To eat or not to eat? Meat, that is.
Perhaps one of the most divisive questions on this planet; and one that can rattle the chains of even the most placid amongst us. Mahatma Gandhi himself passionately pronounced: "Man was not born a carnivorous animal, but born to live on fruits and herbs that the Earth grows”. I’m sure you, reader, have at some point been on the receiving end of a white-flag waving PETA campaign or had your moral compass bashed by an over-zealous vegan. The ethical implication of eating meat is a topic that can be argued in to infinity and, at the end of the day, boils down to personal choice. In fact, Hitler was a vegetarian and the Dalai Lama eats veal. So go figure.
But let us put aside for a moment the topic of animal welfare. Is there scientific evidence against the idea of humans eating other animals? For most of us the common belief is that we are carnivorous creatures by design; we have dominated the top of the food chain since we were cavemen and we possess canines just like other carnivores in the wild. But do we really share traits with the established carnivores of the wild? Consider this: the lion will kill and eat its meat raw. It tears open the stomach of its prey and devours the internal organs, lapping at the pooled blood with relish and ripping flesh from the carcass with its teeth. He will eat the brains, eyes, fur and anus of his dinner. Are we ‘natural meat eaters’ equipped to perform the same ritual at mealtimes? Without the manmade equipment we employ to make our meat palatable (hunting equipment, cookers and condiments) could we mimic, or even stomach the diet of the truly carnivorous species?
Read on to uncover 5 arguments as to why human psychology and physiology render us ill-equipped as true carnivores.
1. The Canine theory:
Perhaps the most oft rolled out argument of steak lovers are the human’s possession of canine teeth. Just like Simba the lion. Humans do indeed have canines but in the shadow of the inches long, curving, razor sharp fangs of the tiger or the bear they are pretty pathetic. In comparison the human canine is short and blunted, baring more resemblance to those of the herbivorous primates. Our teeth in general are benign in their design; straighter, flatter and blunter than a carnivore’s with a smaller mouth opening; conveniently sized and shaped for biting into fruits, nuts and vegetables. If you are still convinced you possess the canine power of a lion visit your local pet shop and try having a crack at a rawhide dog bone with those mighty jaws of yours. Just don’t expect me to the foot the dentist bill.
2. A Story About Human Psychology:
Allow me to paint you a picture: You, the ‘natural’ meat eater, are taking a casual stroll through the park. From the bushes a plump rabbit jumps, it streaks across your path and bounds ahead into the distance. Instantly, your primal hunting instinct jumps in to play. Your senses heighten and your heartrate accelerates as your mouth involuntarily begins to salivate. Within seconds, you have caught the rabbit with your bare hands and proceed to tear through its fur and skin, veins and tendons, gulping chunks of its raw flesh whole with ravenous glee. Sound familiar? The reason it doesn’t is that humans possess zero carnivorous instincts. We simply do not have the same psychological or physiological responses to a rabbit as a fox or a wolf does. A good analogy portraying this is the one with the baby, the apple and the kitten. Leave all three alone in the crib. If the baby eats the kitten and plays with the apple please give me a call.
3. Our Intestines Suck at Digesting Meat:
Perhaps among the most compelling of the arguments against human consumption of meat is that our bodies are genuinely ill-equipped to digest it. Meat begins to putrefy within 4 hours of consumption and therefore requires a short digestive passage so that the rotting flesh, cholesterol and saturated fats can be eliminated quickly. Carnivores possess relatively short intestinal tracts, measuring 3 times their body length, to allow for such speedy digestion. This is why true carnivores can never get clogged arteries as the trans and saturated fats are passed through their digestion so efficiently. By comparison, humans (like all herbivorous species) have a very long intestinal tract; measuring 12 times the length of their body and perfectly designed to deal with the complex nature of pant digestion. A steak can take up to 3 days to leave the human intestine, meaning it has to rot in your system as part of the digestion process. Ever visited the toilet after a meat muncher and caught a whiff? Enjoy your supper folks.
4. Our tongues tell the true story:
The mark of a true carnivore is in its tongue. Take the tongue of a cat, for example, and it will have the characteristics of a tongue designed for a meat diet. The first sign is their taste buds, which have abandoned sensitivity to sweet tasting carbohydrates (as this is not what the animal thrives on.) Also, their saliva is of acidic pH and contains no enzymes to pre-digest grains and fruit. Finally, the tongue is used to drink water by lapping it up. The human tongue shares no characteristics with the meat eater and mirrors perfectly the tongue of other herbivorous species. Our glucose sensitive taste buds are located right at the tip of our tongue, making it the first point of contact for pleasurable sweet tasting carbohydrates in the form of fruits and vegetables. We have an alkaline pH in our saliva which also contains digestive enzymes specifically used to break down plant foods and we consume water using a sucking motion.
5. The Human Appendix: Not So Useless After all:
The appendix has long been considered by scientists to be a ‘vestigial organ’; meaning it was once functional in our evolutionary past but no longer carries any obvious purpose. Many believe the existence of the appendix points towards the human’s predisposition towards a vegetarian diet. The theory being that the appendix was, like the cow’s, a ‘second stomach’ whose function was to process all the vegetation that we ate. When we began introducing large amounts of meat into our diet the services of said appendix were no longer required and it was thus relegated to its current sad position of utter pointlessness.