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.