BOOKS: Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2005:

Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony
by Will Tuttle, Ph.D.
Lantern Books (1 Union Square West, Suite 201, New York, NY 10003), 200
318 pages, paperback. $20.00.

Will Tuttle is a professional pianist and
teacher with a strong background in Zen Buddhism.
He argues for a broader understanding of the
implications of our food choices. He promotes
veganism to all people of conscience, whatever
their religion, as the vital first step to allow
our species to break out of the cycle of
violence, poverty and destruction.
Unlike most other authors on
vegetarianism, Tuttle does not content himself
with listing the physical harm done to our bodies
from meat/dairy consumption. He contends that
the harm from meat eating is much broader and
deeper than we realise, and has important
emotional and spiritual ramifications. He
believes that our relentless cruelty to animals,
principally for meat-eating, is the fundamental
cause of a global crisis today, and not merely a
symptom of human limitations.

“If we cannot stop eating meat,” Tuttle
argues, “how can we possibly develop the
sensitivity which is essential for spiritual
The argument is logical but it discounts
examples like the Dalai Lama, who ate meat for
decades before briefly going vegetarian in 1995
and finally going veg for keeps earlier in 2005.
The Dalai Lama was widely regarded as spiritually
mature long before eating meat visibly troubled
Tuttle lists human activities that
brutalize livestock and then draws a comparison
with related human suffering, to drive home the
point that because all things are connected at
all levels, we will all suffer ourselves for
what we do to other living things.
“As we force animals to be fat,
diseased, overcrowded and stressed, we become
the same,” Tuttle writes. “As we feed them
unnaturally processed chemical-laden foods, we
find our grocery stores filled with similarly
toxic products posing as food.”
Our meat-eating choices are inherited
from our parents. This indoctrination is
reinforced by social and market pressures as well
as by acquired taste. To break out of the rut
requires conscious effort, a desire to leave
home’ in the sense of wishing to achieve a
higher set of moral values:
“In a herding culture nothing is more
subversive to the established order of
exploitation and privilege than consciously
refusing to participate in buying and eating the
animal foods that define that culture.”
Tuttle is at his best when describing the
plight of farmed animals and linking it to our
physical and emotional well being. We learned
much that other books have failed to tell us.
However, when he discusses the metaphysical
consequences of animal cruelty, there are logical
jumps which elude us.
For example, Tuttle links meat-eating
directly to specific phenomena such as alcoholism
and military spending: “Every minute our
slaughter houses kill 20,000 land animals and the
Pentagon spends $760,000.” While we can be
convinced that meat eating can contribute
metaphysically to the massive expenditure on
armaments, the corollary to Tuttle’s argument is
that if people stopped eating meat then the
armaments industry would collapse.
–Chris Mercer

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