One of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves, our loved ones, and our world is to question the prevailing narratives in our culture, and realize that they are not only imprisoning and destroying animals and our Earth, but us as well.
The core false and devastating narrative— the progenitor of a whole spectrum of deluding narratives—is that animals are mere commodities that we are entitled to breed, kill, eat, and use by the billions every day. This false narrative has real teeth, ravaging not just animals but ourselves as well. We eat it from infancy and we build both the cells of our bodies and the attitudes and social institutions that define our lives out of the toxic terror and misery of these relentlessly abused animals.
There is no way to overstate the magnitude and depth of this indoctrination and its debilitating effects on our awareness and our society. This food narrative of violent exploitation is delivered by well-meaning parents, relatives, neighbors, teachers, and doctors, and for us, like for virtually all animals, teachings about food by parents and elders to offspring are the most significant and binding of all teachings. The primary bonds of animals, especially mammals, are forged through eating food together, and so for us the food narrative continues to be the most challenging to question—and the most invisible—despite its obviously devastating effects on every level of our health.
Animal agriculture is completely obsolete. It is also anti-rational as well. It’s immoral, unjust, unhealthy, and unsustainable, and yet it persists, not because we are naturally predatory or violent, but because we are conditioned by our culture’s routine mealtime rituals to become numb to our feelings and to disconnect from and repress our natural capacities for intelligence and awareness.
The practice of herding animals emerged in western Asia about ten thousand years ago for reasons that are still not fully comprehended, and the resulting practice of herderism has continued unabated to this day, and has grown and spread throughout the world. This practice of herderism led to the drastic reduction of animals’ status, the rise of a wealthy elite class of herder-rulers, and the introduction of war and slavery as established social institutions, all of which continue to this day, with narratives to support them. Because herderism requires the repeated forced breeding of female animals, it led inexorably to the exploitation and suppression of women and the feminine aspects of humanity that nurture and protect babies and children, and to the exploitation of our children as well. Herderism is the deep festering wound, the ongoing hidden fury at the core of our culture, generating war, the abuse of women and children, social injustice, and reducing our capacities to deal effectively with our problems and issues. It wounds all of us from conception onward with its pervasive and unquestioned violence and its narrative of hard-hearted domination.
The good news is that we are discovering that animal agriculture is utterly unnecessary, and the rising tide of millions of healthy and happy vegans is making this discomfortingly obvious. We are realizing that the narrative that our Earth can’t feed everyone is also false. We can feed everyone on less land, water, petroleum, and other resources than we’re using now. A new narrative is being born that honors and respects the abundance and beauty of our Earth, and that refuses to imprison, rape, and kill animals for food or other products.
This is helping us question the narrative that humans are naturally violent as well. Whom does this narrative benefit? In many ways, it benefits the same forces that benefit from the herderism narrative. It benefits what I refer to as the militaryindustrial- meat-medical-pharmaceuticalmedia- banking complex. This complex and the tiny elite that is enriched by it, profits from conflict, disease, and environmental destruction, and of course the narrative that humans are innately violent serves the agenda of increasing “security” measures, escalating military and surveillance operations, and taking away our freedoms.
We can regain our inherent capacities for freedom, peace, and health, and become worthy of them, when we question our culture’s indoctrinated narratives, and stop routinely stealing freedom, peace, and health from billions of animals. We can create new narratives of liberation and healing by questioning the culturally mandated narratives leading us to abuse and kill animals for our kitchens, wardrobes, and medicine cabinets.
Our world is created and sustained by the stories we tell and believe. When we change the narrative, we change the world. We can each be an agent of this change. Animal agriculture erodes all five levels of our health—environmental, cultural, physical, psychological, and spiritual—and by questioning the herderism narrative, we are helping to heal the inner wounds that create the outer conflict in our lives.
There are two fundamental powers in our human world, the power of the individual and the power of the community. As individuals, we naturally yearn to learn, grow, and awaken, and to work with others and contribute. However, we live always in the context of the human groups in which we are embedded. The only reason any of us pays for and eats animal foods is because we’ve internalized (literally) the prevailing cultural narrative and are following orders injected into us from infancy by our families and communities. We believe herderism’s narrative because we eat it every day, along with other toxic narratives, such as the human-superiority narrative, the insufficiency-of-the-Earth narrative, the humans-are-naturally-violent narrative, the consumerism narrative, the technological-progress-will-save-us narrative, the competition narrative, the trust-the-authorities narrative, the materialism narrative, the essentiallyseparate- self-narrative, and so on.
These interconnected narratives are all emanations of herderism’s basic orientation of reductionism, disconnectedness, and exploitation of the weak by the strong. We can each as individuals make efforts to heal the wounds we have endured by living in and absorbing this obsolete set of narratives, and not only heal ourselves, but help to heal our communities as well, bringing liberation to animals and to our repressed inner kindness and awareness.
The path is two-fold. First, on the outer level, transitioning to a healthy plant-based (vegan) way of living and additionally doing our best to minimize our consumption of resources. Minimalizing and simplifying our lifestyle and reducing our desires are long understood to be foundational to happiness and inner peace. Second, on the inner level, engaging in a regular practice of self-inquiry, or meditation, or silent inward listening. The idea is to free our consciousness from the many layers of colonization and programming by practicing awareness.
When we can witness our thoughts, emotion, and desires without identifying with them, we begin to get a glimpse of our true nature: that we are a manifestation of eternal consciousness. This realization can help free us from indoctrinated narratives so that we can live with more congruence. Our outer vegan nonviolence toward animals is part of a new narrative and we can extend it to human animals as well, helping us heal the roots of racism, sexism, classism, separatism, and egotism within ourselves. Our words and actions will naturally carry more weight, and our advocacy for liberation will flow spontaneously and creatively from our thoughts, words, and actions.
By cooperatively engaging our imagination and love, we are creating new narratives and building more conscious communities of freedom, abundance, and sustainability for all. Every day, we can explore these new pathways and help each other toward a beckoning doorway into a world that reflects a new story based on a deeper understanding of our true nature of kindness for others.
Dr. Will Tuttle, visionary educator and musician, is author of the international best-seller, The World Peace Diet. A former Zen monk and recipient of the Courage of Conscience Award and Empty Cages Prize, he has created eight CD albums of uplifting original piano music and is a vegan since 1980.