Are humans really natural or habitual omnivores?

Posted on 28 June 2012

…A regular feature on aspects of morality in veganism by Lizé Oosthuizen

This month I would like to deconstruct 8 of the most recent arguments/statements provided by some of my omnivorous friends for consuming flesh. There are, of course, many more that could be ventured but are beyond the scope of this article.

Canine teeth of a chimpanzee1. As vegetarians, we have probably all heard the following: “But we have canines, why would we have them if we are not omnivores?”

This is a common misconception; humans DO NOT have canines. As very aptly stated by Michael Bluejay (a vegetarian himself who has a most wonderful website guide to vegetarian lifestyles), they are canines by name only, not in form or function. They are named canines most likely (and logically) because of the position in the mouth relative to other teeth.

'Canine' teeth of a humanHave a look at the 2 pictures of the chimpanzee and human teeth – there is clearly a huge difference between our ‘canine’’ and that of a true natural omnivore such as the chimpanzee. Note also that the canines in both chimps and humans are divided by 4 teeth in the middle, hence our ‘canines’ got their name based on position relative to animals who have real canines.

2. Another one of my favourite sayings that I’ve heard more times than I care to count, would have to be: “Humans didn’t fight their way to the top of the food chain to become vegetarian!”

Perhaps I’m missing something but when exactly did this fight between man and animal occur? To my best knowledge are we at the “top of the food chain” because we simply decided that we belong there due to pure numbers, worldwide distribution of our species as well as, debatably, superior intellect (debatable because I think we are simply more creative than our furry friends, not more intelligent – but that will form the core of next month’s article).

I also find it necessary to elaborate on what ‘food chain in this sense really means, which is that we are the most populated animals on earth with the most potential due to our creativity and resultant abilities. It does not mean that we eat every other form of animal on the planet; especially not carnivorous animals that would most likely eat you were it not for your technological advances. A crocodile is a good example. In fact, as humans who consider ourselves so vastly superior to the rest of the animal kingdom, it is our responsibility to protect, rather than exploit, those below us on this ‘food chain’, which would more aptly be named ‘food hierarchy’.

3. And of course who can neglect to mention the all too well known ‘argument’: “Eating meat, especially fish, was responsible for our intellectual development“.

Really? By this reasoning are we also to assume that carnivores should be more intelligent than people? If not, why not? Could it be that as a different species, viz. Homosapiens, we simply have a larger capacity for intellect/creativity than other species of animals? Just like there are more intelligent animals and lesser intelligent animals?

Some of the most intelligent people I have contact with do not eat meat and most of the intellectually challenged persons I have the misfortune to know eat an abundance of meat. However, do not take this to mean that I am alluding that meat consumption makes an individual intellectually inferior. I am not saying this any more than I would agree that meat is necessary for brain development. One’s level of intellect is largely determined by genetics and I can guarantee you that no amount of flesh in one’s diet will make a genius out of a person who has inferior intellectual genes.

4. This next argument, surprisingly, did not cut the top 3: “Humans need protein from meat to survive and stay healthy.”

Why is it that the healthiest people I know don’t eat meat? Why is it that vegetarians, and especially vegans, are less prone to obesity than practicing omnivorous humans? Why is it that, according to studies, vegetarians and vegans live, on average, a decade longer than those who frequently eat meat? Over and above these obvious fumbles in the reasoning of the average omnivore theory promoters, I can attest to the fact that any healthy person does not require the amount of protein commonly believed by society.

Questionable sources of such blatantly false information abound and are most often purported by persons whose emotionally charged opinions undoubtedly stem from desperate attempts to justify their clearly faulty eating habits.

What makes me believe I am an authority on this matter? Aside from thousands upon thousands upon thousands of hours of personal research and cross referencing, I am living proof. Being healthier than any of my meat eating friends who constantly consume protein in these exaggerated amounts and complaining of joint pains, stomach upsets, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and many more, I am confident in concluding that the dietary differences account for much of these ailments, or in my case, lack thereof. Furthermore, as stated well by Michael Bluejay, ALL life forms require protein to survive and become strong – this includes elephants and they are also herbivores.

5. The following statement, often made in an attempt to be humorous and with a smug smile, must be one of the most poorly thought through arguments and as a result one of the most frustrating: “If animals weren’t meant to be eaten by man, why are they made of meat?

At this stage I’d like to refer you back to my comments under point number 3 above. This statement is testament to the fact that meat consumption does nothing for brain development! Seeing that one often needs to explain one’s statements to flesh eating humans I will attempt the following analogy: if recreational drugs, such as cocaine, were not meant to be consumed, why are they made of chemicals that induce euphoria?

6. “Eating meat is natural! Just look at lions – they do it!”

Last time I checked there were quite a few notable differences between human beings and lions, or any other strict carnivores, for that matter! Furthermore, if one wants to make use of the ‘natural’ argument one should follow through on that all the way by hunting your dinner without guns and various other weapons you weren’t born with!

Is it not bad enough that we live such unnatural lives by driving cars instead of walking, using cell phones which emit harmful frequencies, eating processed foods laden with flavourants, colourants and preservatives and working in highly stressful jobs we were never meant to do? Why add to this burden by eating meat when we are so clearly not built for it? And all at the cost of innocent animals?!

7. Yet another intellectually deficient statement presented to vegetarians by ‘omnivores’: “Meat is food therefore we should eat it”

While meat may be food to carnivores and to some genuine omnivores in small quantities, it is not food for humans. Moths, for example, eat material and I’m sure if we were to eat material our bodies would find a way to process it (of course with no nutritional benefit), but does that mean it is food simply because some other animate species consumes it?

8. “But humans have always eaten meat!”

There is much controversy among professionals in the anthropology field on this matter and I am unfortunately not clued up enough on the specifics of human evolution, so I cannot debate this argument on a factual level of what happened in history. However, I can say that I do not see anybody quickly grasping at the opportunity to do much of anything else that our ancestors used to do. In fact, we pride ourselves for having evolved since then and view them as rather primitive creatures doing the best they could under circumstances. So why is it that we attach so much value to their eating habits?

Could it not be that it is simply easier to do so than to actually think for ourselves? Perhaps a fear of what we will be giving up – a comfort zone, if you will? We prize our convenience above truth and the betterment of our environment and those we share it with. The best judge of what we are meant to eat remains what our physiology tells us TODAY.

So what does it tell us? Instead of simply listing the various telltale signs of our dietary requirements, I refer you to and Michael Bluejay’s websiteOpens in a new window. Of the many sites and books I have viewed and read, this is the most comprehensive one I have had the pleasure of coming across. A very convenient table appears on this link which compares carnivores, omnivores, herbivores and humans on various physiological differences and similarities – from the teeth, to the jaw, to the digestive tract and system, liver, kidneys, muscle development and nails.

In conclusion, it was well known that one of the greatest minds ever to have graced our earth was in favour of a vegetarian lifestyle and he was a vegetarian himself toward the end of his life: “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet” ~ Albert Einstein.

Although I agree with Einstein, I would like to add for clarity that humans do not need to physically evolve a vegetarian diet. What we require is mental evolution as to date the human body has not been proven to have evolved to process meat. Instead the facts point to the contrary – we are herbivores/fruitarians/vegetarians/vegans, call it what you will, but we are NOT built to consume meat.

Article by Lizé Oosthuizen


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