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).
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.