Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why Humans Are Not Meant to Eat Meat

I’ve gotten this question so many times it’s truly unbelievable. “Aren’t we meant to eat meat?” There are a few different responses that I give to people and they are always shocked. None of my responses should be in anyway controversial, in reality, they are all facts, but people continue to look at me like I have three heads. I suppose this reaction is normal since I’m mentioning an idea that people have never heard of—kind of when we were told the truth about Santa and the Tooth fairy. At any rate, I hope this post will show you another side to this question.

To get to the answer of this question, dwelling on the past is not the answer. Many people bring up our ancestry, but since we are not living in caves, it is not relevant. While our ancestors needed to use meat for their survival, we by no means have to, in fact, quite the opposite is true. They walked places, we drive cars. They hunted, we factory farm. The times are totally different so let’s get to the point.

Currently, there are two main types of diets—animal based and vegetarian. When we look at the hard numbers of these diets, the consensus is clear as to which one is better for our health. I could go on and on with statistics, and I will mention a few, but if you are truly interested, I encourage you to search the internet, read the china study, or talk with a dietitian-- they will all confirm that there is a strong link between the consumption of meat and diseases.

As mentioned above, I will cover one or two studies just to put everything into perspective. The first covers heart disease. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America according to the American Heart Association. One study found that people who eat meat have a 50% higher risk of developing heart disease compared to vegetarians.[i] Next, cancer rates, found in numerous studies, are also affected by the consumption of meat. One 11-year-long German study (with 800 vegetarian men), found their cancer rates were less than half those of the general public. Another study shows vegetarians having 40% the cancer rates of meat-eaters.[ii] And just to bring everything together, according to the American Dietetic Association, vegetarians have “lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; … lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer.[iii]” To think we thought smoking in front of our kids is bad, maybe it’s time we stop killing them with the food we give them—eating meat is the new cigarette.( and better yet, we have to note that these studies came out before our meat is genetically modified.)

When we get back to the question above, “Aren’t we meant to eat meat?” the previous studies and nearly all mainstream nutritional science are important to note. If we are meant to eat meat, why are the health problems mentioned above drastically lower in vegetarians? The answer is clear—we aren’t meant to eat meat.

There has also been some study of our anatomy by a Stanford University-trained physician specializing in nutrition named Dr. Milton R. Mills. In his paper, The Comparative Anatomy of Eating, Dr. Mills breaks down our body organ by organ and shows why the body of humans is better equipped for a vegetarian diet. He compares our organs to Carnivores, Herbivores, and Omnivores and shows us which we are most like. For those who are scientifically inclined, I encourage you to take a quick look at it.

In the paper he talks about a number of troubling facts if you still maintain that we are meant to eat meat. For one, he talks about the common misconception of our teeth. Many people talk about our canine teeth as a reason for why we are meant to eat meat. Comparing our canine teeth to a true carnivore such as a cat’s teeth is laughable. When we eat foods, we use the molars in the back to chew, like herbivores, not our canine teeth. Take note of this next time you eat. If we were to remove our canines, we wouldn’t even notice the difference. We also must chew our food in order for proper digestion. Carnivores can swallow their food whole (think of a lion or tiger after a kill).

The next organ he talks about is the size of our intestines. In summary, carnivore’s intestines are very short while herbivores are long. Ours, as I’m sure many already know, are quite long. This is one of the reasons we hear so much about fiber; while carnivores don’t need fiber because of their relatively short intestines, herbivores and humans do for proper digestion. This is another area where our ’natural’ diets of meat have failed us. For those who have ever been constipated, you already know why meat-based diets are inadequate.

Lastly, though not mentioned in the paper, there is the issue of cholesterol. While true carnivores can have literally unlimited amounts of cholesterol and not have any effect on their heart and artery walls, we hear about how high cholesterol is such a problem in humans every day. We are not meant to have diets with high cholesterol, which is only found in animal products. This is one of the reasons for such high rates of Heart Disease.

The paper discusses 16 other attributes throughout our body which show why we are not ‘meant’ to eat meat. As discussed in the paper, we are traditionally though of as omnivores, however an overwhelming amount of our anatomy proves otherwise. Similar to the disease rates mentioned above, I encourage everyone to read elsewhere to learn about our anatomy to assure you that I am not exaggerating or fabricating any information.

The last point I would like to bring up is the point of nutrition since this is brought up nearly every dinner conversation. The idea that plants don’t have protein, vitamins and minerals is ludicrous. In a NYTimes article, Mark Bittman brings up the point that, “Plants have protein, too; in fact, per calorie, many plants have more protein than meat.”[iv] I suppose the next time someone asks where I get my protein, I should say, “Vegetables, but you eat meat, are you sure you’re getting enough protein?” The other side to the wacky argument deals with not having enough vitamins and minerals. Why do you think dietitions stress eating more fruits and vegetables? Could it be that vegetables have a variety of vitamins, minerals, and fiber which meat doesn't have? Yes.(and if people were truly worried, I don't see anything wrong with taking a multi-vitamin which some meat-eaters are already do. Also, before this comes up, by eating a variety, you can get all of the essential amino acids.)

Science, nutrition, and epidemiology have shown us that we are not meant to eat meat and if anything, to avoid it completely. Society continues to have this crazy misconception that we are somehow meant to eat meat. This cannot be farther from the truth. People do not salivate when they see road kill, which carnivores do. People cannot kill pray with our nails or teeth like carnivores do. And most importantly, if humans were meant to be carnivores, we certainly would not have the crazy health problems that we see in meat eaters. Until all of these change, I am convinced we are not meant to eat meat and I hope you are too. The idea that we would rather kill animals for the taste which will result in an increase in disease as opposed to switch our diet to a humane one is nonsensical and outrageous. It’s time we look at our diet and do what is the right thing. It’s time we stopped eating meat.


[i] Elizabeth Somer, "Eating Meat: A Little Doesn't Hurt," WebMD, 1999.
[ii] Neal Barnard, M.D., The Power of Your Plate, Book Publishing Co.: Summertown, Tenn., 1990, p. 26.
[iii] Ann Mangels, Virginia Messina, and Vesanto Melina, "Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: Vegetarian Diets," Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Jun. 2003, pp. 748-65.
[iv] http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/11/dining/11mini.html

19 comments:

rhoeas said...

You write very well. And I'm really enjoying reading your posts.

I think, though, that mentioning that these studies were done before animals were genetically modified is irrelevant. I generally hate the hype that people have made about GMO's. Maybe I don't know enough about it, but I think it takes credibility away from our arguments. Through selective breeding, less animals now are needed for milk production than back in the "olden days". But selective breeding isn't exactly genetic modification, so I'm curious as to what you mean. Do you mean cloning and the like?

I just think that there are better arguments to use. Stay away from the genetic modification/growth hormones/blah blah blah etc are evil arguments. There are better ones.

I also, unfortunately, tend to think that humans are herbivores argument is a bit weak as well. Whenever comparing humans to carnivores, we obviously fail. But very rarely are we seriously compared to omnivores like pigs. We are not meant to eat mass amounts of meat and other animal products, this is beyond obvious. But if someone were to eat a tiny bit of animal protein here and there it wouldn't be unhealthy.

However, someone can be just as healthy on a vegan diet, and eat no meat. This is why I think the ethical argument is the strongest. If you can have the same level of health and vigor on a cruelty-free diet, there's no excuse to go on consuming products of suffering and death.

Just a few random comments! (By the way, this is Ashley. ;))

Anonymous said...

Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma is a good book to use as a source for the process of raising cows, chickens, etc for slaughter. The descriptions of the farms are enough to put anyone off their meat "chow" forever. Also, Mark Bitner has a story in the NY Times which shows the fishing industry for what it is. Again, big fish farms using most of the fresh fish kill to feed the fish at the farms. Hope you will be one of our leaders in how to eat healthier, farm wisely, and yearn for more knowledge.

Magdalen said...

This is a great blog, and I agree with the clarifications in the comments. Just this afternoon, I had a girl ask me these very questions.
Just thinking about the rest of the world in regards to this...
In Asia, species and forests are declining 1000 times faster than ever before. Much of the species removal is due to poaching, because people are starving in these rural countries. Now how could vegetarianism/veganism help here? I worry that people may be caught in an American vacuum, considering only the bounty of fresh produce and other supplementary diet options (ex. nutritional yeast or mock duck) available in our grocery stores. I'm not trying to be a smart alec, but I do want to know your opinions/facts on this.
This is really the knowledge where I want to expend my energy when I go to college next year, and I'd like to start thinking about how sustainability can apply to resources for all, especially those in impoverished or underdeveloped countries.

Thanks!

-Magdalen, queen of tofurkey making and birthday girl as of today!

Anonymous said...

This is like telling Smokers, smoking is bad for their health. They don't care about it and if they do, they will pretend they don't smoke THAT much. Some will also go in the shocking direction to claim that it is beneficial(a stress reliever).

Meat eaters do the same. Eating meat is a public health concern, yet they claim that they don't eat THAT much or even so far to say that we need meat! I guess it goes to show how ignorant people can be when they are in the wrong. Smokers look stupid. Meat eaters look stupid. No other way around it.

Nevertheless, great blog! I'll keep coming back for updates!

longvith said...

am an all loving person, i am a vegan by heart(beacuse i care and understand not because i fear god or fear i may become food myself) god is a clever bitch, i beleive god made meat consumable for human, mainly to test the human heart, or divide the the evil(insane) and good(sane)that life has made of us.
I beleive the animal that are killed for food are use to septerrate the good and the bad and they are just a computer acting out as real living animal.
also i beleive the homeless and people suffering around the world, they are computer simulation acting as real human living being in pain or suffering.
it all for the reason for god to place us in a place that suit us best after we die,
example, if u love eveything and can be at peace with eveything, then heaven is made for you.
and for the people who can not kill what they love and kill what they dont love then, they will see a downsized heaven after they die, meaning they wont see what they dont love(people they hate, animal they eat etc.)

Tarasahas said...

Thank you for this interesting article.

Clint Baker said...

You are full of crap! People and their agendas that they no nothing about really puzzle me. Stop spreading B.S.! All you have to do is look at the human stomach and the enzymes we use to break down food. We are not made to be vegetarians. Just love the animals and stop spreading lies.

Jonny said...

Clint, you are the one that knows nothing about the subject. Fats aren't even broken down in the stomach. They are broken down in the small intestine. And this causes a problem in itself. Carnivores have an extremely short intestinal tract so the meat can pass through quickly without staying in there for a long time. Humans have an extremely long intestinal tract, which is great for digesting the fibrous cell wall of plants, but bad for eating meat. It spends lots of time there and can rot and spread disease. Also, we don't have the right enzymes to digest meat. That is why we are the only creatures that eat meat that need to cook it. Everything thing else has an extremely acidic stomach which kills all the bacteria on the meat. Everything about the way we are made up proves that we SHOULDN'T eat meat. So please get your facts straight before posting hate comments.

extremelylara said...

Love your work! Thanks for giving strength and inspiration to those struggling with vegetarianism. Brilliant use of stats too (on the death counter!)

Anonymous said...

Great article! I wanted to get the counter you have on this page but the link does not work anymore. Where can I get it?

Anonymous said...

According to a 1999 article in the journal The Ecologist, several of our physiological features "clearly indicate a design" for eating meat, including "our stomach's production of hydrochloric acid, something not found in herbivores. Furthermore, the human pancreas manufactures a full range of digestive enzymes to handle a wide variety of foods, both animal and vegetable.

"While humans may have longer intestines than animal carnivores, they are not as long as herbivores'; nor do we possess multiple stomachs like many herbivores, nor do we chew cud," the magazine adds. "Our physiology definitely indicates a mixed feeder."

If people were designed to be strict vegetarians, McArdle expects we would have a specialized colon, specialized teeth and a stomach that doesn't have a generalized pH-all the better to handle roughage. Tom Billings, a vegetarian for three decades and site editor of BeyondVeg.com, believes humans are natural omnivores. Helping prove it, he says, is the fact that people have a low synthesis rate of the fatty acid DHA and of taurine, suggesting our early ancestors relied on animal foods to get these nutrients. Vitamin B-12, also, isn't reliably found in plants. That, Billings says, left "animal foods as the reliable source during evolution."

Terry said...

That article is complete BS. Yes we are designed to eat both meat and plants. Your logic and article is flawed!! Meat is healthy for us over-eating or cooking food in an unhealthy form is bad!! Screw your article its scientific facts from actual scientists not vegan wannabe's that has proven it healthy and they we are designed for meat consumption

Anonymous said...

Humans can digest both plants (raw as well cooked) / animals (only if cooked properly). It depend upon person to take the easy path or the difficult path. Eating meat is beneficial if taken in very less quantity like eating a chicken in 2/3 month or a fish (normal ) in one month. The problem is people are so stupid that they have included meat in all meals. In old time, people use to eat meat on few occasion as it was not affordable. But this days (thanks to butcher industry) meat is cheap and so do diseases with them. These days animals are kept in bad conditions and are neglected and are feed with special diet to grow them fast and sometime even geneticaly mutated to be more fat. (if you still want to eat them go eat, who cares). If you really care about your health than eat meat/fish in moderate and being a vegetarian is definitely better for planet and animals. Think if there is some alien who can survive by eating us :D [Stupid argument I know but it justify that killing someone's kid/mother just to feed our kids is not good :( ] If an animal start eating humans we kill it ? why ? give them also fare chance ? We have brains but use it to eat meat in moderate, to save planet/ animals and also your health.... not to justify eating large amount of meat. One question to hard core meat eater. When you see cats run over by car why don't you feel like bringing it to home and cook ?? Also, please visit butcher house to see how animals are killed and what pain they feel. I can bet 80% people will stop eating meat. Go visit vegetable farms, almost no one will stop eating fruits WHY ??? Which thing you will like to see tree with fruits or animal killed whose blood is oozing out of body and crying with pain?? This will tell what we are made for... closing with a BAANGGG.. You can argue but you can't hide human program stored in us by centuries of programing by ancestors...

Anonymous said...

you are brainwashed. all you did was (barely) prove that humans arent carnivores. that doesnt automatically mean we are herbivores. thats a huge assumption to justify your OPINION. fact is we are omnivores, meant to eat MEAT and VEGGIES.

Anonymous said...

hello,

I'm a meat eater and I've seen a lot of "vegan scares", I actually want to settle this argument for myself, not because I'm worried my lifestyle is bad, but because I think it's a subject so widely spoken of, that I need to refer to it.

I'd like to answer some of the things you mentioned and know what your response is.

I'll go ahead first and say that I did not find your proofs convincing enough.

Here is why:

you claim that vegeterians are healthier than meat eaters, but you have no theory that really gives a good reason, with a thorough investigation that that correlation is actually true.
What do I mean by that? I'm not saying the studys were wrong, I don't know how reliable they are, but let's for a minute assume they are incredibly reliable. Yet, I still don't see why they prove that vegeterian eating habbits are the ones that eliminate the diseases.

Perhaps the people who choose to be vegeterian at this point in life have more general concern for their health and feel that eating vegeterian food will help their health, but they also don't smoke, or drink, excersice regularly etc. And the REAL cause of them having less diseases than the meat-eaters tested, is not related to them not eating meat but to the rest of their lifestyle.

Regarding to the teeth - which is part of the large theory regarding why humans are not physically meant to eat meat. I've actually seen a very beautiful and convincing study about our and our ancestor's teeth. The conclusion was that when, many years ago, people started hunting with objects they created, they would not jump the animal like the furthest ancestors would, and so their teeth did not need to be so aggressive, and after hunting people started cooking their food (cooking food, meat or vegtables increases the amount of energy the body produces from the food) Cooked food required a very specific set of teeth, that was not like the original meat eaters like tigers, but rather teeth that would best allow you to chew this new form of meat that people started eating, and that helped them survive, and allowed their brain to develop.
The human brain is very complicated and large and consumes a lot of energy, before people learned to mass produce, they needed to consume a lot of calories for maintaining their brain.

I would agree that people over eat, meat, bread, sugar. I actually know a few over weight vegans. I don't think they are healthier than me - within the normal bmi range, work out a lot, I do not over eat and I don't eat a lot of oil like french fries and industrial food but rather a lot more home cooked food. I also eat meat. I truely think I'm much healthier than them.

Also, you disregarded our ancestors, or even just the human society and not another form of the figure human, but the first homo sapians.. They all ate meat. I think it's very relevant, I think it shows our most inner instincts, our "natural tendencies", I have a couple of cat, when I try to give them vegtables/fruits, they refuse to eat them. They don't go 'oh.. well, naturally I'm not supposed to eat this, but it tastes yummy...'
An animal senses what it should eat and what it shouldn't - naturally. What it chooses to eat without out side interference, to me is what is natural for that animal to eat. And our ancestors, the first homo sapians, they choose meat.

There are many damages in the meat industry - no doubt, we need to work on that, and because I think that killing and eating a chicken is justified, it doesn't mean I think holding it in a tiny tiny cage is justified, I also thinks it makes eating her less healthy. I don't think shocking her is justified or anything of that sort. I (again) do think our society over eats a lot of things, and that is why we mass produce and that causes animal abuse, if we all ate meat and milk products within reason, I think the industry would look very different.

have a lovely day, :)
adi

Anonymous said...

what a pointless article. I got bored very quickly as it's just a stupid subject. I did some research on meat and it is good for you full stop. You need to eat 100 percent grass feed meat and it also has to be organic as you need to get a good ratio between omega 3 to 6. That way the animals are not harmed with bad chemicals and the quality of the meat is very good for you. Vegans have to supplement with b12 but you get b12 when you eat meat. why not mention that fact. stop trying to scare people and provide the real facts and not a one sided point of view. vegetables are good for you as is fish and nuts so make sure you eat lots of them and make sure it is organic. its very simple. the only thing that is bad for you is grains sugar and processed foods so avoid them and you will be fine and very healthy.

Anonymous said...

I think the problem is that people are comparing carnivore to herbivore and not realising that humans are unique. Humans are not just unique in the way they eat but they are different than any other animal in the world.

No other animal has been in space. None of them made computers etc. Humans did so we are different.

I think we are omnivores. I mean we are not purely carnivores we lack the teeth and the ability to eat meat raw etc. What people are not saying though is that we are not pure herbivores either. I mean we lack the chambered stomach of a cow. If we get hungry we can't go outside and eat our lawn. We don't have to chew as long as a pure herbivore either etc. So clearly we are not a herbivore or carnivore. We are a omnivore or if not omnivore we are unique, human.

I hate the idea of eating flesh by the way I love animals but I think humans need to have both sometimes. Maybe it was necessary to survive. I also know that if we took a human and they had to survive in the wild they would get hungry and learn there is not much plants to eat to get full or satisfy hunger.

I was also thinking that lets say we evolved from a lion and were purely a carnivore with human intelligence or smarter. The intellect of this creature would tell them that killing was wrong but yet they could not eat plants to survive so what would they do? There would be no option to eat plants.

I also have read that animals are smart of course and have thoughts and make choices but many animals in the wild kill and some torture each other like for example I saw a cat beat up a bird and drag it under a car and keep it alive for an hour while it hit it and just seemed to enjoy the experience. So i'm just wondering if these animals are smart, they will kill anything they want and they feel no regret. Fish too they swim along and many eat the smaller fish. If the big fish that killed the smaller fish was caught is it good to feel mercy for it because it's a killing machine and kills countless smaller fish?

Another point is that we must eat things that lived including plants. Do plants feel pain, do they have thoughts. Are they life that we can't understand fully even though science thinks they know fully. Is there a ranking on life like are certain things more important is not all life precious? Why do we have to eat living things?

Just some thoughts to think about. I love animals and try not to eat them but I also think about the world and our place in it. It also freaks me out how some of the worlds creatures just eat each other and are designed to do it. Why would this cruel design be possible.

Maybe intellect is making us feel mercy for the food we eat and maybe one day we'll have a man made fluid or substance that will mean no killing animals or plants.

Ragni E Funner said...

Thank you so much for your very good explanation about why we are not meant to eat meat.
I am a dentist from Norway, and I also have lectures in nutrition. It is so obvious that we are not meant to eat meat when we examine our physiology and biology.

I think the main reasons today why we still are as primitive as cavemen, is because the big business the meat industry is for a lot of people all over the world. This is one reason why we are told we need meat. Serious scientists and doctors who are not bought off by this industry, understand better, and have too much morals to tell people a lie.

Another reason is that people dont like to change, and like to think we can eat both since it requires an effort to become a vegetarian. A change is hard, but often comes when people get sick, and are forced to make a change. Why not be so smart and intelligent and change while you are still healthy ? Why not try to prevent disease ?
But disease prevention has another side of it too, and that is Big Pharma, which of course makes gigantic amounts of money on disease. They control so much in our societies, and have no interest in people getting healthier.

So we have to be responsible for our own health, and also be willing to open our minds for what is really happening here. We need more information and knowledge, and we need to do something drastic. We are NOT cavemen anymore, so lets not behave like them. We need to take the message of deteriorating health all over this planet seriously.
I am not saying all of this has to do with meat, but meat production and consumption is a big part of our problem today.

We are heading in the wrong direction for sure when it comes to health, since there is disease and bad health everywhere. So we have to make a change ! And the change is to be aware of what we are putting in our stomach. Your body has to deal with that, so thats why you have to make sure your body gets just what it is designed to digest easily, and not chemicals and meat that makes our body deteriorate and age much faster.

When we pay attention to what we put in our stomach and treats our body they way it is supposed to be treated, we will also start to take better care of nature and our planet, which supplies us all we need. We will also be better equipped to deal with starvation and so on.
Awareness and knowledge is often the key for a change for the better, and it is really needed in the world we live in today.

Lets start changing today, and start with yourself !!

Sincerely,
Ragni E Funner, Norway

Rick said...

People who respect animals would be very glad to hear that meat is bad for you. Committed Meat eaters would be glad to hear that meat consumption is ok. We all look for the evidence that suits us. I have tried heavy meat eating, moderate meat eating, vegetarian, and vegan diets, all for extended periods. My own observation (and my GP), for my health and well being, vegan is the best by far, vegetarian was quite good, moderate meat eating fair, excess meat was really bad. If you want to eat meat and comment, you need to first seriously try the alternatives for an extended period. Then you have something to offer the world. You can then at least say what you found is really right for you. I am now quite convinced beyond any real doubt that I don't need meat and I am far better off health wise without it. The best thing by far is that I don't have to support the barbaric practice of factory farming. If there was ever a more shocking crime than this, I have not heard about it. If you eat meat, have a good look at where your meat comes from. If you think that is ok, please get some help.