 2003), p. 137.
[ii] Saunders, The Vegan Diet as Chronic Disease Prevention, p.137.