Researchers investigating the structure of the body have discovered that cells are phenomenally complex, and compare a single cell in our body in complexity to New York City. We have several trillion such cells in our body.
Let’s savor that for a moment. It’s humbling and inspiring to contemplate the enormous intelligence invested in each one of us by the universe. Our extraordinarily intelligent and complex physical body is our vehicle and its purpose is to enable us to learn, grow, and contribute, and to celebrate our lives and fulfill our creative, intellectual, social, and spiritual purposes in this lifetime. This understanding can inspire us to treat our body with kindness and respect, and to do the same for all the people we meet.
It’s essential to remember that cows, pigs, fishes, chickens and all the other animals are similarly made up of trillions of cells and are also staggeringly complex. Researchers estimate that there are between three and thirty million other animal species on Earth besides humans. There is obviously a vast investment of intelligence in nonhuman animals and this intelligence is the underlying foundation for the profusion of living beings here, all fulfilling their purposes and celebrating their lives in their unique ways through an infinitude of interconnected communities.
And yet, we are all born into a culture that compels us from infancy to disrespect and destroy the massive storehouse of intelligence in other animals by enslaving and killing them for food and other products on an epic scale, stealing their purposes and thereby ravaging both their intelligences and purposes as well as our own. This is all rendered invisible to us by the ubiquitous cultural narratives surrounding food, nature, and animals, proclaiming our superiority and negating their value and agency. These narratives ironically sabotage our efforts for meaningful individual and social progress.
As we now understand through decades of nutritional research, it is completely unnecessary for us humans to continue the practice of imprisoning animals for food, breeding them into lives of abuse and misery, destroying ecosystems to feed them and dispose of their excrement, and forcing workers to impregnate them on “rape racks,” and to steal, mutilate, and kill their babies. We now understand that compelling our sensitive children to eat animal foods that concentrate harmful chemical and drug residues and other toxins is responsible for most of the chronic disease and conflict that fill our hospitals and that contribute to the ever-growing wealth and power wielded by the military-industrial-meat-chemicalpharmaceutical- media complex.
A recent study reaffirms what we have known for decades: that we could feed at least four billion more people with all the grain we waste on livestock feed for meat, farmed fish, dairy products, and eggs. The food shortages caused by animal agriculture are well recognized to be a fundamental driving force in global conflict and war. Animal agriculture is notoriously inefficient. It’s also destructive of intelligence on all levels. Vast mono-cropped fields of genetically-engineered corn, soy, and alfalfa to feed imprisoned livestock displace and attack the diverse intelligence of animal and plant communities such as forests, soils, wetlands, and prairies, and the toxic runoff destroys aquatic life. This habitat destruction is driving the largest mass extinction of life in 65 million years. The tragic loss of genetic diversity is one of many attacks on planetary intelligence by animal agriculture, which is the primary ongoing force of destruction, exploitation, and disease in our world today.
It ravages not just the outer landscape of our Earth, our culture, and our physical bodies, but also our psychological and spiritual health as well. Eating animal-sourced foods requires us to disconnect, and intelligence is the opposite of this. It is the capacity to make relevant connections. We thus have a difficult time understanding the rather obvious connections discussed here, and similarly fail to comprehend how our routine abuse of animals boomerangs into every aspect of our daily lives.
By consciously refusing to buy and consume animal foods and products—and choosing whole, organic, plant-based foods and products—we are respecting not just the inherent intelligence of animals and ecosystems, but also our own intelligence, and we are sowing seeds for awakening and liberation. The good news is that by transitioning to organic, plant-based ways of eating and living, we can feed everyone on this Earth on much less land, water, and petroleum and allow ecosystems, climate, and our culture, as well as our bodies and minds, to naturally heal and regenerate. World peace is based on respect for our intelligence and the intelligences and purposes of all beings. This respect is the missing foundation for health, freedom, awareness, and the possibility of fulfilling our lives together in harmony on this abundant and completely misunderstood Earth.
As we begin to connect the dots, we can give thanks for our caring hearts and for our awareness that yearns to savor and honor the magnificent intelligence that flows through birds, flowers, trees, forests, oceans, and all living systems: all of us and every dimension of our lives. For this to happen we are called to question the entrenched narratives that reduce our intelligence and that promote the exploitation of living beings, and to bring our lives into alignment with our values.
I remember finally realizing forty years ago that the only reason I was eating animal foods was because I was just following the orders and narratives imposed by my cultural upbringing, and that they were false and harmful. From that awakening, healing has been flowing ever since, for which I am immensely grateful. We can all be part of the awakening and healing that these critical times are calling forth. The immense intelligence that functions through every cell of our being—and through all beings—calls us to liberation. Respecting and liberating the intelligence in animals and ecosystems, we liberate our own intelligence. This is the path calling us to a positive future, one to which we can all contribute every day.
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.