Have you ever met someone who doesn’t really need to say anything, but just their sheer presence already makes you feel warm and inspired and you want to be just like them? Dr. Will Tuttle is such a person.
I first heard of Dr. Will Tuttle at the end of 2011. The Meat Free Monday in Taiwan got in touch with the animal rights organization I was working for at the time, inviting us to write a foreword for the Traditional Chinese version of his book “The World Peace Diet.” I was the one coordinating the project and translating the text, so I read the entire book. And I was stunned. How can someone illustrate the link between veganism and spirituality so thoroughly? It was exactly something I had been looking for. I learned once again that veganism is not the end, but a necessary step to world peace. From his book, I got the reconfirmation from the ancient teaching that in order to achieve enlightenment and live a life of non-violence, we need to cultivate compassion and love on all aspects of our lives: from what we think, what we say, what we do, to what we eat.
Therefore, when the Clean Life Foundation reached out to me through our mutual friend Ruby, who’s also an interpreter and yoga instructor, I asked if they were still looking for an interpreter for Dr. Will Tuttle’s talks. If not, I’d love to take on the job. After obtaining my Masters degree from one of the best translation and interpretation schools in the world, the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, I didn’t join the UN, the IMF, or other international organizations like my classmates did. I started working at Stanford Hospital, interpreting for patients who didn’t speak English. However, I believe that the key to holistic health lies in a plant-based lifestyle and not on the operating table. I quit the job, joined an animal rights organization, and devoted the next 5 years of my life to promoting animal rights and veganism. Dr. Tuttle’s visit combines my passion – promoting veganism and peace – and my expertise in interpretation, so I wasn’t going to let the opportunity slip.
I’ve been living in Hanoi since March this year working for Knowmads Hanoi, so I came back to Taiwan specifically for this series of World Peace Diet events.
As an interpreter, it’d be ideal if the speaker can provide a script. Not Dr. Tuttle, someone who’s always flexible and talks from the heart. I did all I could to prepare for the assignment, using one after another video of his talks to practice both consecutive and simultaneous interpretation just so I could be the best messenger I can and help convey his message to the world.
(photo: Clean Life Foundation)
Over the past week I’ve interpreted at his press conferences, media interviews, internal workshops, a public lecture with 500 participants, a private meeting with Master Cheng Yen, and acted as a tour guide in Taipei. I was also invited by Meat Free Monday to go on stage and share about my animal activism experience with vegan youths in Taiwan.
(photo: Ian Kuo)
If you asked me what impressed me the most about Dr. and Mrs. Tuttle, I would say it’s the endless love that I see and feel from them.
Veganism is about peace and love, but almost all of us have been wounded. We were forced to participate in hurting sentient beings three times a day since we were young. Can you imagine the damage it has caused to our hearts? Even if we switched to a plant-based diet, if we aren’t aware of the wound or make an effort to heal, the scar will always remain. I believe that’s why there’re so many militant and angry vegans out there – seeing how others hurt animals is a painful reminder that we ourselves used to do the same.
I was once a subjective and judgmental vegan. I’ve seen terrible things while working at the animal rights organization. I’ve seen a worker stepping on the ears of an angora rabbit, shearing the animal while the ash from his cigarette kept dropping onto the rabbit’s barren back. After shearing, the rabbit was thrown back to her tiny, dirty cage. I’ve seen bear cubs hooked by a chain on their necks, being forced to learn how to stand on their hind legs. I’ve seen how lions and tigers, animals who naturally wouldn’t share the same habitat, confined to the same small cage and forced to balance on a ball or jump through a hoop. I’ve watched videos of how animals are killed at slaughterhouses, their throats slit and blood spilling all over the place. I’ve seen videos of foxes being electrocuted and skinned alive. Customers don’t want to see these things, but because of that, we have to see it and share with the world. We have to watch it again and again until we close our hearts and can’t feel the pain anymore. Without a proper emotional outlet, it’s understandable why many vegans tend to accumulate anger and pain.
But Dr. Tuttle didn’t just see the shocking truth. Through meditation and other spiritual practices, he has obtained the wisdom to accept others and the world. When I see him, I see love, gratitude, a pure motivation to heal the world, and a peaceful being.
In his words, we need to listen to his words and music with our hearts, not with our heads. That’s why every time when he’s sharing on stage I couldn’t help tearing up. I was deeply touched by his message.
The experience inspired me to spend even more effort on Vegan Kitty Cat, to share about the benefits of a vegan lifestyle from a positive angle and to help those who are ready to embark on a brand new journey. I see how the youths in Taiwan live their dreams and work hard to create world peace, and how when we all get together, wonderful and powerful things can happen.
I’ve been wandering around all these years, from the US, Germany, the Philippines, China to Vietnam, creating positive change in the world. I didn’t think I could make a positive contribution in Taiwan, my homeland. But this time something has shifted in me, and I heard the call to come back home soon.
This blog post is dedicated to Dr. and Mrs. Tuttle, everyone who has helped bring Dr. Tuttle to Taiwan, all peacemakers in the world, my parents who went to Taichung to attend the talk, and all the animals whom we share this beautiful planet with.