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December 2005/January 2006
Peace Begins on the Plate

Book Review by Charles Patterson

 

The World Peace Diet: Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony by Will Tuttle, Ph.D. (New York: Lantern Books, 2005). $20 paperback. 318 pages.

The World Peace Diet is a unique contribution to understanding the direct relationship between the food we eat and the vast range of the world’s problems—hunger, poverty, disease, war, terrorism, genocide, environmental degradation, and, of course, the exploitation and slaughter of billions of defenseless animals, which all too many people do not consider a problem at all.

To explain how the ugly reality of the abuse and killing of animals became the centerpiece of our so-called civilization, Dr. Will Tuttle examines the emergence of our herding culture that began roughly 10,000 years ago in the Near East with the enslavement (euphemistically called “domestication”) of sheep and goats, and later cattle, camels, horses, and other animals for food, clothing, transport and labor.

This herding culture introduced a higher level of domination and coercion into human history and eventually led to oppressive hierarchical societies and large-scale warfare never seen before. The enslavement of animals and the intensive animal agriculture that resulted from it injected large doses of ruthlessness, detachment, and socially accepted cruelty into the fabric of our civilization. It also produced assorted ideologies of human supremacy and speciesist attitudes that today define our relationship to animals.

Tuttle examines in detail the horrors of modern industrialized animal agriculture—factory farms, slaughterhouses, hunting and herding sea life, the devastating effects on human health and the environment, and the corporate meat-medical complex behind it all. In a chapter called “The Domination of the Feminine” he describes the “dairy nightmare” and the “four pathways to hell” for calves born to dairy cows. He also writes about the egg industry as another manifestation of our patriarchal herding culture’s domination of the feminine.

Failure to see, confront, and take responsibility for the vast hidden suffering that our food choices require shrivels us up as human beings emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually and keeps our society in a perpetual state of denial and hypocrisy. Keeping ourselves oblivious to what we’re doing when we purchase, prepare, and consume meat, eggs, and dairy products truncates our capacity to think, feel, and care for others.

According to Tuttle, the desensitizing of millions of children and adults to the daily torture of animals plants in them the seeds of violence, poverty, war, genocide, and despair. The cycles of violence that have terrorized and continue to terrorize people are rooted in our meals. Eating animals forces us to act like predators, and we then proceed to see and define ourselves as such. The cruelty we are forced to participate in as children turns us into lifetime perpetrators of cruelty. How can we be peaceful and compassionate people while eating the flesh of abused animals?

Growing up, none of us freely chose to eat animals. Our family and culture imposed it on us. Well-meaning parents, grandparents, and others force us to eat the flesh and secretions of animals long before we have any choice in the matter. By the time we find out that the meat on our plate is the flesh of a murdered animal, it all seems natural and normal. By then our daily meals are already rituals of denial and repressed guilt that dull our innate compassion and our propensity for justice.

The conspiracy of silence about the truth of our meals is so pervasive that there is a strong societal taboo against knowing where our food comes from. Exploiting and killing animals is such an accepted part of our way of life that it is unmentionable in public and is virtually ignored in discussions and debates about social problems and public policy. It never seems to occur to those our society considers its leaders that the best way to curb violence is to get people to stop eating violence.

Late in the book the author tells the story of his own journey to veganism. While living in Concord, Massachusetts, for the first 22 years of his life, Tuttle, like most Americans, ate large quantities of animal flesh, eggs, and dairy products. However, during that time he also encountered seeds of inspiration that sprouted later: the literary revolution of the 1840s and ‘50s, based in Concord, that sprang from the lives and writings of American transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Louisa May Alcott.

Tuttle points out that they were the first major American thinkers to question the meaning of food and establish a philosophical foundation for a more compassionate attitude toward animals. Thoreau thought the destiny of the human race should be “to leave off eating animals as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other,” and Louisa May Alcott wrote, “Vegetable diet and sweet repose. Animal food and nightmare… Without flesh diet there could be no blood-shedding war.”

Tuttle’s commitment and dedication to his vegan, nonviolent worldview suffuses every page of this profoundly insightful and important book. The World Peace Diet is sure to be a catalyst and powerful tool in the evolution of human consciousness, from our present herder mindset—based on might-makes-right and the exploitation of others—to a more humane attitude toward the earth and all its inhabitants.

Charles Patterson is the author of Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust (Lantern Books), now translated into German, Hebrew, Italian, Polish, Czech, and Croatian, with Spanish and Portuguese translations on the way. See www.powerfulbook.com.

 


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