Are we omnivores or herbivores?

By on September 4, 2011

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I’ve read quite a few articles and discussions on the internet (and in books) debating whether human beings are naturally omnivores or herbivores. I’m sure you’ve seen the debate; humans don’t have claws, sharp teeth, the stomach acidity nor intestinal tracts to digest meat. True omnivores don’t need to cook animal flesh, if you put a baby in a crib with an apple and a bunny, the baby won’t eat the bunny (he won’t eat the apple either since he has no teeth, by that’s a different discussion).

On the other side of the debate, they say humans evolved because we ate meat, how can we be herbivores if we need to take a B12 supplement, our species would never have survived had we subsisted strictly on plants.

These arguments and debates are distractions, and a waste of time.

“Many of us are tempted to strain credulity and torture the evidence to ‘prove’ humans are ‘naturally’ vegan,” PaleoVeganology blogger Robert Mason says in the new book Vegan for Life by Virginia Messina, MPH, RD and Jack Norris, RD. “This is a trap, and one into which carnists (specially paleo dieters) would love us to fail; the evidence isn’t on our side. There is no doubt that hominids ate meat…The argument for veganism has always been primarily ethical, and ought to remain that way. It’s based on a concern for the future, not an obsession about the past.”

Why does it matter if we are scientifically omnivores or herbivores? What matters is that in 2011, we do not need to eat meat, dairy or eggs to survive nor in fact thrive. We can subsist by strictly eating plants (and avoiding using individuals for clothing, entertainment and laboratory testing). Since this is the case, we can make an ethical argument against both eating and using nonhuman animals. If we do not need to breed, confine, torture and ultimately murder nonhuman animals for survival, then we are making a selfish choice, a speciesist choice to exploit others for our gain and enjoyment.

By keeping the focus where it should be, on the ethics, we don’t get pulled down the road of yet another distracting debate, where ultimately there is no winner, and the loser is animals. Next time you are tempted to go down that road, pull back for a minute and bring the focus back to the ethics.

 

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Comments

  1. chris
    September 6, 2011

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    Still, the evidnce is on our side that animals meant to eat meat never aquire arteriosclerosis. That 83% of those following Dr. Ornish’s program to reverse heart disease have been successful is significant “ammo.”

    And with Mac Danzig, Tony Gonzalez, Scott Jurek, Carl Lewis and other world class athletes going vegan, and all giving testimonies that they train harder and recover faster is wonderful evidence. If they’re vegan, that any normal person can thrive on plant-based diet is difficult to deny.

  2. Micheal
    September 23, 2011

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    Quoted from post: “If we do not need to breed, confine, torture and ultimately murder nonhuman animals for survival, then we are making a selfish choice, a speciesist choice to exploit others for our gain and enjoyment.”

    I’m a bunny hugger like many other vegans, but I struggle with the extreme self-righteous stance taken by some animal rights activists (ARAs). I see hypocrisy drooling from their mouths as they drive, pilot, ride, work with, and enjoy internal combustion engines which foster such an excessive hunger for oil that the policies of transnational corporations (TNCs) and governments actively support brutal, murderous regimes who control the oil we crave.

    You might say, “We need oil for survival” and I would be hard pressed to argue with you. But isn’t the price of one child too high for oil? Using animals in labs is bad, but non-ARAs might call it collateral damage. Is that the stance we should take with the human lives consumed in our pursuit of resources? Additionally, our oil demand is not strictly for survival. I know many vegans who use and enjoy recreational vehicles, boats, ski lifts, and on and on. Using these things, to argue as ARAs, is tantamount to eating veal and marrow bones. Frankly, I don’t think it’s a conscious issue for most.

    Oil has “civilized” us into a corner and our humanitarianism is worn and tarnished by feeding at the fossil fuel trough. The harsh judgement of ARAs is appropriate if they stand on their principles and live in the woods, dig for roots and wear birch-bark clothing. Extremist behavior polarizes and prohibits dialogue, compassion and social harmony. The concerns of ARAs loose credibility if they turn a blind eye on other humanitarian issues by using non-essential oil. Remember, if you point the finger at others, you have three of them aimed back at yourself.

  3. Micheal
    September 23, 2011

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    Quoted from post: “If we do not need to breed, confine, torture and ultimately murder nonhuman animals for survival, then we are making a selfish choice, a speciesist choice to exploit others for our gain and enjoyment.”

    I’m a bunny hugger like many other vegans, but I struggle with the extreme self-righteous stance taken by some animal rights activists (ARAs). I see hypocrisy drooling from their mouths as they drive, pilot, ride, work with, and enjoy internal combustion engines which foster such an excessive hunger for oil that the policies of transnational corporations (TNCs) and governments actively support brutal, murderous regimes who control the oil we crave.

    You might say, “We need oil for survival” and I would be hard pressed to argue with you. But isn’t the price of one child too high for oil? Using animals in labs is bad, but non-ARAs might call it collateral damage. Is that the stance we should take with the human lives consumed in our pursuit of resources? Additionally, our oil demand is not strictly for survival. I know many vegans who use and enjoy recreational vehicles, boats, ski lifts, and on and on. Using these things, to argue as ARAs, is tantamount to eating veal and marrow bones. Frankly, I don’t think it’s a conscious issue for most.

    Oil has “civilized” us into a corner and our humanitarianism is worn and tarnished by feeding at the fossil fuel trough. The harsh judgement of ARAs is appropriate if they stand on their principles and live in the woods, dig for roots and wear birch-bark clothing. Extremist behavior polarizes and prohibits dialogue, compassion and social harmony. The concerns of ARAs loose credibility if they turn a blind eye on other humanitarian issues by using non-essential oil. Remember, if you point the finger at others, you have three of them aimed back at yourself.

  4. Lain
    September 14, 2012

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    Don’t agree! I have used this with MANY who did not know we are anatomically and physiologically herbivore/frugivore, so it certainly is not “a trap” (with intelligent humans)! I will never understand why “certain” vegans are so determined to just see vegan advocacy one way! Also, please show me the evidence (NOT hypotheses or theories) that, “There is no doubt that hominids ate meat” [regularly in any way, shape or form], because I have yet to see it.

    “Why does it matter if we are scientifically omnivores or herbivores?” …it matters a great deal to those who do not consider the morality (ethics) or environmental aspects. I know many in academic circles who went vegan because of the biological facts, and then started to “feel” the other issues!

    Why does it matter to YOU how others advocate Veganism? I use whatever I see in that person that matters. I have yet to speak with anyone person the exact same way as another. What should be stated in this post is; just get them on the vegan path, with whatever their priorities are; love of nonhumans, health, environment, etc.!

  5. Olga
    September 14, 2012

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    “True omnivores don’t need to cook animal flesh” – neither do humans. Meat is eaten raw in Northern cultures, such as Inuit.

    “in 2011, we do not need to eat meat, dairy or eggs to survive nor in fact thrive” – true. Maybe, we needed it in the past when we did not have that much nurtrition choices. But now 90% of Earth can go vegetarian. Same with fur and leather clothes. I reserve 10% for Northern and remote communities who still rely on hunting and fishing heavily.

  6. Olga
    September 14, 2012

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    “True omnivores don’t need to cook animal flesh” – neither do humans. Meat is eaten raw in Northern cultures, such as Inuit.

    “in 2011, we do not need to eat meat, dairy or eggs to survive nor in fact thrive” – true. Maybe, we needed it in the past when we did not have that much nurtrition choices. But now 90% of Earth can go vegetarian. Same with fur and leather clothes. I reserve 10% for Northern and remote communities who still rely on hunting and fishing heavily.

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