Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Primate Diets and Prehistoric Humans

When discussing the questions of what did primitive humans eat, we have to define "primitive"...there is a  difference between the diet of humans of 2,000,000 years ago with the diet of humans of 250,000 years ago.  The former, being closer to primates , based on time, not physiology, are a good starting point. But first a word about  primate diets...our closest ancestors.

Much of the following information can be found on the site of Vegetarian Resource Group:

 In general our primate ancestors were primarily plant eaters (as they still are) Some apes eat fruit only (frugivores, like Gibbons)  Gorillas  are mostly vegetarian, eating more greens and less fruit. Orangutans are full vegetarians.  Bonobos subsist on a pure plant based diet.  A completely RAW restaurant in NYC is named after these primates, as a recognition of the 

the restaurant offers. I've been there many times and love it!   (       Chimpanzees, our closest relatives, are supposedly 95% vegetarian. They have been known to kill other animals and even other primates, but some argue this is not for nutrition but more for territoriality or show of force.

So, are ancestors in the primate world are , for the most part, plant eaters.

But humans have eaten meat and continue to do so, whether it's healthy or not. Humans do fall into the category of Omnivore...but are closer to Herbivore in nature.  There is some evidence to show that earliest humans were almost fully vegetarians. Before the creation of tools, humans could only eat dead carrion when they ate meat, since humans are very poorly equipped to kill live animals (we can't run fast, we  don't have claws, we can't rip flesh with our teeth etc.)  It really wasn't until humans learned how to craft clubs and spears and other primitive tools, that the eating of meat increased greatly.

Another well documented website/blog concerning this subject is Vegan Life:

The author shows that while we can tolerate small amounts of meat, we are far more similar to herbivores than to carnivores.

Then there arealways  the people who state "But humans have always eaten meat"  This is not true.  Dr. John McDougall, ( well known plant based doctor  and expert on the relationship  between diet and disease, has stated, as have many anthropologists, that our ancestors of 4,000,000 years ago ate a mostly  vegetarian diet.   The hunting and killing and eating of animals is still a fairly recent development in human history.  And as I said earlier, humans had to scavenge for meat, and ate mainly carrion, prior to the use of tools.  When they were lucky enough to find the remains of a dead partially consumed animal.  And unfortunately, as they were "feasting" they often became prey to the real carnivores who killed and devoured them also.  It wasn't until much much later , when humans learned to control fire, that meat eating increased greatly. Some argue that this is "proof" that humans are not true meat eaters...since they couldn't kill meat without tools, and then didn't eat a lot of meat until they learned to cook it with fire...implying that raw meat just wasn't very palatable to our prehistoric ancestors either.

There are classic examples of human physiology that are always brought up to show why we were evolved to eat plants.  First there is our stomach acid, which is very low compared to true carnivores which is very high. A lion needs to break down the dead flesh quickly and get it started on it's way through it's body. 

 Our intestines are very long and convoluted...typical of herbivores. Lions' intestines are short and fairly smooth walled...both features allowing the rotting meat to get out as fast as possible.  Our jaw structure is more herbivore also. Herbivores tend to have rotating jaws for chewing , with flat grinding molars. Carnivores have jaws that only go up and down, and most or all their teeth are pointed for tearing and ripping.  They chomp off chunks of meat and then swallow the pieces without chewing.  Modern domestic house cats do the same.   Our teeth that are called "canines" are really NOT true carnivorous canines. It's more of a dental term designating where they are located.  Carnivores' canines stick out over the bottom jaw and are fully prepared to rip and tear into flesh. How many people have you seen with canines sticking out like that (other than in vampire movies)?
There are quite a few more physiological examples showing why we favor plants but I won't go into all of them here but will mention a few:  saliva, facial muscles, liver, kidney, nails and hooves vs claws,mouth opening to head size, and more)

So , to sum up the above, we are omnivores but with a preference to herbivorous behavior and diet.  And , as we will see later in this blog, the more meat we eat, the more unhealthy we become.  As John Robbins said in Diet For a New America, you don't get saturated fat and cholesterol and artery clogging ingredients from broccoli and brown rice.   We know 

meat and dairy can kill us, so is it smart to eat even small amounts of these animal products?  Personally I'd rather stay away from the completely.  But the rest of society and human civilization seems to have gravitated more and more to an animal based diet, and is suffering the consequences.  Just because humans started to eat meat  a few million years ago, does not mean they "evolved" to do so, nor is it for the better! (as we'll clearly see later on).

1 comment:

  1. This is some of the worst evolutionary thinking I've seen yet, but it is very much along the lines of Vegan ideological discourse. Vegans are renowned for constructing pseudo-Darwinian myths to support their rather questionable claims about human diet. Interesting how most of the sources here are other Vegan web sites and then a plant-based doctor. Interesting also how approximate dates and the different evolutionary stages of our species is not mentioned, as well as the changing dietary habits and lifestyle of these different stages of human evolution. You know, a little National Geographic and nature programs on PBS can go a very long way! Misusing pieces of evolutionary and anthropological knowledge is a very clear sign of how intellectually bankrupt the vegetarian camps are. Vegan discourse is loaded with biological absurdities. The assertions are really rooted in a certain moral philosophy toward the treatment of animals and/or a spiritual view associated with karma and ahimsa. From that basis all kinds of assertions are made with regard to the environment, general health, nutrition, etc. Many times actual health is not really the commitment here, but instead something else being masked as a commitment to health. Now I don't want to over-generalize here and assert that this is the case with all vegetarian schools, but it is certainly the case with the vast majority of Vegans. Rational discourse in the spirit of scientific inquiry is not represented by your school of thought at all. The fields of evolutionary biology and anthropology are the fields that I consult for knowledge of the human body, other species and of nature in general, because they are the dedicated masters of those areas. There are such brilliant minds out there in those fields, some of which are Nobel Prize winners, which would make great resources for anyone truly interested in what those fields have to teach us about us. Unfortunately you instead decide to stick with your camp and follow that herd. Hence the incredibly poor presentation attempting to use pieces of information from those fields as validation. I'm sorry, but that just ain't cuttin' it! It seriously lacks intellectual and professional integrity.

    Furthermore, (speaking of professional integrity) as a HHC graduate from IIN you obviously came across the notion of bioindividuality (really "Biochemical Individuality" as first expounded by Roger Williams in the 50s). Joshua always mentions it as the stance that the school takes and as part of the framework that he teaches for health counselors to practice. Of course there are plenty of people who enter, go through and graduate from the school with their preconceived notions firmly intact and not really learning anything new, because it was suppressed in favor of the previously held views. I encounter IIN grads constantly, who basically went to the school for the credential, which frankly given how easy it is to "graduate", it's not like it's that powerful a credential. It certainly isn't anything rigorously technical, as beautiful as the spirit and intention of the school is. So from a professional prospective and fellow HHC I have to ask, is that you? Are you one of those people that went through the school simply to have some backing for your assertions? You're obviously not representing anything anywhere near what the school actually teaches, so why continue to call yourself a HHC? I'm very curious.


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