Let’s real talk for a moment.
If you choose to be vegan or vegetarian, I totally, one hundred percent, support you. If you want to tell people about how healthy you feel since you went vegan/vegetarian, great! Share your experiences and tell people all about your dietary choices if you want. That’s totally cool and I think it’s great for people to get their opinions heard.
But please, for the love of scientific integrity, don’t LIE TO PEOPLE.
I am so sick and tired of hearing vegan/vegetarian scare tactics and blatant misinformation. YES the human body CAN digest meat and we are PERFECTLY adapted to it! Eating meat was a crucial part in evolving the large brains we have today! It was the intake of animal fat and protein that gave us the nutrients we needed to evolve our larger brains. It’s what separated our ancestors from the other great apes.
"But the human digestive tract is nothing like that of other carnivores! We more closely resemble herbivores! Clearly we were meant to eat veggies, not meat!"
Let me show you something.
This is a human’s digestive system:
The argument I often hear is that a human’s digestive system is “too long” for a carnivore. That most carnivores have shorter digestive systems, and that our longer digestive tract is evidence of our true herbivorous nature!
Well let’s look at a carnivore’s digestive tract to compare:
Does that look shorter than our digestive system? Sure! But then by your claims, your digestive system should more closely match that of an herbivore, right? Okay, let’s take a look.
What’s THIS shit? Multiple stomachs? Food is partially digested and regurgitated throughout the day? That doesn’t sound anything like how we process and digest our food. Not only is an herbivore’s digestive system FAR longer than ours, it has a whole bunch of extra organs that we DON’T have! This is even LESS similar to us than the carnivore!
Okay, so if we don’t perfectly resemble either of these examples, how do I explain the discrepancy? Easy! Human beings are OMNIVORES. We evolved to eat both meat and plant matter. Early humans were not picky in this regard. They hunted animals, they gathered whatever vegetables, tubers, nuts, and berries were available. If they could keep it down, they probably ate it.
And during the winter months, when vegetation was scarce, our ancestors relied almost exclusively on animals for sustenance. This is well studied by archeologists and anthropologists and probably a whole bunch of other kinds of ‘ologists!
Our digestive system is the reason you don’t have to keep throwing up your food and re-eating it all day, or keep constantly grazing, just to get through the day like herbivores do. You can skip a meal or two if you have to, and if you ate a particularly filling and nutrient-dense meal beforehand, you’ll be perfectly okay with this! This is the carnivore part of your digestive system at work.
"But our teeth more closely resemble herbivores than carnivores!"
And again missing the point. Our teeth do not particularly resemble a carnivore’s, this is true. But they’re not a perfect match for herbivores either. We are OMNIVORES and will not perfectly fit in either category. Now while it’s true that in a lot of ways our teeth ARE closer to herbivores than carnivores, let’s not forget that carnivores use their teeth for hunting and tearing meat. Human beings did not. We used tools to hunt and cut our meat. We had no evolutionary need to develop sharp teeth for tearing meat when we had primitive spears and knives. Cooking meat also made it easier to tear.
"But there is no nutritional need for animal meat that can’t be gotten from plants!"
Not true. Not true at all.
Now this is a bit of a funny technicality, because we live in an age where you can take supplements for just about anything, or get foods that are artificially enriched with whatever nutrients you’re missing.
But looking at things from a natural perspective, there are essential fats and proteins that you can easily get from one serving of meat, that you’d need MULTIPLE servings of MANY different types of vegetables to get. Not only this, but vitamin B12 is exclusively found in animal products (because only specific bacteria can produce it, and they are found in animals), and is necessary for our nervous system, our blood cells, and for DNA production. If you’ve ever felt fatigued, moody, depressed, or have trouble remembering things while on a vegan/vegetarian diet, then you’re probably not getting enough B12. Luckily, today you can just take a supplement and not have to compromise your diet.
This does not change the fact that there is a REAL, natural need for animal meat in the human diet. Just because you choose to substitute it does not change this fact.
"But carnivores can create their own vitamin C in their bodies! We can’t, so we’re dependent on plants for vitamin C or we get sick! Clearly this means we’re herbivores!
Oy. Come on. We’re OMNIVORES. We need both meat AND plant matter. This does NOT make us strictly herbivores.
We actually have the enzyme to create our own vitamin C just as carnivores do, but it’s broken in humans and doesn’t work as it should. (L-gulonolactone oxidase)
Evolution isn’t a perfect design, so somewhere along the line, we lost our ability to create vitamin C. However, as we are OMNIVORES, we are able to get our necessary vitamin C from plant matter, while still getting other essential nutrients (like protein, fat, and vitamin B12) from meat.
"But what about the moral reasons for being vegan/vegetarian?"
If you want to be vegan/vegetarian for moral reasons, more power to you. I think it’s admirable for you to take up the cause, and I agree that our food industry is despicable and needs a major overhaul. If you want to be vegan/vegetarian because of your objection to society’s push of unhealthy foods, good for you! It’s difficult to stick to a non-traditional diet with the way we’re constantly bombarded with all sorts of unhealthy foods everyday. It’s admirable of you to take the extra effort for your health.
So please, stop LYING to people about our biological make-up. You’re only undermining your own points and pissing off potential meat-eating allies (such as myself!) in your fight for cruelty-free farming and/or healthier food options!
"Shouldn’t we at least discourage meat-eating for health reasons?"
If you want, but if you dive in and do the research, more and more (and here’s one more, my personal favorite source to recommend on the subject) experts are coming out and saying that grains are actually far more harmful to the human diet, and that we did not evolve to eat them. That they may be the reason for our obesity epidemic, the boom in diabetes, and a host of other metabolic syndromes.
So replace meat (fat and protein) with grains (carbs and sugars) at your own risk.
Thank you for your time, and I’m sorry for this rant. I really just needed to vent.