Counseling Carnivores with Will Tuttle 

Meat-eating makes us mean, says the former Zen monk.

Shunning meat won't just improve your digestion and lower your heart-attack risk, argues philosopher, composer, and UC Berkeley Ph.D Will Tuttle. It might actually spawn world peace.

"The old mythos underlying our culture, which is collapsing, is embodied in the relationships that we have with each other and with animals and the earth that are based on domination and exploitation," said Tuttle, who will discuss his book The World Peace Diet: Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Meeting Hall (1924 Cedar St., Berkeley) on Friday, August 20.

"By reducing pigs, chickens, cows, ducks, and geese to pieces of meat, we create a reductionist worldview," he said. "Privilege and elitism are founded on this idea that certain beings are superior. When that's the subtext of every meal — that might makes right — you get the domination of the weak by the strong."

This, Tuttle said, leads to "ecocide." But rejoice: "A new mythos is struggling to be born, founded on respect for all beings and practiced as eating a plant-based diet and not paying people to confine and kill animals for food."

Having grown up in a meat-eating Massachusetts household, Tuttle discovered vegetarianism at a Tennessee commune while on a post-college spiritual pilgrimage in 1975. Nine years later, "I went to Korea, shaved my head, lived as a Zen monk — and found myself eating a totally plant-based diet while wearing no leather, wool, or silk."

Still a vegan, he now tours the world discussing his theories on food, intuition, and altruism. "Food is a ritual," Tuttle said. "It's an intimate experience that we do over and over again, so it impresses into our consciousness at a very deep level certain core values."

For carnivores, those core values date back to the dawn of civilization: "When people first started to herd animals, they began this mentality in our culture of domination, violence, and oppression of the feminine dimension.

"It was always the female animals that have been the most abused" — and the most used, Tuttle continued, as producers of eggs and edible young. "From the very beginning, it was men learning to dominate the vaginas and mammary glands and uteruses of female animals to expand their wealth. ... The very first word for 'war' is a Sanskrit word meaning 'a desire for more cows.'"

Denial, millennia-old and countless generations deep, fosters "a mentality of disconnectedness" that is in turn a social construct cemented in place by what Tuttle calls "the military-industrial-meat-medical-pharmaceutical-media-complex." It also blocks meat-eaters from recognizing their true motivations: a spiritual awakening that would usher in the fledgling new mythos, characterized by "inner listening, patience, and kindness to others," he said. "That's what veganism is: the practice of kindness to other living beings.

"As Tolstoy said, as long as we have slaughterhouses, we'll have battleships." 6:30 p.m., voluntary donation.

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