In contemplating our global problems, we tend to look for causes in the past to help us understand how to effectively respond to them. This can be helpful, to the degree we can actually understand our apparent past, realizing that our conception of it is based on memories and narratives that may not be completely accurate.
A complimentary approach is to imagine a positive future we’d like to move toward, and let it attract us forward. We can learn to act in the present so that this future is more likely to manifest.
For me, one of the most uplifting things to imagine, and work toward, is humanity’s beckoning future beyond herderism. Herderism, the practice and mentality of exploiting animals for food and other products, is the living, churning core of our current culture, now not just consuming untold billions of animals on an industrial scale, but the Earth as well, and through it all, suppressing our essential capacities of awareness and empathy. As we awaken out of the imposed cultural trance of herderism, it seems undeniable that enormous healing forces will be unleashed in virtually every area of our individual and collective lives.
Questioning the narrative of eating animal foods and moving to plant-based ways of eating and living, we will no longer need to imprison and kill animals for food and other products. We will no longer breed them against their will, and we’ll no longer need to feed them. These millions of acres of grains and legumes, no longer needed for meat, dairy, and egg production, could easily feed the nearly one billion malnourished and starving people in our world, effectively ending hunger and thus one of the primary drivers of conflict, war, and injustice. It’s inspiring to contemplate and savor the collective joy we as a human family will experience when all of us are properly fed.
As the National Academy of Sciences and other researchers have conservatively estimated, we can feed about twelve people a plant-based diet on the amount of land required to feed one person the current meat-based Western diet, and thus we’d be able to feed our current population on much less land than we’re currently using. This would radically reduce water depletion and pollution, rainforest destruction, ocean devastation, air pollution, soil erosion, habitat loss, species extinction, and fossil fuel usage. We could shift away from harmful agricultural technologies like GMO’s, chemical fertilizers, and toxic pesticides, and adopt plant-based (vegan, stock-free) organic agriculture that builds the soil and liberates animals, allowing us to return vast areas of land to nature to become rich forest, wetland, and grassland habitat again.
There’s nothing objectively stopping us as a society from moving rapidly in this direction, except fear and inertia, which stifle our intelligence and creativity. As we question the many delusions inherent in herderism, we can savor an infinite stream of images of a positive future with clean-running streams, flourishing forests, abundant food, clean air and water, and birds, fish, and other animals celebrating their lives, with we humans also living in harmony with nature, each other, and ourselves.
Transitioning to plant-based ways of eating and living, oceans, rivers, and lakes would become more abundantly filled with fish and marine life as we stopped attacking them with nets, traps, and hooks, and aquifers would be replenished, bringing back springs and rejuvenating riparian hydrology would naturally be returned to beleaguered landscapes, and thriving climates, forests, and wildlife habitat would be restored.
All the animal species we currently imprison for food, except for one, are currently also living freely in nature, and in a post-herding world can continue doing so: wild chickens are today thriving in the jungles of southeast Asia, as do turkeys in the forests of North America, and freeliving pigs, sheep, goats, ducks, geese, and fishes are enjoying their lives in the many relevant ecological niches to which they are suited. Only cows no longer live freely in nature—the last wild cow (aurochs) being killed in what is today Poland in the midseventeenth century—but these bovines could certainly be reintroduced into the central Asian grasslands and African savannahs where they traditionally thrived.
As we imagine our beckoning positive future, it’s important to bear in mind that this healing of our Earth is absolutely possible once we stop the wastefulness, violence, and ecological destruction inherent in animal agriculture, and return to the plant-based foods for which we’re designed. Concomitant with this natural ecological healing that would take place, and woven completely into it, would be the healing of our social relationships and cultural institutions, as well as the healing of our individual bodies and psyches. This is in many ways even more inspiring to contemplate.
Imagining a vegan world is imagining an entirely different world; a world literally beyond our imaginations to fully conceive, like caterpillars trying to imagine themselves as they would be beyond the chrysalis. As we free ourselves from the unspeakably deep and embodied violence of herderism and discover, demonstrate, and teach our children about the remarkable abundance of our beautiful Earth and develop and instill in children our respect for all other forms of life, we will begin to comprehend our role on this Earth. We’ll naturally begin to heal the physical and attitudinal disease that permeates our collective life. It has become so widespread and deeply rooted that it’s invisible.
Our materialist science, education, economics, and religion, which work together in many ways to keep us disconnected, unaware, and deluded, will transform. When we no longer imprison animals, we’ll begin to naturally awaken to the obvious truth that what we all are is, essentially, eternal awareness. The networks of oppression—both the external ones and those that have been internalized— will gradually and organically evaporate. Prisons, mental institutions, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, industrial factories and offices will all fade away as obsolete manifestations of ignorance.
Liberating animals is the portal to human liberation. It is the doorway staring us collectively right in the face, and each and every one of us can move toward and through this door, helping our entire culture to take this essential evolutionary step, and when we get through this portal of conscious eating and respect for animals and each other, many more doorways will emerge into view that we are not as yet equipped to contemplate or envision.
No longer sexually abusing and objectifying females for food, and dominating the sacred feminine dimension of life, we will naturally have more respect and sensitivity for the human birthing process, and for the vital role that the feminine aspect of nurturing and caring plays in our collective life. No longer exploiting newly born and young animals, we will regain our love and respect for our children, and create ways for them to grow and learn without being stifled, exploited, and groomed for competitive advantage and economic servitude. No longer eating dominated and abused babies, we will begin to co-create economic, governmental, and social relationships based on mutual respect, freedom, and cooperation. No longer engaging in daily meal rituals that numb our feelings and deaden our cognitive intelligence and capacity to make relevant connections, we’ll naturally explore meditative awareness, and discover many latent capacities awakening within us.
New dimensions of science, religion, education, economics, and governance will evolve that under the current materialist delusion imposed by herderism we can barely begin to imagine. Nicola Tesla hinted about an aspect of this when he wrote, “The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”
Freeing ourselves from our overdependence on technocracy, we will discover abilities to communicate, create, travel, understand, learn, and thrive in harmony with nature, animals, and each other that we at this point have no idea we possess. The free-living animals of the world will no longer be merely objects to be tolerated, killed, marveled at, used, or possessed, but will also begin to reveal themselves to us, and when we respect and relate to them as sovereign beings, we will find extraordinary companions with whom to share this Earth, and new doorways of joy, love, and abundance opening to us.
For now, it is essential to remember that we’ve internalized herderism’s toxic mentalities of domination, categorization, and competition, and besides changing our outer patterns of consumption to show respect to animals, nature, and each other, we are called to do the inner work of healing our culturallyinflicted wounds, and of awakening to our original nature of clear and unobstructed awareness. From this foundation, we are increasingly able to co-create and build a harmonious future for our children and the children of all beings.
As we hold this image of a positive future in our consciousness and commit every day to savoring the beauty of nature and life around us and within us, and doing the best we can to engage authentically in actions, projects, and relationships that respect and celebrate this beauty, we are building the positive future of our inspiring visions. We are living in alignment with our purpose.
When it is our time to leave this Earth, we will have contributed our unique and positive song and perspective, and encouraged others to do the same. Continuing our journey of ever greater awakening, our life on this Earth will have fulfilled a web of purposes radiating into uncountable dimensions, encouraging and helping others in ways we can never imagine.
As we sow, we reap, and the web of relations includes all living beings: all of us. No seed is ever lost. We can savor each day as a new opportunity to water and tend the seeds of our imaginations, and of our actions.
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.