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Back You are here: Home Social Justice Animals Hurting animals makes us stupid

Hurting animals makes us stupid

WorldpeacedietBy denying the intelligence in animals, ignoring their extensive abilities to feel and to live as subjects in their own ways in the natural world, we have made our culture and ourselves less intelligent, writes Will Tuttle.

11 June 2011

Destroying intelligence and purpose

When we forcefully remove a chicken, fish, pig, cow, or any animal from her natural life in order to confine and manipulate her for food, we systematically thwart and frustrate her innate intelligence.

The universal intelligence within her can no longer operate freely and contribute to and enrich the many levels of larger wholes that she serves. This is a massive and tragic assault against the core of her being and destroys her purpose.

When we confine animals for food, destroying their family and community connections, obliterating their connection with the earth and with their habitats, and thwarting their intelligent drives, we commit extreme violence against not only these creatures, but against the whole interconnected system of intelligence that supports them and that they serve. In committing such violence, we damage our own intelligence as well.

We could not even carry out such plans and operations without having already forfeited much of our true intelligence and sense of purpose. How could it ever be our purpose to rob another living being of his or her purpose?

As inheritors of a herding tradition, we naturally try to rationalize this, saying that the animals we raise for food never would have existed without our herding and factory farm operations, and that they therefore do not exist for their purposes, but for our purposes. As the saying goes, if God didn’t want us to eat animals, He wouldn’t have made them out of meat. Of course, the same could be said about humans to justify cannibalism.

Or one might say that if God didn’t want people to rape each other, He wouldn’t have made them with suitable body openings.

Because of our own wounding, we cannot see the blindness and cruelty that always accompany our thinking that others exist for our purposes.

Slave owners in the South couldn’t see it, either. And yet, if we humans were the ones born into miserable confinement and routinely castrated, branded, raped, shocked, mutilated, and driven insane because we were viewed merely as tasty meat by a stronger and more “intelligent” species, we would certainly hope that this “superior” species would recognize that we have a greater purpose than being mere commodities to be imprisoned, killed, wrapped, sold, and eaten.

We likewise must regain the intelligence we have lost through desensitizing ourselves to the undeniable truth that from the perspective of the millions of terrified animals whom we see only as food commodities, we are vicious terrorists.

To the degree that any whole part loses its intelligence, it loses its ability to make the connections that provide it with meaningful guidance in its creative serving of the larger wholes—its true purpose. As our intelligence increases, our capacity for joy and compassion increases.

We become more aware of our connection with the human family, the whole web of life, and the infinite source of all life, and yearn to serve these larger wholes. As our intelligence decreases, we disconnect from our serving of the larger wholes, becoming less sensitive to feedback from them, more self-centered and self-preoccupied.

This insensitivity becomes stupidity, inevitably bringing violence, disease, unhappiness, suffering, and death.

This truth is not arcane or difficult to understand. We see it in our own bodies, as cells and systems cooperate together with astonishing intelligence to allow us, as the larger whole, to simultaneously: eat and digest food, read a book, monitor our environment for sounds, smells, and sensations, breathe, pump blood, heal a sunburn, destroy stray cancer cells, regulate the levels of hundreds of hormones and enzymes, and perhaps even nurture a growing fetus!

Common activities like reading a book, playing the piano, engaging in a classroom discussion, or playing tennis would be inconceivable without the concentrated serving intelligence of millions of smaller whole parts, working together, making countless vital connections, and constantly monitoring feedback levels in an almost unimaginably intricate way.

If cooperation and intelligence in the body break down enough, illness and death quickly and inevitably result.

Cells that no longer serve the whole or respond appropriately to feedback have become, in essence, self-preoccupied, and give rise to cancerous tumors that are dangerous and counterproductive. Our body’s intelligence knows that these cells would eventually destroy the larger whole upon which they live and depend, and works constantly to eliminate them and to rectify conditions that lead to their proliferation.

Our body’s intelligence makes connections and serves us, the larger whole. In the same way, human intelligence is the ability to make meaningful connections, and if we are not serving the larger wholes, the larger wholes will let us know. Individuals who damage society are removed from it and, we hope, rehabilitated; what happens when societies irresponsibly damage the earth?

If our intelligence is impaired, we lose sight of our purpose and become increasingly numb to the healthy feedback from the larger wholes that is vital to us as intelligent systems and subsystems.

If our culture’s intelligence is impaired enough, we become the rogue cancer cells that we fear so much within ourselves.

Intelligence is species-specific

Intelligence in living systems is thus determined by the quality and quantity of feedback these systems are capable of receiving, and this ability to receive feedback is closely related to the ability to sense meaningful connections.

Because every animal species is unique, it is clear that each species has its own particular type of intelligence that is distinctly suited to its telos, or purpose, and to the types of feedback it receives and the connections it makes.

To say that one type of intelligence is higher than another ignores this by imposing an arbitrary standard, and is usually part of an assumption that enshrines the human mode of intelligence at the top of an imagined hierarchy.

Yet we know that there are literally countless varieties of animal consciousness, and that they have many types of intelligence that humans seem not to have. People with companion animals, such as dogs and cats, are often amazed by the intuitive abilities of these animals.

For example, as studies show, these animals can often know the precise moment their human companion, many miles away, decides to return home. There are countless other examples of nonhuman animals having intelligence that we can only marvel at, in being able to home and navigate infallibly, to migrate thousands of miles, and to communicate in ways that are utterly unexplained by our materialistic science.

It is sadly ironic that while we look longingly to space in search of other intelligent life forms, we are surrounded by thousands of species of intelligent life sharing our earth with us whose awareness, abilities, and subjective experiences we have barely begun to understand and appreciate.

The diversity of intelligence in nature is astonishing because species, subspecies, and individuals all have unique qualities of intelligence.

However, scientists, like most people in our culture, have typically been loath to recognize or respect the diversities of intelligence in nature because they participate both consciously and unconsciously in a society that requires an almost complete domination of animals.

Parallels can be drawn to the pre-Civil War South, when slavery was legal. Black people, being slaves and the objects of domination and exploitation, were “known” by the dominating culture to have inferior intelligence.

The great irony is that by ignoring, trivializing, and repressing the intelligence in other animals, we have actively reduced our own intelligence.

This is the crux of our cultural sickness today and the reason our path is so perilous. By denying the intelligence in animals, ignoring their extensive abilities to feel and to live as subjects in their own ways in the natural world, we have made our culture and ourselves less intelligent.

Despite our technological prowess, our individual and cultural intelligence is so severely hampered that we create massive systems of violence and abuse that damage the earth and cause enormous suffering to both humans and animals, and simply ignore the damage and suffering we impose.

When any living system ignores feedback and refuses to make the connections for which its unique type of intelligence is suited, that living system is less alive, less aware, less free, less able to respond or adapt, and is, from its own survival perspective, in a dangerous situation.

The larger wholes, which the system is harming through its loss of intelligence and sensitivity, will naturally, as part of their intelligence, restrict and remove it.

It is as if our nerves have been deadened and we are cutting off pieces of our own limbs, feeling no pain, unaware of the damage being done, and are thus unmotivated and unable to stop the self-destruction.

For example, Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson discuss in their book Raising Cain the rapidly climbing suicide rates among adolescent boys, with fourteen percent of fifteen-year-olds contemplating suicide on any given day.

Yet does anybody know, or grieve, or even care about this tragedy?

Ninety thousand acres of rainforest are destroyed every day, causing nearly one hundred plant and animal species to go extinct daily, yet we have mastered the fine art of disconnecting and deftly ignore this and other ongoing human-caused tragedies.

How can we remorselessly devastate oceans by overfishing, destroy wildlife habitats with toxic agricultural runoff, and decimate vast, intricate rainforests through cattle grazing, causing the extinction of many thousands of species every year?

How can we be so reckless in our profit-driven quests, genetically engineering living creatures and increasingly despoiling our living planet with military and toxic waste?

It is the socially driven act of eating animals that is primarily responsible for this loss of cultural and personal intelligence. Confining, mutilating, and killing animals for food is so fundamentally cruel and ugly that we must deaden large aspects of our private and public intelligence to do it, especially on the grand scale that animals are slaughtered and abused today.

Beyond cognitive intelligence, there is ethical intelligence, which is the urge to act to relieve the suffering of others. Harming animals so we can eat their flesh, milk, and eggs is so inherently disturbing and repulsive to us as spiritual beings that, in order to get us to do it, the herding culture must systematically numb us from birth, reducing our natural compassion.

This suppression of the healthy compassion that is basic to our true nature is perhaps even more serious than the withering of cognitive intelligence. There is substantial evidence that children in our culture, especially boys, are brought up to be tough and to disconnect from their natural feelings of empathy and protectiveness—a process that is essential in a herding culture in which boys will be routinely required as men to dominate and kill animals for food.

Hard, tough men, disconnected from their inner wellsprings of intelligence and compassion, are a frightening and devastating force on this earth, and in a herding culture like ours, they are often the role models that boys naturally emulate.

The disconnectedness responsible for our loss of intelligence and compassion afflicts highly paid scientists, doctors, politicians, and clergy just as deeply as it afflicts working-class farmers and laborers. In all cases, it narrows vision, causes a preoccupation with personal and national self-interest, and creates an enormous reservoir of guilt and violence that feeds the fires of war, disease, oppression, and indifference to the suffering of others.

What goes around comes around. If we sow seeds of domination and exclusion, we lose intelligence and compassion, and life becomes a burdensome and confused struggle.

worldpeacedietThis is an extract from The World Peace Diet by Will Tuttle. Reproduced here under a Creative Commons licence.

Dr Will Tuttle is an award-winning speaker, educator, author, and musician. His music, writings, and  presentations focus on creativity, intuition, and compassion. A former Zen monk with a Ph.D. in education from U.C., Berkeley, he has worked extensively in intuition development, spiritual healing, meditation, music, creativity, vegan living, and cultural evolution.


0 #3 Heather 2011-07-21 10:44
I could not agree more! I stopped eating meat months ago because I had this epiphany about how insanely cruel it is. It's morally wrong that we breed animals to kill them. I see the current trend in the restaurant business - butchery and burgers - to be more sickness in our culture. Yes, most of these types of restaurants are getting their "products" from "small" farms but it's still violent killing to provide that substance on the bun. I asked a friend last week about what the Dalai Lama would do about a bird my dog partially killed while we were hiking. He replied that the Tibetans eat meat but they make their lower classes do the killing. Nuts! Why eat it at all? I've been like Chicken Little for the past several months - we don't need to consume meat at EVERY meal!!!! It's not only bad for the planet but it makes us unhealthy too. Eat meat once a month or very occasionally. The American diet is as backwards as the rest of our culture. Wake up people! Stop eating animals...they have souls. It's like eating your dog. (thanks for letting me rant)
0 #2 Ed 2011-07-18 07:37
All true - thanks Will for your insightful work. Some powerful concepts here - I hope the human race can work it out - we have a lot of potential but so far up our own bottoms we can't seem to see anyone else's point of view of how horrible we are being too... Time's a wasting!
0 #1 supriya 2011-06-13 02:55
strongy agree with this article. humans are causing every day murders by eating animals.. When god made us Omnivorous creature and we have ability to eat veggies why opt for cruel means..And my heartly wishes for dr . Will Tuttle for writing such a great book.. world peaceful diet..

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