I saw this comment at one of the blogs, which prompted me to write this article. According to this commenter:
Humans are originally 100% vegetarian (mainly fruit & leaf eating) being Primates. They are not carnivorous being unable to kill without weapons and eat raw meat, as natural carnivores such as lions, tigers, crocodiles etc do. Only after humans developed a large brain did they invent weapons to kill and fire to cook meat. No natural carnivore need weapons to hunt nor fire to cook meat as they have claws, large canines, speed and strength to kill their own food (without aid of weapons) as well as the digestive system to eat raw meat (without cooking it).
It’s interesting because the author puts forth a hypothesis which is highly debatable. Are humans herbivorous, carnivorous or omnivorous?
First, to say humans are ‘originally 100% vegetarian’ is patently wrong, because there is no valid case to suggest this. Also, to say humans are completely meat eaters is also wrong, because there is no strong case for this either. Most studies suggest we are omnivorous. We tend to eat what is available. Higher order animals such as mammals may or may not be exclusive meat-eaters. Carnivores are those who meat only. Herbivores are those who eat plants only. However, we have different kinds, like mostly fruit eaters (frugivores), and those who eat seeds (gramnivores), and those who eat insects (insectivores), etc. We are not strictly herbivores nor are we strictly carnivores. And interestingly, we tend to be all the above making us omnivores.
Are we strictly vegetarian?
We can eat fruits, and only certain leaves, but cannot eat grass (like herbivores do). Our intestine is not designed to eat grass and digest it. Try doing that and you will be dead. Any human, who is left alone in a jungle, desert, snow-capped mountains, or grasslands, will survive through meat-eating, but not through vegetarian food. Look at any herbivore’s teeth and look at human’s teeth. We have remnants of canines which none of the herbivore’s have.
Almost all plant-eating animals have fermenting vats where the food is stored for a while where bacteria works on it. Animals like cows and buffaloes ruminate. Humans have no such mechanism to suggest we are strictly vegetarian.
What are we?
Are we meat-eaters then? Most vegetarians tend to dismiss this because they try to find similarities between a hard-core game hunting carnivore like a lion or a cheetah to show how we don’t have the same capabilities. It’s a wrong comparison. There are many carnivores in nature who do not necessarily hunt the way lions or cheetahs hunt. Killing rats, squirrels, rabbits, hares, and other small animals does not require the same skill as that of a lion hunting a gazelle. A man, even now, can kill a squirrel, dry the meat and digest it.
Most of the settlements (prior to agriculture) are also near water sources- and tend to suggest that man was eating fish, toads, and other water borne animals, and they were also a major source of our protein. All settlements in cold climates relied heavily on eating meat.
Our closest relatives are apes from who we departed six to seven million years ago. That’s when we moved from the tree tops to the grasslands. What was human eating after he moved to the grasslands? Most evolutionists tend to agree that humans were omnivorous, that while being fruit and leaf eaters, humans relied heavily on small game hunting.
Our food patterns changed heavily once agriculture and domestication started (around 12,000 years ago). That’s when we started to grow grain and also rear animals for consumption (goat, sheep, hen, etc). Fishing was always another source of food. Some populations were primarily based on fish. If we look at the present human population, it is heavily meat eating (and it is not based on our ability to cook, but our ability to grow animals as an industry). Except for few cultures or nations such as
, the world is primarily meat eating. India
[In the above discussion, I have not resorted to ethical dilemmas, religion or human morality].
Links: Jared Diamond [Added in 2013],