At poultry slaughterhouses, chickens whiz past workers at the rate of 35 per minute per inspector, getting various parts cut off. At one of the early stations their throats are cut, so it wouldn’t seem to make any difference to the chicken how fast the rest of the production line goes, except for this: some of them are still conscious.
Now the USDA is preparing to implement a rule that would increase that speed to 175 per minute per inspector. Inspectors would have less time to examine birds, meaning that “plant employees [would] replace federal government inspectors for certain inspection activities.” In other words, slaughterhouses would, to a significant extent, police themselves.
United Poultry Concerns describes the slaughter process. Chickens enter the slaughter line when a worker shackles them upside down by the feet (or by one foot; when things move fast it’s hard to be too particular) to a moving belt.
Next they are dragged through electrified water. This doesn’t kill or stun them and isn’t meant to. The purpose is to paralyze them so they won’t thrash around for the rest of the process.
After that the birds reach the throat-cutting machine or worker. The fastest way to kill them here is to sever both carotid arteries, which leads to unconsciousness in two minutes. That doesn’t always happen. The carotids are buried deep in chickens’ neck muscles, so cutters sometimes miss them and cut one jugular vein instead, which leaves the birds conscious and suffering for eight minutes. The birds are left hanging for 90 seconds to bleed out.
The next station is the scalding tank. Chickens are dunked into boiling water to remove their feathers. At this point, many of them are still conscious — they are boiled alive.
Some birds twist their heads up and avoid the throat-cutting machine. Slaughterhouse workers call these fully conscious birds “red skins” because they are still full of blood when they hit the boiling water. In one year that the government kept records for, 3,121,617 red skins were dropped into scalding tanks.
After this dismemberment begins.
Speeding up the process, as the USDA proposes to do, will make it harder to cut both carotid arteries, leaving more birds conscious. If the bleed-out time is shortened, even more birds will feel the boiling water.
Whether the new speed is humane is not relevant to the USDA’s decision. There is no federal law that protects chickens during slaughter, leaving the USDA free to make its choice based on money. The agency “estimates that the changes will save taxpayers $90 million over three years and $256 million in production costs annually.”
Some believe that reducing the time inspectors have to look at each bird will endanger the food supply. McClatchy writes:
Federal poultry inspectors protest that they can’t see bruises, blisters, tumors, pus, broken bones and other signs of tainted birds when carcasses fly by them at a rate of a third of a second. They can’t look inside the birds for bile, partially digested feed or fecal matter, or examine entrails for diseases such as avian leukosis – contaminants that inspectors say can be disgusting at best and dangerous at worst.
“The rule continuously talks about how much money per pound the plants are going to save by going into this process,” said Stan Painter, the chairman of the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals, a union that represents about 6,500 federal inspectors. “Why the hell is an agency concerned about the money that the plant’s going to save? I realize that’s a stakeholder, but our focus should be food safety.”
Speeding up the slaughter process appears likely not only to make chickens suffer even more than they do now, but also to increase the possibility that people who eat them will ingest contaminants and become ill.
It will also put workers at greater risk of injury. That is why a “coalition of consumer, labor, public health and civil rights groups is calling on the” U.S.D.A. not to pass the rule. According to the coalition, “59 percent of poultry workers had definite or possible carpal tunnel syndrome when line speeds were 70-91 birds per minute.” Those numbers would only increase as lines got faster.
Humans, like herbivores, have a sliding lower jaw, grinding molars, a lower stomach acid level, and long length intestinal tracts. Carnivores, on the other hand, have a vertical hinge jaw, fangs that overlap the mandible (instead of grinding molars), a high stomach…
We have evolved to eat meat primarily for emergency purposes when plant protein is unavailable, as evidenced by the fact that 10 pennies worth of meat is our daily protein need, whereas we need much much more fruits/vegetables/carbs than that per day. Wolves and carnivorous bears can digest non meat nutrient if they need it, just as deer and rabbits can digest meat if they really need it. Our biology and our heritage shows that we are not obligate carnivores, but opportunistic carnivores. There is certainly a lot of variability in the traits I listed, not all necessarily associated with meat eating, but overall we do correspond more with herbivores. And that is because, like our chimpanzee/ape cousins, we do fare better on a herbivores diet than any other. If you want more detailed information from this perspective, I suggest you watch “Food that Kills.” The doctor speaking began with a non-biased perspective, though I can recommend others if you’re unconvinced.
Also, your writing was fine. I never would have guessed you were drunk. :P
You’r correct in saying that we’re not obligatecarnivores (like cats), but ‘opportunistic carnivores’ is also inaccurate. The term is omnivore. We are omnivorous in adaptations both behavioural and morphological, from our dentition to our ability to digest meat and lack of any way to actually break down a significant portion of the plant matter we do consume - and the fact that we can’t synthesize B12 from plant matter the way other animals can, showing that, yeah, in our evolutionary history, we were obligate omnivores (needing some animal protein). This doesn’t mean we have to eat meat, nowadays, but we were, without a question, adapted to do so. Here’s a (vegetarian) primatologist who agrees with me.
Here is where I just copy a bunch of the information I have read because paraphrasing isn’t working for you.
A fair look at the evidence shows that humans are optimized for eating mostly or exclusively plant foods, according to the best evidence: our bodies. We’re most similar to other plant-eaters, and drastically different from carnivores and true omnivores.1,2,3 Those who insist that humans are omnivores, especially if their argument is based on canine teeth, would do well to look at what the evidence actually shows. We’ll cover that below.
I first wrote this article many years ago, but since then Milton Mills, M.D. published an excellent paper which covers the anatomy of eating, so let’s skip right to my table-ized summary of his research:
Humans are biologically herbivores
Reduced to allow wide mouth gape
Angle not expanded
Angle not expanded
Jaw joint location
On same plane as molar teeth
On same plane as molar teeth
Above the plane of the molars
Above the plane of the molars
Shearing; minimal side-to-side motion
Shearing; minimal side-to-side motion No shear; good side-to-side, front-to-back
No shear; good side-to-side, front-to-back Major jaw muscles
Masseter and ptergoids
Masseter and pterygoids
Mouth opening vs. head size
Short and pointed
Short and pointed
Broad, flattened and spade-shaped
Broad, flattened and spade-shaped
Long, sharp, and curved
Long, sharp and curved
Dull and short or long (for defense), or none
Short and blunted
Sharp, jagged and blade-shaped
Sharp blades and/or flattened
Flattened with cusps vs. complex surface
Flattened with nodular cusps
None; swallows food whole
Swallows food whole and/or simple crushing
Extensive chewing necessary
Extensive chewing necessary
No digestive enzymes
No digestive enzymes
Carbohydrate digesting enzymes
Carbohydrate digesting enzymes
Simple or multiple chambers
Stomach acidity with food in stomach
≤ pH 1
≤ pH 1
Length of small intestine
3-6 times body length
4-6 times body length
10-12+ times body length
10-11 times body length*
Simple, short, and smooth
Simple, short, and smooth
Long, complex; may be sacculated
Can detoxify vitamin A
Can detoxify vitamin A
Cannot detoxify vitamin A
Cannot detoxify vitamin A
Extremely concentrated urine
Extremely concentrated urine
Moderately concentrated urine
Moderately concentrated urine
Flattened nails or blunt hooves
From The Comparative Anatomy of Eating, by Milton R. Mills, M.D. * “Body length” measured from neck to anus, as with the other animals
The details are in Mills’ paper. The rest of this article covers mostly angles not in that paper.
Summary of this article
- The anatomical evidence tells us that we’re optimized for eating mostly or exclusively plant foods. The only way to come to another conclusion is to ignore the bulk of the anatomical evidence, which is what my critics do. (They either use inferior evidence, such as disputed assumptions about the prehistoric diet, or they cherry-pick the anatomical evidence while ignoring the bulk of it.)
Most plant-eaters eat small amounts of non-plant foods, usually insects (either intentionally or inadvertently). Critics of this article zero in on this tiny non-plant consumption as though they’ve made some sort of point. The small non-plant consumption of plant-eating animals doesn’t mean that they’re “omnivores” in the classical sense, and certainly doesn’t justify the idea that humans are adapted to a mixed diet of plant and non-plant foods.
“Omnivore” doesn’t mean 50% plants and 50% animals. Many of my critics consider chimpanzees to be omnivores but 95-99% of their diet is plants, and most of the rest isn’t meat, it’s termites. (see below) If humans are omnivores, then the anatomical evidence suggests that we’re the same kind: the kind that eats almost exclusively plant foods.
The animals most similar to us, the other primates, eat an almost exclusively vegan diet.
Saying we’re omnivores because we’re capableof eating meat is just silly. We’re capable of eating cardboard, too. And by the “capable” argument, then cats are omnivores, since nearly every commercial cat food has plant ingredients. (Check the label.) Nobody would ever make the argument that cats are omnivores based on what they’re capable of eating. But they sure make that argument for humans, enthusiastically.
Our so-called “canine teeth” are “canine” in name only. Other plant-eaters (like gorillas, horses, and hippos) have “canines”, and chimps, who are almost exclusively vegan, have massive canines compared to ours. (See picture below.)
Our early ancestors from at least four million years ago were almost exclusively vegetarian.(source, article #5)
- Among animals, plant-eaters have the longest lifespans, and humans are certainly in that category (and yes, this was true even before modern medicine).
- We sleep about the same amount of time as other herbivores, and less than carnivores and true omnivores.
- The most common cause of choking deaths is eating meat.(source) Real carnivores and omnivores don’t have that problem.
“Humans have canine teeth. End of story.” The truth is our so-called “canine teeth” are canine in name only. Humans’ “canine teeth” are unlike the canine teeth of actual canines, which are really long and really pointed. Our teeth are absolutely not like theirs. In fact, other vegetarian animals (like gorillas, horses, and hippos) possess the same so-called “canine” teeth, which are often used for defensive purposes rather than for eating. Check out the chimpanzee picture at right, and consider that chimps’ diets are up to 99% vegetarian (and what litle non-vegetarian food they eat usually isn’t meat, it’s termites). And remember that we’re more similar to chimps than to any other animal.
John A. McDougall, M.D., has a good take on this:
Our dentition evolved for processing starches, fruits, and vegetables, not tearing and masticating flesh. Our oft-cited “canine” teeth are not at all comparable to the sharp teeth of true carnivores. I lecture to over 10,000 dentists, dental hygienists, and oral specialists every year, and I always ask them to show me the “canine” teeth in a person’s mouth – those that resemble a cat’s or dog’s teeth – I am still waiting to be shown the first example of a sharply pointed canine tooth.
If you have any doubt of the truth of this observation then go look in the mirror right now – you may have learned to call your 4 corner front teeth, “canine teeth” – but in no way do they resemble the sharp, jagged, blades of a true carnivore – your corner teeth are short, blunted, and flat on top (or slightly rounded at most). Nor do they ever function in the manner of true canine teeth. Have you ever observed someone purposely favoring these teeth while tearing off a piece of steak or chewing it? Nor have I. The lower jaw of a meat-eating animal has very little side-to-side motion – it is fixed to open and close, which adds strength and stability to its powerful bite. Like other plant-eating animals our jaw can move forwards and backwards, and side-to-side, as well as open and close, for biting off pieces of plant matter, and then grinding them into smaller pieces with our flat molars.
“We’re capable of eating meat, therefore we’re omnivores. Case closed.”
Okay, fine, then cats are omnivores, too. (“Case closed.”) Commercial cat foods, both wet and dry, contain things like rice, corn, and wheat. In fact, some people feed their cats a pure vegan dietwith no meat at all.
But of course, cats are true carnivores. We don’t call them omnivores just because they’ll eat things contrary to what nature intended. That would be silly. No one makes that argument for cats. But they make it for humans, enthusiastically. However, they can’t have it both ways: Either we don’t assume humans are omnivores just because we can eat meat, or we apply the same standard to other animals and conclude that cats are omnivores, too. Which is it?
“Humans are omnivores.”
“Omnivore” doesn’t mean 50% plants and 50% animals. Many consider chimpanzees to be omnivores but 95-99% of their diet is plants, and most of the rest isn’t meat, it’s termites. If humans are omnivores, then the anatomical evidence suggests that we’re the same kind: the kind that eats almost exclusively plant foods. And if an omnivore is an animal that is capable of eating both plants and animals, and ever does so, then sure, we’re omnivores, but then again, so are cats. (See above.) A true omnivore would have a body optimized for eating both plants and animals. With non-humans we can look at what they eat in the wild to figure out their preferred diets, but humans lost our instincts long ago, so we can look only at our anatomy and digestive systems. And that evidence is compelling.
But haven’t humans always eaten a lot of meat?
In a word, no, which we’ll discuss in a moment, but first there’s something more important: Even if they did, it doesn’t matter. That’s because people act by idea rather than by instinct. Other animals are programmed to know what food is. We are not. For us, it’s learned behavior. Or in some cases, guessed behavior. We can make choices about what we should eat even if that’s contrary to good health, as millions prove every day when they eat at McDonald’s. If our ancestors ate meat, they were simply being human and making choices rather than acting on instinct. Think about it: Do you really believe that cavemen were true experts about nutrition? If so, what other major decisions about your life would you like to put in the hands of a caveman?
The best evidence is to look at our own bodies. If we’d really been eating a lot of meat for a long time, that would be reflected in our anatomy, and it’s not. But let’s return to the assumption that our ancestors did eat a lot of meat. I can’t think of a better example of a case in which people believe something to be true just because they assume it is. We all grew up thinking that our predecessors were meat-eaters, but where did we get that idea? Is it true just because it’s part of our collective consciousness? More importantly, what does the evidence say?
John A. McDougall, M.D., perhaps the most knowledgable expert on the relationship between diet and disease, asserts that our early ancestors from at least four million years ago followed diets almost exclusively of plant foods. (source, article #5) Many other scientists believe that early humans were largely vegetarian. (See articles by Grande & Leckie and Derek Wall.) Then there’s this research:
Robert W. Sussman, Ph.D., professor anthropology in Arts & Sciences, spoke at a press briefing, “Early Humans on the Menu,” during the American Association for the Advancement of the Science’s Annual Meeting….[E]arly man was not an aggressive killer, Sussman argues. He poses a new theory, based on the fossil record and living primate species, that primates have been prey for millions of years, a fact that greatly influenced the evolution of early man.
“Our intelligence, cooperation and many other features we have as modern humans developed from our attempts to out-smart the predator,” says Sussman…. The idea of “Man the Hunter” is the generally accepted paradigm of human evolution, says Sussman, “It developed from a basic Judeo-Christian ideology of man being inherently evil, aggressive and a natural killer. In fact, when you really examine the fossil and living non-human primate evidence, that is just not the case.”
Sussman’s research is based on studying the fossil evidence dating back nearly seven million years. “Most theories on Man the Hunter fail to incorporate this key fossil evidence,” Sussman says. “We wanted evidence, not just theory. We thoroughly examined literature available on the skulls, bones, footprints and on environmental evidence, both of our hominid ancestors and the predators that coexisted with them.” …
But what Sussman and Hart discovered is that Australopithecus afarensis was not dentally pre-adapted to eat meat. “It didn’t have the sharp shearing blades necessary to retain and cut such foods,” Sussman says. “These early humans simply couldn’t eat meat. If they couldn’t eat meat, why would they hunt?”
It was not possible for early humans to consume a large amount of meat until fire was controlled and cooking was possible. Sussman points out that the first tools didn’t appear until two million years ago. And there wasn’t good evidence of fire until after 800,000 years ago.
While some prehistoric peoples hunted animals, that is still a relatively recent development in the long period of human existence. Certainly not long enough for our bodies to have adapted to it from evolution. Here’s some evidence: The Maasai in Kenya, who still eat a diet high in wild hunted meats, have the worst life expectancy in the world. (Fuhrman)
In any event, the idea that our ancestors might have decided to mimic other animals and eat more meat isn’t a particularly compelling argument that it’s natural for us to do so. Given that humans act outside of instinct, looking at historical behavior isn’t as convincing as looking at anatomy and health effects—as we’ll do in a moment.
Considering the other primates
Our closest animal relatives are, of course, the other primates. They provide clues about our ideal diet since our anatomy is so similar. Very few of them eat any significant amount of animals, and those who do typically mostly stick to things like insects, not cows, pigs, and chickens. Jane Goodall, famous for her extensive study of apes while living with them, found that it was very rare for the primates she saw to eat other animals. Critics lunge all over the fact that Goodall discovered that primates occasionally eat meat. But the key word here is occasionally. If we ate meat is infrequently as the other primates did, our health would certainly be a lot better. Goodall herself apparently wasn’t impressed by primates’ occasional eating of meat: Jane Goodall herself is a vegetarian.
Chimpanzee: Eats 95-99% plants, and most of the rest is termites (not meat). (Source: Creative Commons)
How slight is the other primates’ animal consumption? This article on primate eating habits from Harvard has a bar graph of all the things that chimps and monkeys eat (Fig. 3), and meat isn’t even in the chart. What they do eat is fruit, seeds, leaves, flowers, and pith. There is a category called “Miscellaneous”, which for most species amounts to less than 5% of their diet, and for chimps and redtail monkeys less than 1%. The Honolulu Zoo gives a slighty higher figure, saying that non-plant consumption is 5% of a chimp’s diet, but this includes their main non-plant food, termites. (Termites are a good source of vitamin B12, by the way). Craig B. Stanford, Ph.D says, “Chimpanzees are largely fruit eaters, and meat composes only about 3% of the time they spent eating overall, less than in nearly all human societies.” (source) Any way you slice it, their diet is at least 95-99% plants.
Which brings up another point: The people who hysterically scream at me that chimps are omnivores, besides ignoring that chimps’ meat consumption is so small as to be virtually non-existent, never acknowledge that the non-plant foods chimps eat are not the same things humans eat. Chimps do not eat cattle and chickens. And humans don’t eat termites. The idea that the meat-laden American diet can be justified because chimps may eat a whopping 5% of non-plant foods, none of it cattle or chickens, and much of it termites, is rather silly.
Let’s use the Harvard article’s figure for chimps and round it up to a generous 1%. If that were beef—which it is not — how much beef would that be? For an adult human, a mere 8 grams a day (about 1/3 of an ounce, or just 0.02 pounds). That’s about 1/9th of a medium carrot. Get a carrot, cut it into nine pieces, and each piece then represents the amount of meat you could eat every day to have your diet match that of a chimp. Yes, there you have chimps’ overwhelming “omnivorism”.
Here’s how another writer put it:
“Meat makes up only 1.4% of [chimps’] diet which in any statistical study or analysis would be considered as quantitatively unimportant. In longitudinal studies it has been found that 90% of all kills were by males and as the females rarely hunt they receive a share in return by begging only after she allows him to mate with her…. On rare occasions chimps do eat and kill a baby chimp. So if you follow this argument to its conclusion, humans should kill and eat their babies, meat should only make up 1.4% of the human diet, [and] females should only receive meat by begging for it and allowing the giver to mate with her!” (source)
Consider also that even though primates eat meat sparingly, there again it’s likely because they’re intelligent and like humans are able to make choices to act outside of instinct. As other writers put it, “While chimpanzees are known to kill, this behaviour is not necessarily dietary but ritualistic.” In 2006 the journal Nature published research about how chimpanzees have culture—behaviors copied from peers rather than being genetic. (See “Case Closed: Apes Got Culture”.)
Eugene Khutoryansky who does believe that eating meat is natural, still cautions that the implications of chimps’ killing should give us pause:
Eating meat is indeed natural in the sense that other animals do it as well. In fact, it is even done on occasion by our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees. However, there are many other things which are also natural. For example, chimpanzee males sometimes rape the females in their tribe. Chimpanzees sometimes engage in organized warfare against other tribes with which they compete for territory. A chimpanzee male, in a moment of rage, sometimes picks up a nearby infant, and crushes his skull against a rock. And chimpanzees do on occasion eat meat, and they do on occasion engage in cannibalism, in spite of the fact that there is a plentiful supply of food from other sources.
So eating meat is indeed absolutely natural. However, the fact that it is natural does not imply that it is ethically permissible. If we believed that eating meat was ethically permissible simply because other animals did it as well, then this would imply that there is nothing wrong with rape, cannibalism, or infanticide, all of which routinely occurs throughout the animal kingdom.(source)
What it means to be an omnivore
There is no question that humans are capable of digesting meat. But just because we can digest animals does not mean we’re supposed to, or that it will be good for us. We can digest cardboard. But that doesn’t mean we should. As I mentioned earlier, commercial cat foods typically contain rice, corn, and wheat. But of course, cats are true carnivores. We don’t call them omnivores just because they’ll eat things contrary to what nature intended. That would be silly. No one makes that argument for cats. But they make it for humans, enthusiastically.
McDougall explains how the ability to digest animal foods didn’t hurt our survival as a race, although it takes a toll on our lifespan:
“Undoubtedly, all of these [meat-containing] diets were adequate to support growth and life to an age of successful reproduction. To bear and raise offspring you only need to live for 20 to 30 years, and fortuitously, the average life expectancy for these people was just that. The few populations of hunter-gatherers surviving into the 21st Century are confined to the most remote regions of our planet—like the Arctic and the jungles of South America and Africa—some of the most challenging places to manage to survive. Their life expectancy is also limited to 25 to 30 years and infant mortality is 40% to 50%. Hunter-gatherer societies fortunately did survive, but considering their arduous struggle and short lifespan, I would not rank them among successful societies.”
The problem with the term “omnivore” is that it’s used in different ways. Many folks assert that if a primate ever eats any meat at all, no matter how small or insignificant, then bam! — they’re an omnivore. But cats eat copious amounts of rice, corn, and wheat in commercial cat food, and have far more plants in their diet than meat in primates’ diets. So why do these people insist that the piddling, insignificant amount of animal foods consumed by primates makes them omnivores, while cats are carnivores no matter how much plant food they eat?
And once they (think) they’ve shown that primates are omnivores, they then use this “fact” to justify the huge amount of meat that people eat today. This of course is ridiculous.
A more reasonable definition would be that a true omnivore would routinely eat large quantities of both plants and animals. A creature consuming less than 5% of its calories from animals just doesn’t seem very omnivorous to me. (This includes other primates, our ancestors, and traditional Okinawans.) But for the record, if you insist that such creatures are omnivores, then I’ll agree with you — as long as you agree that humans should also eat less than 5% of our calories from animals, just like the other creatures you’re basing our “omnivorism” on. And that cats are omnivores, too.
Humans lack a desire to eat whole animals
True carnivores (and omnivores) salivate about the idea of eating whole prey animals when they see them. Humans do not. We’re interested in eating the body parts only because they’ve been removed from the original animal and processed, and because we grew up eating them, making it seem perfectly normal. It’s amazing how much of a disconnect we’ve been able to learn about the difference between animals and food. As GoVeg puts it:
While carnivores take pleasure in killing animals and eating their raw flesh, any human who killed an animal with his or her bare hands and dug into the raw corpse would be considered deranged.Carnivorous animals are aroused by the scent of blood and the thrill of the chase. Most humans, on the other hand, are revolted by the sight of raw flesh and cannot tolerate hearing the screams of animals being ripped apart and killed. The bloody reality of eating animals is innately repulsive to us, more proof that we were not designed to eat meat.
Ask yourself: When you see dead animals on the side of the road, are you tempted to stop for a snack? Does the sight of a dead bird make you salivate? Do you daydream about killing cows with your bare hands and eating them raw? If you answered “no” to all of these questions, congratulations—you’re a normal human herbivore—like it or not. Humans were simply not designed to eat meat. Humans lack both the physical characteristics of carnivores and the instinct that drives them to kill animals and devour their raw carcasses.
And here’s one of my favorite passages by John A. McDougall, M.D.:
Cats are obligate carnivores (they must live on a diet primarily of meat) and their taste buds reflect this by having abandoned the tongue sensors that respond to sweet-tasting carbohydrates. Dogs are omnivores (they have retained both kinds of taste buds) those enjoying carbohydrates and amino acids. Humans tongues respond pleasurably to sweet (carbohydrates), but have lost the taste for amino acids, placing us undeniably in the category of herbivores (plant eaters).
Many of your friends and family are confused, thinking people are omnivores, needing both meat and plants in their diet. We only appear to be omnivorous because we have the ability to “doctor up” meat with salt and sauces (barbecue, sweet and sour, marinara, etc.) sufficiently enough to make it palatable. Prove this for yourself. The next person you meet head-on who claims meat is “tasty,” stop him in his tracks and insist that he eat a large plate of plain, unseasoned, boiled beef or boiled chicken in front of you ; note their displeasure. Then offer that same meal to the dog or cat and note how eagerly this critter devours the meat. You would be hard-pressed to find a person who did not enjoy a bowl of perfect, ripe bananas, but try to get your cat to eat this sweet food. I have a Rottweiler dog named Bodega who is a true omnivore and enjoys bananas as much as meat. A careful observer notices that an animal’s taste buds are no mistake of nature—they clearly define the proper diet that the animal should eat.
Comparing humans to other animals
Human physiology is strikingly similar to that of other plant-eaters, and quite unlike that of carnivores. It is telling that in none of the missives that readers have sent in to argue with me do they ever deny the data in the following table. They simply think that by making some other point (e.g., that humans possess canine teeth) that somehow obliterates the more convincing data in the table. This is the same table presented at the beginning, but it’s important enough that it bears repeating.
We sleep like herbivores
Carnivores sleep the most, herbivores the least, and omnivores in the middle. Guess which group our own sleep correlates to. Here are some charts from an article in Nature (PDF). They have arbitrarily stuck us (and other primates) in the omnivore group, because that’s what everyone assumes we are, but notice that we’re at the extreme end of that chart, with nearly every other single omnivore sleeping more than we do. We fit nicely in the herbivore chart, and I added a prominent dot for us in that one so you can see how we fit in at eight hours a night. If we use a figure of 6-7 hours a night (suggested as natural by longevity research), our placement in the chart becomes even more compelling.
There is no more authoritative source on anthropological issues than paleontologist Dr. Richard Leakey, who explains what anyone who has taken an introductory physiology course might have discerned intuitively—that humans are herbivores. Leakey notes that “[y]ou can’t tear flesh by hand, you can’t tear hide by hand…. We wouldn’t have been able to deal with food source that required those large canines” (although we have teeth that are called “canines,” they bear little resemblance to the canines of carnivores).
That depends on what you understand by tolerance. Even cows can tolerate meat if force fed. Most living beings can. Meat cooked is really delicious. But it is also a fact —- which science is corroborating day by day —- that meat eating is not without its hazards —- even farm meat.
Just because humans can eat meat doesn’t mean they should. Carnivores have no choice — they have to be blood-thirsty, evil bastards to survive. Omnivores on the other hand can get away with acting like herbivores because our bodies make due with whatever we toss in ‘em.
There’s a flaw in this logic, though. If the omnivorous nature of humans allows us to be pure vegetarians without a hitch, then humans could exploit that flexibility in the other direction and just as easily be pure carnivores. Yet almost no vegans believe that a human can be carnivorous healthfully.
Coming to the rescue are vegans who argue that humans are in fact herbivores. According to this assertion, vegans aren’t taking advantage of the plasticity of human dietary needs; rather, they’re observing the true and natural human diet. This vegan subset feels it’s a better bet to frame veganism as a physiological requirement. If you allow meat eaters the choice of whether or not to keep eating meat, most of them will choose incorrectly. It’s more effective to argue that not only should we not eat animal products, we cannot.
Other than health or religious reasons, I see no point in being Vegan…
Me either. I personally don’t care about health, I would never stop eating chicken. And as a Catholic who practices some old-school practices, I don’t eat meat on Wednesdays or Fridays and it sucks. I wouldn’t want to do that everyday.
I know right. not to mention not being able to eat cheese and milk and stuff. that lifestyle is so overrated.
mmhmm. unless you are just going to eat produce, tofu, and like nuts I guess, veganism seems IMPOSSIBLE! So much has animal products in it. You can be healthy and not be harming animals and still eat animal products. Cows still produce milk, chickens still lay eggs. A lot of dairy is cruelty free as well as hormone and gross feed free. And yea, meat means killing animals, but you can get free range grass fed meat. The cow will die anyways. Animals weren’t just put on earth to look at. There is that thing called a food chain and the circle of life. Our teeth do have canines and our intestines are built for digestion of plants and meat. That’s how the world works.
Wow. Okay. You are just judgmental people then.
No one knows my “do-I-eat-meat” status unless they offer me chicken at a dinner. I don’t broadcast it primarily because of people like you who actually judge me for it.
Dairy cows and egg-laying hens are not treated humanely. You people claim to be pro-life, until it comes to the animals you find so tasty. What if I said, “that baby is going to die someday anyway. Children weren’t put here for us to look at.”
What about the pets you keep so willingly in your home? Don’t you see the difference between how you treat them and how you treat farm animals? Pigs are smarter than dogs and just as affectionate. You judge Obama for eating dog, but I bet you’ve eaten a good number of pigs in your life.
We’re healthier on a vegan diet. How do you explain that in your “circle of life” terms? Cats are healthier eating meat, WE, on the other hand, are not. On top of that, we have a strong emotional/social/moral compass. Does it really tell you to slaughter animals or take away their health and freedom for a short lifetime? Who made you God? Why do you get to decide that these animals don’t deserve life when you can easily survive without them? I’m not judging people who eat meat, but I judge people who get angry at vegetarians, or use “bacon tastes good” as their only reasoning.
My advice to you is to go on a tour of a dairy farm. ANY dairy farm. Ask them how much freedom their cows have, or how long they get to live. Ask them what percentage of them have udder infections. (The rate is currently one-third). Ask them how many months a cow wails when their babies are taken away immediately after birth.
My other advice, GET a cow, chicken, pig, or turkey. Keep it with you for three months. Bond with it. Pet it. Feed it, and sense it’s appreciation. You just might understand why we (vegetarians-vegans) are the way we are.
Also, it’s not that hard to live on such a diet. There’s a whole other world of food out there. Give it a try. Go to a vegetarian restaurant. God bless.