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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Why Humans Are Primarily Plant-Eaters By Design~ by Michael Bluejay

Credit To:

A fair look at the evidence shows that humans are optimized for eating exclusively plant foods, and not meat - Consider

* Human anatomy: We're most similar to other herbivores, and drastically different from carnivores

* Longevity & health: The more meat we eat, the sicker we get - Meat is poison to us - It's the primary reason we get heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and every other major degenerative disease - If eating meat were natural, it wouldn't destroy our health

* Physical performance: People have much better endurance when they don't eat meat -- whether they're professional athletes or not

Clearly we're capable of eating meat- But that doesn't mean it's natural

You can dress a monkey up in a cute little suit and teach it to perform circus tricks, but just because it can doesn't mean that it's natural -- nor that it should - When I say that meat-eating is unnatural, I mean simply that our bodies aren't optimized to have it be a normal part of our diets -- and we suffer the consequences when we make it so

Vegan bodybuilder, Kenneth Williams - Shattering the myth that vegans are skinny and malnourished

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The meat-eating reader already has half a dozen objections to this before (s)he's even read the rest of the article, and I will address those objections specifically, but first let me address them generally: It is human nature to want to feel that what we're doing is right, proper, and logical - When we're confronted with something that suggests that our current practices are not the best ones, it's uncomfortable - We can either consider that our choices may not have been the best ones, which is extremely disturbing, or we can reject that premise without truly considering it, so that we don't have to feel bad - And we do this by searching our minds for any arguments we can for why the challenge must be wrong, to justify our current behavior

Think about that for a moment: Our feeling that our current actions are correct isn't based on our arguments - Rather, our actions come first and then we come up with the arguments to try to support those actions - If we were truly logical, we'd consider the evidence first and then decide the best course of action - But often we have it in reverse, because it's too difficult to accept that we might have been wrong

This is particularly true when it comes to vegetarianism - It is quite easy to identify because the anti-vegetarian arguments are usually so weak and desperate, compared to other kinds of discourse - A person who would never normally suggest something so fantastic as the idea that plants can think and feel pain, will suddenly all but lunge for such an argument when they feel their meat-eating ways are being questioned - It's human nature

At an earlier point in my life, I was in the same position as you probably are - My habits were challenged by a book I ran across in the library called Going Vegetarian - I didn't want to consider it fairly, because I wanted to keep eating meat

I'd grown up eating it, and I liked it - And there was another reason: I'd grown up in a small farming community raising and killing chickens - Accepting the book's premise really meant that I'd have to admit that I might not have made the best choices - So I came up with various weak defenses to justify my behavior - But deep down I knew I was kidding myself, and practicing a form of intellectual cowardice - When I considered the arguments honestly, I stopped eating animals - That was over 20 years ago and it was absolutely the best decision I ever made

So I challenge you: stop trying to figure out ways that I "must" be wrong even before you've bothered to read the rest of this article - Instead, read it, and actually consider it rather than reflexively trying to come out with ways to dismiss it out of hand - You can certainly still disagree after you've considered all the evidence -- but not before

Most meat-eating readers will find it necessary to try to defeat me, at least in their minds, so let's consider what constitutes doing so: providing more and better evidence for your position - You do not win the argument by making a single point, as most of the readers who email me seem to think - The evidence favoring a plant diet for humans is clear, convincing, and overwhelming - There is definitely some evidence for the other side, to be sure, but it's simply not nearly as strong - What I'm saying is, if there are 30 strong points for, and you come up with one or two against, which is the better position? I mention this because the people who email me about this article seem to believe that whoever makes the fewest points has presented the most convincing case - They somehow seem to believe that all the evidence I present somehow disappears into thin air when they present their lone argument, such as that humans have canine teeth - Please don't fall into that trap

Many believe that lunging at at the minority of evidence in the red box makes their position compelling - But it doesn't - The only way to make that position compelling is to make the box bigger - A whole lot bigger

But haven't humans always eaten meat?

The angry people who email me always insist, "But humans have always eaten 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 ancestors 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 knowledgeable 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 - Many other scientists believe that early humans were largely vegetarian - (See articles by Grande & Leckie and Derek Wall) - This is important because while 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)

There's another important fact never acknowledged by meat proponents: Humans 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?

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 - That does not mean we should


If the evidence shows that our anatomy favors the digestion of plant foods, and we're healthier when we eat less animal foods, what do we make of the fact that we're capable of eating animals? It's simple: We have the ability to eat a wide variety of foods as a survival mechanism - The fact that we can eat just about anything, including meat, is very handy, from a biological point of view - But the fact that we're able to doesn't mean that we're designed to - The evidence for this is that our biology is similar to that of other herbivores, and the more animal foods we incorporate into our diets, the more our health suffers - In fact, it is rather specious to claim that humans are natural meat-eaters considering how poorly we fare when we do so

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"

Finally, our physiology is much more similar to that of other plant-eaters than it is of true omnivores, as we'll see shortly

Considering the other primates


Our closest animal relatives are 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 be a lot better - Goodall herself apparently wasn't impressed by primates' occasional eating of meat: Jane Goodall is a vegetarian

Why humans are primarily plant-eaters by design

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 slightly higher figure, saying that non-plant consumption is 5% of a chimp's diet, but this includes their main non-plant food, termites -you slice it, their diet is at least 95% 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? About 1/3 of an ounce, or 1/50 of a pound - That's about 1/7th of a medium carrot - Yes, there you have chimps' overwhelming "omnivorism"

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" - Eugene Khutoryansky who does believe that eating meat is natural, still cautions that the implications of that 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

Humans lack a desire to eat whole animals

True carnivores (and omnivores) get excited about 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 m eat - Humans lack both the physical characteristics of carnivores and the instinct that drives them to kill animals and devour their raw carcasses

Comparing humans to other animals

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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 horribly misspelled 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



Carnivorous animals, including the lion, dog, wolf, cat, etc, have many unique characteristics which set them apart from all other members of the animal kingdom - They all possess a very simple and short digestive system -- only three times the length of their bodies - This is because flesh decays very rapidly, and the products of this decay quickly poison the bloodstream if they remain too long in the body - So a short digestive tract was evolved for rapid expulsion of putrefactive bacteria from decomposing flesh, as well as stomachs with ten times as much hydrochloric acid as non-carnivorous animals (to digest fibrous tissue and bones) - Meat-eating animals that hunt in the cool of the night and sleep during the day when it is hot do not need sweat glands to cool their bodies; they therefore do not perspire through their skin, but rather they sweat through their tongues - On the other hand, vegetarian animals, such as the cow, horse, zebra, deer, etc, spend much of their time in the sun gathering their food, and they freely perspire through their skin to cool their bodies - But the most significant difference between the natural meat-eaters and other animals is their teeth - Along with sharp claws, all meat-eaters, since they have to kill mainly with their teeth, possess powerful jaws and pointed, elongated, "canine" teeth to pierce tough hide and to spear and tear flesh - They do NOT have molars (flat, back teeth) which vegetarian animals need for grinding their food - Unlike grains, flesh does not need to be chewed in the mouth to predigest it; it is digested mostly in the stomach and the intestines - A cat, for example, can hardly chew at all



Grass-and-leaf-eating animals (elephant, cow, sheep, llama, etc) - live on grass, herbs, and other plants, much of which is coarse and bulky - The digestion of this type of food starts in the mouth with the enzyme ptyalin in the saliva- these foods must be chewed well and thoroughly mixed with ptyalin in order to be broken down - For this reason, grass-and-leaf eaters have 24 special "molar" teeth and a slight side-to-side motion to grind their food, as opposed to the exclusively up-and-down motion of carnivores - They have no claws or sharp teeth; they drink by sucking water up into their mouths as opposed to lapping it up with their tongue which all meat eaters do - Since they do not eat rapidly decaying foods like the meat eaters, and since their food can take a longer time to pass through, they have much longer digestive systems -- intestines which are ten times the length of the body

Interestingly, recent studies have shown that a meat diet has an extremely harmful effect on these grass-and-leaf eaters - Dr William Collins, a scientist in the New York Maimonedes Medical Center, found that the meat-eating animals have an "almost unlimited capacity to handle saturated fats and cholesterol" - If a half pound of animal fat is added daily over a long period of time to a rabbit's diet, after two month his blood vessels become caked with fat and the serious disease called atherosclerosis develops - human digestive systems, like the rabbit's, are also not designed to digest meat, and they become diseased the more they eat it, as we will later see

Fruit-eaters include mainly the anthropoid apes, humanity's immediate animal ancestors - The diet of these apes consists mostly of fruit and nuts - Their skin has millions of pores for sweating, and they also have molars to grind and chew their food; their saliva is alkaline, and, like the grass-and-leaf eaters, it contains ptyalin for predigestion - Their intestines are extremely convoluted and are twelve times the length of their body, for the slow digestion of fruits and vegetables

Human Beings


Human characteristics are in every way like the fruit eaters, very similar to the grass- eater, and very unlike the meat eaters, as is clearly shown in the table above - The human digestive system, tooth and jaw structure, and bodily functions are completely different from carnivorous animals - As in the case of the anthropoid ape, the human digestive system is twelve times the length of the body; our skin has millions of tiny pores to evaporate water and cool the body by sweating; we drink water by suction like all other vegetarian animals; our tooth and jaw structure is vegetarian; and our saliva is alkaline and contains ptyalin for predigestion of grains - Human beings clearly are not carnivores by physiology -- our anatomy and digestive system show that we must have evolved for millions of years living on fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables

Furthermore, it is obvious that our natural instincts are non-carnivorous - Most people have other people kill their meat for them and would be sickened if they had to do the killing themselves - Instead of eating raw meat as all flesh-eating animals do, humans boil, bake, or fry it and disguise it with all kinds of sauces and spices so that it bears no resemblance to its raw state- One scientist explains it this way "- A cat will salivate with hungry desire at the smell of a piece of raw flesh but not at all at the smell of fruit - If man could delight in pouncing upon a bird, tear its still-living limbs apart with his teeth, and suck the warm blood, one might conclude that nature provided him with meat-eating instinct - On the other hand, a bunch of luscious grapes makes his mouth water, and even in the absence of hunger he will eat fruit because it tastes so good "

Scientists and naturalists, including the great Charles Darwin who gave the theory of evolution, agree that early humans were fruit and vegetable eaters and that throughout history our anatomy has not changed - The great Swedish scientist von Linné states: "Man's structure, external and internal, compared with that of the other animals, shows that fruit and succulent vegetables constitute his natural food "

So it is clear from scientific studies that physiologically, anatomically, and instinctively, man is perfectly suited to a diet for fruit, vegetables, nuts, and grains - This is summarized in the table above

from What's Wrong with Eating Meat,
by Barbara Parham, ©Ananda Marga Publications, 1979

As another author said, "The human body was not designed to catch or eat animals - You have no claws - Your teeth do not rend flesh - Your mouth can not seriously wound nor is it made to really get a good bite into an struggling victim like true carnivores can - You are not fit to run fast to catch prey- Meat-eaters have fast enough reflexes to ambush or overtake a victim - You do not - Try catching a pig or a chicken with your bare hands; see what happens"

"But what about canine teeth and binocular vision?"

It's part of our collective consciousness that we have "canine teeth" and that this "proves" that we're meat eaters - But the truth is that this argument couldn't be weaker

Humans' so-called "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 and horses) possess the same so-called "canine" teeth

Overall, our teeth resemble those of plant-eaters much more than meat-eaters - For example, we have molar teeth (plant-eaters do, carnivores don't) - Try to find a human-type molar inside your cat's mouth - Our teeth can also move side to side to grind, just like the other plant-eaters, and completely unlike the carnivores - Their jaws go only up and down

My favorite quote from when someone brought up the canine rationalizationon a message board:

"Hey Julia--we evolved with canine teeth? I'd like to see you tackle a steer and tear it apart with those ferocious incisors"

What's funny to me is how the teeth argument is so important to meat proponents when they make their point about canine teeth, and then as soon as they find out that our teeth are much more similar to those of herbivores than of carnivores, and therefore consideration of our teeth suggests that we're designed to be plant eaters -- suddenly what kind of teeth we have is not so important to them after all

Others have argued that predators have eyes on the front of their heads for binocular vision, while prey animals have eyes on the sides, indicating that we fall into the predator camp - This ignores the fact that the animals that we're most similar to -- the other primates -- have eyes on the front of their heads, and are almost exclusively vegetarian - It's also important to remember what I said at the top of this article: There is certainly evidence on both sides of this debate, but the preponderance of evidence clearly shows that we're suited to eating plants almost exclusively

"You're not taking into account evolution"

Of course I'm not - Anyone making the claim that we evolved to eat meat through relatively recently-developed hunting skills only demonstrates how poorly they understand evolution, which takes place over a much longer period of time - Besides, if we had truly evolved to be meat-eaters, it wouldn't kill us when we do so, which is the next topic ---

If meat is so good for us, it wouldn't kill us

The medical evidence is overwhelming and indisputable: The more animal foods we eat, the more heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other degenerative disease we suffer - This has been exhaustively demonstrated beyond any doubt - If it were natural for us to eat these food, they wouldn't kill us - The fact that health can be regained by laying off meat and dairy is powerful evidence that we shouldn't have been eating those foods in the first place

Dean Ornish, MD was the first person to prove that heart disease can be reversed, and he did so by feeding his patients a vegetarian diet - John McDougall, MD has also written extensively about how animal foods cause disease, and how people can regain their health by eating vegan instead - The esteemed T Colin Campbell oversaw the most massive study of the relationship between diet and disease, the China Study, which the New York Times caled "the grand prix of epidemiology" - - His conclusions are the same as the other experts: we're not designed to eat animal foods, because we get sick when we do so

There is no need to argue with me about this

If you feel otherwise, let's just agree to disagree - I've received a ton of email on this issue, none of it illuminating, most of it badly misspelled, and I simply don't have the time nor desire to debate everyone who wants to argue with me- And trust me, I have definitely heard every argument - (I stopped hearing genuinely new arguments approximately 19 years ago) - If you feel so strongly about your position that you absolutely must make it known, then simply do what I did: Put up your own web page espousing your own views - You can be confident that I will not write to you to argue about what you have written


"Hey Vegetarians, explain these"



Scientifically-Credible Information on Vegan and Vegetarian Diets

Biological Adaptations

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Patty! Super interesting all the way through.

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