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Canine teeth and genetically meat eaters

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I am a vegan and have been for almost a year-ish now (i think?) and though I have done a lot of reading/research on the subject and am confident in my own reasons for this lifestyle choice, I never really know how to respond when people say that we have canine teeth and, as a species, are naturally meat eaters.  

I disagree with modern farming practices, but wonder whether if I raised my own animals would be OK with eating their dairy/eggs, or even slaughtering them and eating flesh?  I don't think I would, but what do YOU guys feel is the argument against humans being 'natural' meat (or dairy/egg) eaters? And if you raised your own cattle humanely, would you eat the products/flesh?

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Well, I agree that humans have evolved to be omnivores. But I don't think this has any bearing on choosing to be a veg*n, unless you think that everyone should be veg*n. There are also arguments that humans have evolved as sprinters, not distance runners, but that certainly doesn't stop me from going on long runs- it just means I consider the limitations of the human form and take the necessary precautions to avoid injury. Similarly, while you can be a veg*n while you have evolved to be an omnivore, you will have to pay extra attention to getting enough of the vitamins and protein that most people get through meat.

ETA: I found this lecture while doing some internet research on the topic. I was surprised by some of the misinformation I found on vegetarian sites- one said that only herbivores have molars, which is clearly not true, as one look in my (carnivore) dog's mouth will tell you.

Humans did evolve to be omnivores.  If we were unable to bombard ourselves with enough Vitamin B12 to absorb a little bit of it, then veganism would not be a viable lifestyle.  Fortunately for vegans, we can take enough B12 to get by, and this is the only real challenge vegans face in obtaining the right nutrients to be healthy (assuming they don't mind planning a bit to ensure they get complete proteins, yada yada yada).  So I think I'd respond along those lines.  We're fortunate that we have the choice.

I'm an omnivore.  I don't think there's really an effective way to argue with us about eating the products of animals that were treated with respect and (if it's meat) killed as humanely as possible.  We meat-eaters have even helped save a number of animals from extinction, such as American bison and alligators.  But your big problem as a vegan is probably not with those of us who go out and meet the farmers who supply us our eggs and cheese and milk and meat.  Save your energy for other battles.  :-)

To emily: Dogs are actually omnivores.  Cats are carnivores.

Edited to correct the spelling of "meet."  No pun was intended!

Original Post by megsambit:

To emily: Dogs are actually omnivores.  Cats are carnivores.

Hm, I actually wasn't sure, so I looked it up, and it said carnivore. My dog (and most dogs today) is an omnivore, though. Regardless, the argument that only herbivores have molars is just completely wrong.

I've had cats who yowled for canteloupe and ate it, not to mention grass.

We are omnivores, of that there is no doubt.  What people don't realize is that we are the product of a couple of million years of very successful evolution.  We are also almost genticially identical to our ancestors of 30 or 40,000 years ago.  Back then we ran and hunted and worked all day long to get enough food to eat and avoid predators.  We were very active.  Being very active would allow one to process a very high meat/high fat diet.  We are not active now, not like that anyway.   Our bodies are no different, they need a high calorie burn, high consumption, to process all the saturated fat in meats.   A sedentary lifestyle, combined with overconsumption of meat, leads to clogged arteries and heart attacks.  A vegan diet helps to avoid that.

We ate meat back then when we could get it but our diet also consisted of fruits and vegetables, depending on the season and what was available, that's why we have so many flat teeth.  We are designed to eat almost everything.  

The other problem with meat is, there is a big difference between natural, free range, wild meat, and the stuff you get today.  Our bodies were designed to eat the meat off animals that grazed on their natural diets, and were lean and muscular.  How many herbivores do you see running around that are fat?  A couple for sure like hippos and elephants, but they weren't game animals for our ancestors, they were too tough.  All the stuff we ate back then was fast and lean and required great energy expenditure to capture it, kill it and carry it back to the cave.   We didn't eat cows back then, raised in pens, eating food they wouldn't normally eat, stuffed with anti-biotics and growth hormones.  

I still eat fish, but a lot of it is wild fish I caught myself.  I still eat the odd bit of meat, mostly chicken and turkey, and mostly to flavour a soup or chili or something like that.  I get it from a local Mennonite farmer, whose farm I have actually been to, who raises his poultry free range, without antibiotics or drugs of any kind, fed a natural diet of seeds, insects etc.   It's the only way to go for me...  

My response to 'but it's natural for us to eat meat' is that it's also 'natural' to get pregnant at age 14 - does that mean we all have to do it?

Cats are carnivores, though mine have a thing about pumpkin seeds and refried beans. :D



thanks so much for your responses!  I often also say to people that 'back in the day' when we were 'cavemen' we ate meat only when we could catch it, not once a day as many of my friends do.  another point i also think is strange is that we are (as far as i know?) the only animal to drink the breast milk of other animals!

i am also told, as a vegan, to take B12 supplements, and it seems that if I am having to take supplements to stay healthy I am not 'supposed to be' vegan.  But i do just think that, as you said, i know have the luxury to make the decision to be vegan, mostly in protest against mistreatment of animals but also because i do find it 'healthier', as least for me!

I'm with you on the milk thing poo.  My Dad said this to me once.  Would you drink rat milk?  Cat milk?  Dog milk?  What's the difference?  We've all been sold a marketing scheme by the dairy industry that "milk" is good for us.  It's just another giant brainwashing scheme...

As far as I can find out, there is really no nutritional advantage or disadvantage to veganism. The human race has survived because it is able to adapt to changing conditions.

I feel that it's a matter of personal ethics, which, in my opinion, is just as important as any other reason.  It's not a matter of any food being good or bad for you, it's a matter of making a decision not to harm living creatures.  That's a very gentle and good state of mind. 

I'm not a vegan, nor even a vegetarian any more (health reasons - doctor's orders), but have the highest respect for those who make this ethical choice. 

I'd like to chime in as a confirmed omnivore.    I like meat,  I am designed to eat meat.   I also like carrots, and well actually a lot of veggies, and yes I even like milk.

On one side I do detest the treatment of animals in modern farming practices.  I also detest a lot of our vegetation farming practices... there's a lot of chemicals involved there too.   Also people don't use proper common sense in modern farming, animals are mistreated and pumped full off chemicals and even our soil is abused.   It's been known for hundreds of thousands of years that proper crop rotation and leaving a field grow empty and wild every few years allows for replenishment of the soil.   In our over specialized and mass production era, many farmers plant only one crop, as often and as much as possible.  Which leaves us using chemicals to replenish the soil and keep away bugs.....

Is that sort of thing any better then our animal husbandry?  While mistreating animals is much crueler.   Health wise, we are still causing a great deal of harm and ingesting tons of chemicals... even vegans.

I do attempt to buy my milk, eggs and meat local.  Farms I know and trust.  Due to money and availability it isn't always possible but I do try.  I spend mid summer into fall stopping at vegetable and fruit stalls to get organic local produce...  again money permitting.  (((Ahh the joys of being a poor college student.)))   That doesn't stop me from buying a small portion of lamb when money allows, and lamb is almost never local.  just not something we have around here.  But if we want Ostrich that isn't hard to find.  *chuckle*

I guess at this point it's a matter of personal choice.  We are lucky enough to live in a society that allows these kinds of choices.  So long as no one is trying to force me to become vegan I respect that choice.

While I morally sympathize and can definitely see the point the vegan life style is not one I could ever live.  I'm allergic to most nuts and mushrooms.  I'm also medically forbidden to eat soy.  So that leaves me really hard pressed to make a balanced diet without animal products.   I know there are other options, I'm even attempting to try some of them.  But honestly it just gets very expensive and time consuming trying to find it...specially without soy.   you wouldn't believe the stuff they add soy to!!

I only have one question for vegans....  if you dislike meat, for moral or any other reason,  Why all the soy and mushroom based meat fakes.  Why over process these good things?   This is a question I'd ask specifically to the vegans who find the very idea of eating meat nauseating and disgusting.   If you really crave meat badly enough to attempt to fake it... why be a vegan?   Couldn't you eat your proteins closer to their natural state, rather then attempting eating "fakon"  (( fake bacon)  and tofurkey?

Not asking to be rude... as these thing are usually amd with soy and/or mushrooms they are off limits to me.   I'm just curious.


I am not a vegan Luna, but pretty close to it and I'll take a shot at your question about fake meats.  I think that if one could do a survey, you'll find that true vegans don't generaly buy stuff like that.  Most of it is sold to people who are on their way to becoming vegan or dabbling in it here and there or are simply trying to cut down on meat consumption and looking for a way to wean themselves off of it.  Most vegans I know wouldn't touch tofurkey with a 10 foot pole, not necessarily because it's a meat imitation, but because things like that are still highly processed foods, usually with artificial ingredients in them, not conducive to a truly healthy lifestyle.  That's my reasoning anyway, and that of many others I know.

Being allergic to nuts, mushrooms and soy would not stop anyone from being vegan.  Why would it?  It would be akin to being allergic to pork for example.  You've still got chicken, turkey, beef, buffalo, ostrich, moose, deer etc.   There are literally hundreds and thousands of foods to eat and that is just a handful, and none of them is close to being a necessity.  

Our mouths and our bodies may be able to digest meat, but our current lifestyle and generally sedentary lifestyles do not allow us to process the high amounts of saturated animal fat without consequences, like heart disease, high cholesterol etc.   Did you ever see a fat African bushman?  There's a reason why they are lanky and skinny and you don't see fat guys running around the plains and jungles of Africa chasing wild boar.  The energy expenditure necessary to hunt, kill and return the meat home is a lot higher than getting in an SUV and going to the local grocery store and "fighting" a crowd of angry shoppers.   That's how our bodies are designed to process meat, through large expenditures of energy, and the equation is all messed up when we have desk jobs and sedentary lifestyles. 

johnnypenso is right; i consider myself a 'true' vegan and would definitely never eat 'fake' meats - i dont even eat tofu!  and its not because i dont like meat, when i ate it i loved it!  i just dont think its right to eat such highly processed foods, nor do i feel good when i eat them. if i want a 'burger' ill just grill a big portabello mushroom or a few slices of eggplant :)

there are also tons of great recipes for meat 'substitutes' such as 'burgers' based on vegetables and seeds etc, but i pretty much aim to eat food as close to how it comes from nature as possible. at first i would eat a lot of soy yogurt and substitute products, but over time i have learnt what foods i really enjoy and how to lead a healthy vegan lifestyle with 'natural', whole foods. tofurkey is certainly not for me!

To the original poster, don't forget that we're also the only critters around that I'm aware of, that cook our food.  We evolved canines, before to be able to tear through any sort of uncooked meat that we could get too - we have access to all kind of cooking methods, and we don't have to eat the gristly parts of the animal anymore, even cooked.  We had molars to grind down uncooked nuts and berries, leaves and anything else we could chomp down on.

Like the other person said, we're capable of bearing children as soon as we hit puberty, but that doesn't mean all us women should just start churning out the kiddies again.  We have candy bars within reach now, but we shouldn't eat them every day - we have to make healthy or at least viable choices for ourselves, and we now know what we should and shouldn't eat.  We CAN still eat and digest meat - I personally don't like fatty cuts of meat, but we can also do without meat all all just fine today.  We, in america at least, generally eat more fat and protien than we actually need to function - people who do eat meat tend to eat far more than is really healthy.

fluffydragon thats so interesting - i never even thought of that! i know we can eat fish etc raw (like sashimi) but chicken and lots of red meats have to be well cooked - is this because we physically cannot digest them raw, or because of illness from germs associated with our modern way of life?

Original Post by brittypooo:

... another point i also think is strange is that we are (as far as i know?) the only animal to drink the breast milk of other animals!

 We're the animal smart enough to be able to do this.  We're also the only animal smart enough to be able to domesticate other animals to do our work for us.  And the only animal smart enough to domesticate animals to be available to feed us so that we no longer have to hunt for food.  This has allowed us to able to settle in one place and create cities.

Original Post by brittypooo:

fluffydragon thats so interesting - i never even thought of that! i know we can eat fish etc raw (like sashimi) but chicken and lots of red meats have to be well cooked - is this because we physically cannot digest them raw, or because of illness from germs associated with our modern way of life?

Neither.  First, in general, it's a pretty bad idea to eat fish raw.  In the US, almost all sushi fish must be flash-frozen to help kill parasites.  In eating any sushi, it's essential that you have the freshest, healthiest possible fish.

Second, the reason that we need to ensure chicken is well cooked is because of bacteria and parasites that have always been there.  (But note that mass production may well make the animals sicker and more likely to infect us).  We probably figured out early on that people were less likely to get sick or die after eating meat if we cooked the meat first.  It took us much longer to be able to say why.

I'd be hesitant to accept any information about meat consumption and how it's digested in humans that has been spouted on the Internet without proof.  Part of the reason that nutrition seems so complicated is that one very small (less than five people) study will be conducted and will find some sort of correlation between two things.  Before the study ever gets expanded to a scientifically sound study, the media has picked up the correlation, and it becomes the next nutritional panancea or horror.  Witness the rise and fall of vitamin supplements in cancer prevention.

in reference to what we are evolved to eat, i'd be surprised if you could find 'a diet' that all humankind is 'evolved to eat'

i say that because people who are descended from say, Scandinavian people, would have evolved to eat a lot of cold water fish while people descended from the Mediterranean area have evolved to eat a lot of olives (both provide what we call healthy fats, btw)

it's probably safe to say that none of us are (metabolically) evolved to eat the sort of nutritionless junk that passes for food these days

so while it seems to be a simple question, i doubt that it's really that simple - and when you take into account the increased movement of peoples and intermarrying, well, it would be interesting to know what YOUR ancestors actually ate, wouldn't it?  (rather than the idealized generic caveman) 


Original Post by brittypooo:

thanks so much for your responses!  I often also say to people that 'back in the day' when we were 'cavemen' we ate meat only when we could catch it, not once a day as many of my friends do.  another point i also think is strange is that we are (as far as i know?) the only animal to drink the breast milk of other animals!

i am also told, as a vegan, to take B12 supplements, and it seems that if I am having to take supplements to stay healthy I am not 'supposed to be' vegan.  But i do just think that, as you said, i know have the luxury to make the decision to be vegan, mostly in protest against mistreatment of animals but also because i do find it 'healthier', as least for me!

In argument to the whole supplement thing... what about people who are lactose intolerant? I know many people who are and take supplements to make sure they get enough calcium. And what about older individuals... they tend to take supplements to ensure that they get enough calcium and other vitamins so they don't break a hip or something haha I know my grandma takes a lot :). If anything that argument is flawed at best. 

My answer about being vegan is usually only this: if I couldn't justify killing something for myself then I don't think that I should eat it. I have no problem respecting other people's choices if they respect mine; it's not like I go around WELL WHY DO YOU EAT FLESH etc. 

It's really hard to say whether we were "designed" to be carnivores, omnivores or herbivores - the argument is good for both sides.

I'm currently taking an Archaeology class at my university, and if you look up our evolutionary ancestors such as "Lucy" (Australopithecus afarensis) and see their skulls, they were originally designed to be herbivores. They had a very strong, very wide zygomatic arch (jaw bone where the cheeks are), so the muscle that held and controlled the jaw was very strong and thick. They also had large, flat teeth, ground down from chewing on nuts and things. Austalopithecus robustus (which is argued to be paranthropus, meaning not a human ancestor) was one species that evolved from "Lucy", and had such a strong jaw that it could probably chew through a tree with no problems.

The downside to having this extremely strong jaw muscle was that the front part of the brain, where the planning and higher thinking takes place, was not nearly as wide as ours is today. It was constricted by the wide jaw muscles.

So when we started eating squishy foods - grubs, bugs, and meat leftover from carnivorous animals - the extremely strong jaw was no longer needed and became weaker.

Even these herbivore ancestors of ours had canines, so I just don't think having canine teeth is an automatic indication of carnivore traits. ithecus.html

My argument for a long time was that we were designed originally to be herbivores because, unlike other, completely wild animals that don't use tools, we could not catch our meat with our bare hands. We don't have claws or teeth that could kill. Can you seriously imagine trying to take down a deer or gazelle like the cheetahs do, without any tools, just you, running, naked? It would never work.

The early ancestors started developing bipedalism even when they were herbivores - probably so they could carry fruits and berries easier. The bipedalism allowed for more room in the rear part of the brain, which may have started to allow them to think things through a bit more. A few simple lifestyle changes to lighten the skeleton and jaw, and they get the planning process, start making tools, and start eating meat leftover from carnivorous animals.

We were originally scavengers, but worked our way up with more tools.

Some vegetarian arguments I've seen describe that we are not meant to eat as much meat as carnivores, because we don't store as much protein in the body or use it for energy like the carnivores do - our energy comes from carbs. But don't hold me to that - just a thought.

P.S. I'm a vegetarian just because I think our technology has developed enough now where we don't need to eat meat anymore to get smart. =)

Well, I think that humans have evolved to be able to eat meat- but that, particularly in this day and age, that doesn't mean we should.

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