Can What You Eat Cause World Peace with Dr. Will Tuttle
Dr. Will Tuttle
Jonathan: Hey everyone, Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim podcast. I’m very excited to bring you today’s show. We have a very unique and inspirational guest with us today. Dr. Will Tuttle has a Master’s Degree in Humanities from San Francisco State University and a PhD. in Philosophy of Education from University of California, Berkeley. He has a very diverse background.
He is a professional pianist, composer, and teacher and he has, for the last 15 years many more at this point, presented at progressive churches, vegetarian and human potential conferences, and international communities throughout the country. He is trained in Korea as a Zen Buddhist monk and has worked extensively on Tai-Chi, yoga, meditation, intuition development, and spiritual healing. Today, he is joining us to talk about his very provocative book, The World Peace Diet, Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony. I love it. Dr. Tuttle, welcome to the show.
Dr. Tuttle: Thank you, Jonathan. I’m delighted to be with you this morning.
Jonathan: Well Will, let’s backup for a second before we jumped into the book. You’re not your typical guy here. You have a very diverse background. Can you tell us a little bit about your story and what led you down this road less traveled?
Dr. Tuttle: Sure. Actually, early on when I was about 20, I faced what it felt like was a midlife crisis and instead of just going off into business and so forth right after college, I ended up going on a spiritual pilgrimage and walked from Massachusetts where I was born and raised and ended up in Tennessee at a hippie commune, ended up eventually in Zen Centers and then eventually in California and San Francisco. Early on, I stopped eating meat and a few years later stopped eating any animal foods at all.
I’ve actually been a vegan for about 33 years and along the way as you said, I went to Korea and became a Zen monk for a while and then through all of it, I played the piano and I’m a composer and so it was about I’d say maybe 10 or 15 years ago I really felt an inner calling to help the world understand the deeper significance of our food, of our food choices and how they affect our health, not just our physical health but our psychological and emotional and spiritual health as well and the environmental health.
These are all interconnected and if you want to be healthy and vibrant on every level, which is what I was discovering through my meditation practice and actually through music and through the studies that I was doing at Berkeley. I really had a broad range of studies plus my own experience eating a plant-based diet. I realized that our whole society actually forces us into a way of life that is not healthy for us but we can absolutely make positive changes.
Jonathan: Dr. Tuttle, one thing that I appreciate about your message and of course correct me if I’m misconstruing this in any way, but your lifestyle choice to be a vegan, it centers around these spiritual and social elements and not so much like, you’re not coming from an argument of nutrition or like a hard core sort of like a scientific debate about like this is the most nutrient rich or nutritious diet. You’re tackling it more from a completely different dimension that is what is motivating you, is that correct?
Dr. Tuttle: Yeah, that is a good way to say it Jonathan. You’re right and I’m glad that you’re perceptive about that because it’s true. It’s the perspective I think that I bring with the teaching of the world peace diet and veganism is not the traditional message that you have to eat this and the nutrient sort of approach. It’s much more looking at how the universal, spiritual principles operate that we live essentially in a benevolent universe and that as we act in ways that are kind and loving to others and really live our values as deeply as we can, then we will naturally find ourselves happier and healthier on every level and that’s what I found to be true in my life for sure on every level.
Jonathan: Well, that seems like such a strong and also difficult to argue with position. It makes a lot of sense and why do you think there’s so much, for example I’m not a vegan or vegetarian. I have all the respect in the world for individuals who are but if I was, I would certainly take an approach similar to yours, which is to lead with this I do it for either spiritual reasons or compassion reasons and it’s not a nutrition conversation, it’s a broader conversation. Why do you think their nutrition gets brought in so much like it seems unnecessary to me?
Dr. Tuttle: That’s great. You’re right. It’s really true and it’s so interesting to me because I actually live for the last 17 years traveling full time around the country giving lectures and talking to people and we even go to places, the heart for example, Iowa out in the country, little town speaking about people eating a totally plant based diet and people will come, that good turn outs lectures and no one ever argues even people who you think would be the first to argue. No one ever argues with what I’m saying because you can’t argue with it.
Everyone agrees, it’s true and the basic idea is that we’re all born into a society that forces us since the time we’re little kids to participate in meal time rituals that are not in our best interest. We’re forced to eat the flesh, and secretions of animals were mistreated and so anyone who’s doing this is not really doing it out of their own freewill. We’re just doing it because we’re following orders. We were forced to do it as little kids by our parents and teachers and relatives and the media and the Government and religion. Every institution in our culture is organized around basically propelling us against our will to do this. When we look at what animal agriculture actually does to the environment and to our health and to animals and to our spiritual sensitivity, it really is not in our best interest on any of those levels.
That’s basically, I think people see that and you can’t really argue with especially if you talk it about in more depth but what comes up of course to people as well, where am I going to get my protein or where am I going to get my calcium? People had been taught I think, these officials stories that you cannot get enough protein if you don’t meat or you cannot get enough calcium if you don’t eat dairy products but they’re not true. There are millions of people who are living evidence that this is absolutely not true. You can get really all you need from plant based sources.
Jonathan: I appreciate what you’ve said about, there are these rules or standards that like you mention for example like where you’re going to your protein, where you’re going to get your calcium and there seems to be just myriad sources of those. One example is there’s also this idea that if someone is eating a plant based diet that that in and out itself is honoring the environment and honoring their body, where obviously, we both know that with some of the plant agriculture that is taking place in our country, with the mono-cropping and the just complete pillaging of the soil system.
A snickers bar, the amount of petroleum that goes into producing a snickers bar is astronomical although it is plant based. How do we also pull apart and say “Is it enough to be plant based or is there a more metal level, which is eating with this end-goal in mind and then let’s identify the sources that best do that.
Dr. Tuttle: Right. Yeah, that’s a good point. I think the most important thing really is to do the best we can to live our values, which is I think compassion for animals, for ecosystems, for ourselves, and for the health of cells in our own body and so mono-cropping and genetically engineered foods are devastating. Our ecosystem grow in huge amounts of grain, which most of them are feed to animals.
Of course it’s devastating to the ecosystem and I think if someone moves to a plant based diet for ethical reasons, it’s important to do it as you’re saying with wisdom so that we’re eating whole foods, organically grown as local as possible. Grow your own of course is the best but basically if we do this, if we move in this direction toward eating a more whole foods plant based diet, we are going to be minimizing our environmental footprint obviously and not only that, we will be bringing into our bodies unprocessed foods without the chemicals or if there are organic, which is, we only buy organic and we buy virtually only unprocessed foods ourselves.
With time, I think these are the foods that begin to just taste the best. I think this very often there is a transitional period that people have to go through because we get kind of addicted to certain substances and taste of food and the food industry is not about making people healthy, it’s about making a profit so they are trying all ways to bring the so called foods to market that have a long shelf life and that will be addictive that people want more, so they are very high in fat, sugar, and salt and so forth.
As you move to a more healthy diet, it’s more compassionate to animals and better for the environment. I found that the food, once we go through a transition period, gets just more and more utterly delicious. It get so wonderfully tasty, as we are eating fresh fruits and vegetables and grains and so forth and we learn how to fix them well and we find we have a huge amount of energy.
Weight is not an issue typically at all and our health. Personally, I haven’t been to doctor for over 40 years and generally speaking, people who eat a whole foods, plant based diet, in general, have much lower rates of the kinds of diseases that are rampant in our society today like obesity and osteoporosis and diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, heart disease, other immune diseases. All these things are much lower in people who are eating a vegan diet. Basically, I never did it for my health but for me, it’s a side benefit. It has been great.
Jonathan: Well, what are your thoughts on this? There has been a transition in the vernacular between for example vegan and vegetarian and whole foods, plant based and I think that that’s moving in the right direction because someone could eat a vegan diet as we eluded to earlier that is horrible for their body as well as for the environment. I think Dr. Joel Fuhrman calls it a junkitarian, where they’re eating these processed burger meat like things, which go through more processing and have more ingredients in them than anything you can ever imagine and is really not honoring anything.
Imagine that on one end of the spectrum and imagine on the other end of the spectrum, obviously there’s many examples of this but one that comes to mind easily is when we think of Native American cultures in the U.S. and how they so honored the earth and so honored the environment. At the same time, they would also consume animals but they would do so in a very spiritually sound fashion. Do you think there is any place for any culture that is sustainable and healthy and spiritually sound to eat both a whole food nutrient dense sustainable plant and whole food nutrient dense sustainable animal diet?
Dr. Tuttle: That’s a good question. I can’t really say for any culture. There may be cultures in extreme climates, perhaps that would need to eat, apparently for people who are there need to eat animal based foods but I think for us today in our society here, the people who are listening, the vast majority of people in the world. There really isn’t any reason to eat animals or animal based foods. Dairy based products for sure are toxic on many levels and then they have substances in them like casein that we are really not designed to ever have in our system and cause all kinds of inflammation and problems and I think eggs also are really difficult for us to handle physiologically.
All of these foods do require cruelty. There’s no way around it, unless you’re going to eat road kill or something like that but basically, in order to stab an animal, you’ve got to have someone who’s going to do that, which tends to desensitize the human being who does it and there aren’t any nutrients that are necessary that we need that we can’t get from plant based sources, so there isn’t any reason to confine animals or to hunt animals, to terrorize them, and to kill them for nutrients. Plants create all of the lipids, all of the different essential fatty acids, all the amino acids, proteins.
They bring up the vitamins and minerals and so forth and they create carbohydrates, which are really the fuel that we’re designed to run on. The running carbohydrates in meat at all, so meat doesn’t really provide energy and they provide fat and protein basically, which we can break down but it’s basically harder on the system. It was interesting, I was at a place where there was some Native American village and museum in the mountains of Virginia and I ask the douser if they had some corn growing and they were showing how these people lived.
I said so “What percentage of the food that they ate was this corn that they grew?” The woman said, “Well, it was only about one or two percent” and I said, “Really? I guess what were they eating then?” and she said, “Well, actually…” I said “What was the percentage of the meat?” and she said, “Meat was about one or two percent.” I said, “Really? They only eat one or two percent, meat and fish?” and she said, “Yeah, about one or two percent was meat and fish.” I said, “What the heck were they eating?” she said, “Well, basically they are gatherers. They gathered acorns. They eat a huge amount of acorns and they would grind those and then they ate a lot of roots and nuts and berries and seeds and so forth. They would live in an area for a year or two and they would move to another area for a few years and they would travel around and gather and they were primarily gatherers.”
I think there’s a little bit of a mythology, I mean there where some tribes obviously that they did eat more animal flesh but Native Americans, some tribes, I’ve talked to Native Americans and they were basically completely vegan. I think maybe not vegan in the sense that the word vegan was actually created to account for ethics and it means not to kill animals for ethical reasons. They were doing it basically because that was the quickest and easiest way to live and I think also probably there was an element of respect for nature not to harm animals but I think we can live and be healthy without causing suffering the animals and so that’s what I encourage people to do, to question this idea that we have to kill animals in order to get some nutrients.
Jonathan: Certainly the challenging, ‘must we kill animals to get nutrients’ is a wonderful question and I’m curious about the question of, you mentioned veganism rooted in a place of minimizing the destruction of animals. Is there a school of thought or have you come across a school of thought, which is just attempting to minimize the destruction of any living life because one thing that I’m always I’m curious to talk with vegans and vegetarians about because it’s not easy to be a vegan or a vegetarian. We live in a society as you mentioned that works very hard to do other things.
That said, obviously there are horribly irresponsible and destructive ways to raise plants and so much it seems, gets talked about, this plants versus animals, plants versus animals, as we have these corn, soy, wheat, mono-crop just literally like salting the earth. The way it’s being produced is horrible and it’s kind of like nothing’s being done about that because well, it’s plants let’s just talk about animals but is there a more macro view, which is just let’s focus on that which is destroying the planet and focus less on plants versus animals. What are your thoughts?
Dr. Tuttle: Great question. Okay, I think it is plants versus animals. There are two kinds of agriculture. There is plant agriculture and animal agriculture. From the very beginning, plant agriculture was mainly women’s work and it was, in many ways, work that brings out the best in people who were working with the cycles of nature, who were working with the miracle of life, bringing forth new life. This amazing abundance, we plant one seed we get plants that give literally hundreds of thousands of seeds and so it’s working with the miracle of life and supporting them. Animal agriculture from the very beginning was men’s work that brought out the worst in people, who had to do it, who had to confine animals, steal from them. The animals are always resisting. It wasn’t like plant agriculture, where nature is essentially cooperating and giving.
There was a sense of stealing babies from their mothers and pregnating the mothers against their will and this stealing of their products, stealing of the babies, stabbing and dominating and violating and exploiting other living beings and enslaving them. It led as I pointed out in the world peace diet to a patriarchal culture of violence over women, domination of land, ownership of land, war, slavery, and a very highly hierarchical society where the rich dominate the poor and this is essentially embedded in foods that require us to dominate other living beings.
When you look at the way we do agriculture today, since we live in today, primarily what is a hurting culture. Our culture today is organized around owning animals as property for food and eating a lot of meat, dairy products, and eggs. We now do plant agriculture the way we do animal agriculture. We do plant agriculture as violence, as exploitation, as domination. It’s a war against nature. We do mono-cropping. We do genetic engineering. We douse the fields with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and then we feed 90 percent of all of this grain that you talked about, the wheat, the corn, the soy, cotton seed.
Basically, everything we’re growing is not fed to people, it’s fed to animals who are confined by the hundreds of thousands by the millions in stinking sheds where they never see the light of day. They’re the ones that are eating all these crops, not people. People are not eating it. They’re cutting down the rain forest right now in South America at the rate of an acre per second to grow soy beans, to feed the factory farm pigs, cows, chickens, and fish. We’re in the middle of the largest mass extinction of species.
We’re losing dozens of species every single day to extinction, again driven by overfishing the oceans. We’re feeding more fish to cows and we are the human beings today to fatten them up and feeding these fish also to other animals. We’re feeding animals to animals, so this is an agriculture that is based on domination, exploitation, and massive cruelty, not only to animals but to ecosystems, violence to insects populations, to birds and fish, to wildlife. We have a Wildlife Services Department in the USDA that just does nothing but kill wildlife, kill over a half a million coyotes every year, bobcats, prairie dogs, everything. It’s all done by this form of agriculture and most of us don’t realize that the grains that we’re growing are being fed to animals, not to people. People are starving while we’re feeding most of the grains to animals. This is the injustice in animal agriculture and the vision I have just to kind wrap it up here is that we can do plant agriculture the way, in a completely different way or organic and local gardens can feed everyone on a fraction of the land and going veganic.
There is experiments in doing this and I really don’t use any animal inputs. We use just plant based inputs. We don’t need to have manure and blood meal, bone meal, fish meal, and so forth at all and there are experiments now showing that we can actually get higher yields with this kind of agriculture. Again, we can feed everyone on a fraction of the land, so it is time to ring in the agriculture away from this domination based on animal agriculture to a plant based agriculture that will feed people in a much more loving and harmonious way. I think that’s the future that’s beckoning so that we can live in harmony with each other, with nature and with the earth and be healthier and live with the animals and respect them.
Jonathan: Certainly living with the world in a loving, harmonious way is a noble vision and one that I can certainly appreciate and if we have individuals Dr. Tuttle, let’s just say the idea of giving up all animal products is like they’re going to switch off. I’m sure you’ve seen this maybe just for someone to hear the word vegan or hears the word vegetarian and that makes them start saying no in their brain and because they start saying no, the conversation about peace and harmony cannot continue.
Let’s say you’re an individual who is not willing to just globally says, “I’m going to give up animal products right now,” however, you are an individual that says, “I do want to live a more compassionate, caring, and loving life.” Is there a lifestyle for that individual where you have may be mostly plants and you find, as humanely raised as possible animals, which consist of some percentage of your diet, is there a lifestyle there, any hope?
Dr. Tuttle: Great question. Thanks, Jonathan. Obviously, I think anyone, moving toward a way of living that reduces the amount of suffering we’re causing is always a good idea. I just encourage everyone who’s listening to this to make an effort to understand because not only is it going to make our world more harmonious and happy, it’ll make our self more harmonious and happy as well and just to realize that all of us had been injected by a toxic program in our society, forcing us to eat the flesh and secretions of traumatized animals that’s been forced on to us an little infants. Just look at the baby food in any grocery store and you’ll see little jars of turkey and veal and chicken and beef and so forth.
This is something that has been forced on us and I understand what you’re saying. People may switch off the “I’m not going to go there” and there are reasons for that. I talked about that in the World Peace Diet, why this program is very deeply embedded into us but I think everyone, anyone can go Vegan. I’ve actually had people who are former hunters and really hard core meat eaters who sent me an email and said “I read your book and I’ve gone vegan.”
I think anyone can but I understand what you’re saying some people may say “I don’t want to right now” and it’s kind of too frightening for me because people don’t realize that plant based food is absolutely delicious and we’re already eating a lot of that anyway. Already most people are eating diets that do have a lot of plant based foods in them obviously, so salads and grains and pastas and potatoes and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fruits and vegetables and everything else.
We’re already eating that, it’s just a matter of learning and actually now plant based alternatives, Mark Bittman, could not tell the difference between real chicken and the chicken that’s now being produced, so if someone wants to, they would never know the difference. I think it’s mostly social. People are afraid to go to a restaurant where they can get a meal and they’re with their boss or something like that. It’s mostly social but I think any time we move towards greater compassion for others, we’re going to find our health getting better and we’re going to find our happiness getting better.
As I’ve said, with the proliferation of alternatives, ice cream, cheese, all the animal foods that people are eating, eggs. They’re not literally eggs but eggs substitute that, apparently as I’ve been reading lately can be used for so many different things that we don’t really need to exploit animals. I think it’s just good to move in the direction toward becoming a vegetarian for example or if one is already a vegetarian and toward becoming a vegan. I think this moving anywhere on that line toward buying things that cause less exploitation in general.
I would also say not to buy chocolate that comes from people who are slaves in Africa. We shouldn’t be exploiting human beings either. We are all animals, we should try to reduce the amount of suffering and exploitation that we’re causing. In the United States, we have a high consumption culture that does cause a lot of exploitation to others, so I think the more we move in…I was just in Eastern Europe and they were telling me and I think it’s true, that the whole world still looks to Americans to be the example, so as Americans I think we do make a big impact. I think we, as Americans move toward more compassion and sustainability and health and wellness, it will help the whole world more than we realize.
Jonathan: Well, Dr. Tuttle, certainly appreciate the life long effort to help promote that message because it’s a message of increased humanity, increased sustainability and increased peace is certainly one we can all rally behind even if we may disagree on the means. Thank you so much for living a wonderful and inspirational life in that sense.
Dr. Tuttle: Well, I really appreciate it Jonathan. I think the main thing is just to realize that we’re all in this together and to keep questioning the official stories and to keep our hearts open and remember it’s all about love. Basically, it’s just about as being as loving as we can and that, as we sow so shall we reap, whatever we put out, it comes back.
Jonathan: Folks, the man is Dr. Will Tuttle. The book is The World Peace Diet and you can learn more about Dr. Tuttle at worldpeacediet.org. Dr. Tuttle, thank you so much for sharing your time with us today.
Dr. Tuttle: Great. Thank you so much Jonathan too.
Jonathan: Listeners, I hope you enjoyed today’s conversation as much as I did and please remember this week and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. Chat with you soon.