01 September 2013

"The Death Orientation that Stares at Us from Our Plates"

I'm going to be attending and emceeing a presentation tonight by Dr. Will Tuttle on his bestselling book, The World Peace Diet: Eating for Spiritual Health and Social HarmonyI think what I'm really looking forward to is a sort of "darshan"— being in the presence of one who is enlightened. Never has a book taken me on such a voyage of discovery and on such a roller coaster ride of emotions! This former Zen Buddhist monk has articulately synthesized ideas I've been wondering about for years.

  • Why is there so much cruelty and violence in our human world?
  • Where does "man's inhumanity to man" — and to nonhuman animals — come from?
  • Why do we think we're so much better than other animals?
  • Why can people (in our society) love their pets so much but then slap a hunk of a lamb, a pig, a chicken or a steer on their plates and eat it without ever making (seeing, feeling) the connection?
  • Beyond the greenhouse gas toll of industrialized meat processing, what (and who) else suffers because of our meat-based diet?

Dr. Tuttle explains all that and more. I'm not going to tell you too much because I wouldn't do it justice and I want you to buy (or borrow) the book and read it. Really take it in. And, every chapter or two, slam the book shut and sob and sob and sob at the unspeakable atrocities committed (at least in our society) so that people can have their hunk of flesh and eat it too.

But let me leave you with a couple of "big ideas" from Will Tuttle. 

The first is that the move to the herding of large mammals about 10,000 years ago was the start of it all, including the beginnings of raging capitalism (which is bringing not just the natural world but human civilization to its knees):
"In fact, our word 'capital' derives from capita, Latin for 'head,' as in head of cattle or sheep. The first capitalists were the herders who fought each other for land and capital and created the first kingdoms, complete with slavery, regular warfare, and power concentrated in the hands of a wealthy cattle-owning elite.... By commodifying and enslaving large, powerful animals, the ancient progenitors of Western culture established a basic mythos and worldview that still lives today at the heart of our culture." (pp. 18-19)
The second point is something that is making people laugh when I share it with them. And sometimes laughter creates a beeline to the heart and soul, so that people can really hear something their mind doesn't want to listen to. 

Hmmm, I just found the passage back on pp. 67-68 and it's rather graphic to quote here for you. Anyway, here's the gist: Lots of people think that we're "meant" to eat the flesh and secretions of other animals, that it's perfectly natural for us to eat meat and "dairy" products. So here's a question: Could you, using no implements, just your body (with your tiny mouth, dull teeth, delicate skin and no claws) hunt down a deer? Kill it with your teeth, rip it apart and eat it? 

Okay, here's another question: If we were meant to drink the milk designed for calves, then shouldn't we be able to walk past the bull, kick that calf out of the way, and then slide underneath the cow to suckle at her teat without getting kicked or stomped on?

For 30 years I was a vegetarian who considered cheese and eggs to be "gifts" from the animals. But gifts are freely given. Choosing a vegan diet three years ago (for environmental reasons, but also because all my talk of compassion was no longer squaring with my diet) has allowed me to truly see what's going on in this world. Otherwise, I would still be stuck in my own herder mentality. 

May the "spiritual health" and "social harmony" of Dr. Will Tuttle's book, The World Peace Diet, come true in time for compassion to save the future for the children ... of all species.

Is anyone else weirded out by the fact
that our culture eats
the children of other animals?

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?