2018 Essays

False Friends and the Five Dimensions of Health

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!

World Peace Diet Email

Please sign our email list for periodic updates; thanks.