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Skull of an Opportunistic Omnivore (Human)I recently received a pair of comments on this site recently from David Cantor, founder and director of Responsible Policies for Animals.  Mr. Cantor’s organization is one dedicated to the concept of abolitionist animal-rights, work to “establish basic constitutional & legal rights of all nonhuman animals not to be used or have their ecosystems disrupted by human” as he states on the organization’s website.  As we both subscribe to significantly different philosophies when it comes to animals and their use and level of involvement in our lives, it was lovely to be able to discuss some of these ideas in a civil fashion.  This is an experience I do not frequently have those with whom I differ on these issues, and when I appreciated immensely.

It will not come to much surprise anybody who reads this site on a regular basis that I do not subscribe to the philosophy of animal rights. It will also not come as any surprise that I do not have any fundamental argument with an individual’s choice to minimize or even strive to eliminate the use of animals in their life.  It is not however, my choice.

I do have problems with the forcing of this philosophical position on those who do not necessarily subscribe to that position.  Hence, my commentary on issues related to animal legislation discussions of both logical extensions of cause and effect on those matters.  I also have problems with the use of misinformation in the attempts to sway individuals on these positions. Sometimes this is due to poor Skull of an Obligate Carnivore (Feline)statistics. Sometimes this is due to poor science. I often have difficulty judging whether this is purposeful or not, especially in the case of science.

There was one comment by David Cantor, which is certainly one I’ve heard before usually uttered by individuals subscribing to vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. It is the position that humans are naturally herbivores. I’ve always wondered where this position comes from, especially since it is not based on basic study of biology or comparative anatomy.

When one examines human physiology, there are a number of characteristics that stand out in direct opposition to this position.

  1. Our eyes, the “windows to our souls”, which are forward facing as opposed to placed on the sides of the skull.  Typically herbivores, although there are always exceptions, have eyes positioned to the sides of the skull to facilitate rearward view of approaching predators.
  2. Our teeth, which display neither the pronounced canines of the obligate carnivore, nor the more expensive molar development of the herbivore
  3. Our intestinal tract, which is adapted to cope with both animal-based and plant-based nutritional sources

The combination of these characteristics are typical not of the herbivore, but of the opportunistic omnivore. The characteristic we share in common with several animals.  As opportunistic omnivores, we can survive on either a plant-based or animal protein-based diet but we do not tend to thrive on either in isolation.  This is demonstrated by the requirements for B12 supplementation for those who subscribe to a vegan diet.  This is similarly demonstrated by the phenomena known as ‘rabbit starvation’, which occurs in individuals who subscribe primarily to a low fat, close to zero carbohydrate animal protein diet.

Skull of a Herbivore (Equine)We do not enjoy meat, because we are bloodthirsty or cruel or heartless. We enjoy meat because we have evolved to do so, because there are key nutrients present in animal-based proteins that are most bioavailable to us from this source. It’s only natural.

Anyone who wishes to subscribe to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is welcome to do so. However, to position the philosophical ideas as biological fact is to risk the health of those who believe you.

Copyright 2009 by Erica Saunders
All rights reserved

5 Responses to “Human Beings, We’re Such Opportunists”

  1. Alexismydog says:

    Your information is quite selective.

    In fact, our intestinal tracts are not designed to process out the poisonous uric acid found in the carcassses of dead animals. The intestinal tracts of wolves for example are much longer. Even so, the domesticated counterparts of carnivores and omnivores have much longer life expectancies than thier wild counterparts (even on the cereal and slaugterhouse refuse based name brand pet foods we feed them). In fact, the world's oldest living dog is a 27 year old vegan sheltie.

    The fact that millions of vegans and vegetarians are thriving on their diets (and not sucombing to "rabbit starvation", should be proof enough). Many former omnivores have in fact, switched to plant based diet for health reasons such as cancer and heart disease. My own spouse of 20 years and our teenage children (who were always considered "big for their age" and have excelled in school as well as myself, are vegetarians and now mostly vegan. My three cats and 2 dogs have been vegetarian for the last 4 years and have never been healthier (after becoming sick on name brand commercial dog foods). The pet industry has been adding synthetic taurine (for cats) to pet foods since the 1930's.

    All animals go into a state of shock, anger and fear at slaughter, where they release uric acid throughout their system and which eventually poisons the system of the consumer. Our closest relatives are apes, who derive their nutrition from plant sources. Meat is simply reprocessed herbs, grasses and veggies. Look at the muscular and healthy bodies of the chimp or gorilla or the horse, as compared to our own disease ridden and fatty ones.

    There are of course many studies on this subject. However, to treat the meat industry and dairy industries, with its massive government subsidies, political contributions and power and endless advertising budgets like some scrappy little minority, is really agenda pushing.

    • Hello,
      A few comments in response to your posts.
      a) Despite your protests on Uric acid release and its eventual poisoning of the consumer, I have not seen any credible scientific evidence that demonstrates this.
      b) the term ‘rabbit starvation’ does not refer to those eating a ‘like a rabbit’ on a vegetarian/vegan diet, it refers to the body going into a catabolic state in the face of a diet high in protien but nearly devoid of fat or of carbohydrate sources. (ex. hunter-gatherers living off of animals such as rabbits in the winter which did not have much in the way of body fat on the carcass)
      c) Your comment on meat being “simply reprocessed herbs, grasses and veggies” is patently disproven by the well-documented fact that sufficient B12 in the diet (a critical nutrient) is difficult to manage for a vegetarian and nigh impossible in a truly vegan diet without extra supplementation sources. B12 deficiency can result in such issues as brain shrinkage through tissue deterioration, clumsiness & coordination problems, cognitive difficulties affecting a range of processes including critical thinking, and even dementia
      d) Chimps are well documented to eat meat in the wild, when they can get ahold of it.
      e) I’m not sure where the focus on milk comes from as human adaptation to milk consumption varies on a geographic scale. Some of us are genetically adapted to consume milk, some are not.

      You have thrown a lot of items up there, but a great deal is overstating the research conclusion or making unsupported leaps. Credible scientific research do not make statements and leaps of this type, but junk science does it ALL the time.

      I welcome you to your choice of lifestyle, it is your choice and does not require fear-mongering or junk science to justify it. Thank you for taking the time to contribute to http://AR-HR.com
      Erica Saunders
      AR-HR Founder

  2. Alexismydog says:

    The China Study culminated a 20-year partnership of Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine. A comprehensive survey of diseases and lifestyle factors in rural China and Taiwan; it is widely thought to be the most comprehensive study on nutrition and related disease to date. The project produced over 8000 statistically significant associations between diet and disease. The findings showed that those who consumed the most animal-based foods suffered the most chronic diseases; whereas those who consumed the most plant based diets tended to avoid these diseases and were the healthiest. Chronic diseases included: heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Also studied were the effects of diet in reducing or reversing the risks of chronic disease. The study also examines the source of nutritional confusion produced by powerful lobbies, government entities and irresponsible scientists. http://www.thechinastudy.com/about.html According to Dr. T. Colin Campbell of Cornell, ''we're basically a vegetarian species, should be eating a wide variety of plant foods and minimizing animal foods.'', http://www.vegsource.com/articles2/campbell_brody… On the question of osteoporosis, Dr. Campbell replied: ''The Chinese study found an average daily calcium intake of 544 mg. (almost none from animal products) and there was basically no osteoporosis in China.'' In the US there is an average calcium intake of 1,143 mg per day (mostly from dairy) and osteoporosis is a major health issue.

    Much of the rationale for the belief in milk as an ''ideal food'' was based on turn of the 20th century research done on rats. Calves have fours stomachs and double their body weight in 47 days as opposed to the 180 days it takes for a human baby to double it's weight. Cows' milk is also 15% protein (as opposed to the 5% protein content of mother's breast milk). Much of the rationale for the belief in milk as an ''ideal food'' was based on turn of the 20th century research done on rats. However, the mother's milk of rats is 49% protein and baby rats double their weight in four days. Yet, another example of erroneous data derived from animal testing. http://www.purewatergazette.net/milksucks.htm

  3. Alexismydog says:

    The focus of published reports on dairy consumption are infections, colic, intestinal bleeding, anemia, allergies and more serious issues of diabetes and viral infections of bovine leukemia, an AIDS like virus. Common children's dairy consumption related issues include ear infections, tonsil infections, bed wetting and asthma. In adults, issues include heart disease, arthritis, respiratory distress, osteoporosis, leukemia, lymphoma and cancer. Overall health issues include milk contamination by pus cells and chemicals such as pesticides. Robert M. Kradjian, MD http://www.notmilk.com/kradjian.html Both organic and non-organic milk contains 59 active hormones as well fat, cholesterol and various allergens. Most cows' milk also contains toxic chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides and dioxins as well as many as 52 powerful antibiotics; blood, pus, feces, bacteria and viruses. Both organic and non-organic milk contain fat, cholesteral and various allergens as well as 59 active hormones including the powerful growth hormone ''Growth Factor One'' (IGF-1), which is considered to be a ''fuel cell'' for cancer growth. IGF-1 has been identified in the rapid growth cancer. http://www.rense.com/general26/milk.htm It has been positively documented and affirmed that dairy consumption leads to clogged arteries, heart attacks and strokes and exposure to contaminants. E. Koop http://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/NN/B/C/Q/G/ "Surgeon General's Report on Nutrition and Health", 88-50210, National Library of Medicine, 1988, Melvyn R. Werbach ''Nutritional Influences on Illness: A Sourcebook of Clinical Research,'' December 1990, ISBN 087983531 However, research has demonstrated a ''calcium wash'' or a loss of calcium and other critical minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and iron from the blood stream as a direct result of dairy consumption starting at 24 ounces per day. "Report of the Task Force on the Assessment of the Scientific Evidence Relating to Infant-Feeding Practices and Infant Health." Pediatrics, 74:579; 1984. Low animal protein diets create a positive calcium balance, whereas high animal protein diets create a negative balance resulting in bone density loss. While many have turned to low fat dairy products, these products contain higher concentrations of protein. Low fat and particularly non-fat dairy products have actually been shown to increase osteoporosis, kidney problems and some cancers. Mark J. Occhipinti, MS, PhD http://www.afpafitness.com/articles/articles-and-

    Of the 125 medical schools in the U.S., only 30 require their students to take a course in nutrition. The average amount of hours spent on nutrition education for the average U.S. physician during four years of school is 2.5 hours. Physicians are therefore ill equipped to give nutritional advice and/or implement programs; even though most modern illnesses are life style related. Heart attacks are the most common cause of death in the U.S and arguably, the most preventable. The male consumer of meat in the U.S. has a 50% risk of a heart attack in his life time as opposed to 15% for the male non-meat eater. Reducing intake of animal products greatly reduces this risk and eliminating animal products reduces this risk by 90%. http://www.hinduismtoday.com/archives/1993/07/199

  4. Tom says:

    We all know how other animals use animals. Non-human animals make friends with whoever they want, they fight whoever threatens or angers them, and they feast on whatever they can eat. National Geographic has a piece going on right now about how chimpanzees actually conduct campaigns to annihilate neighboring tribes (Jane Goodall recently claimed that chimpanzees do not make war. Considering the fact that she was until recently the president of an anti-vivisection society, you can guess what audience that was for.)

    There are so many ways that it is wrong to dictate that humans do not disrupt ecosystems or use other animals. One way is that we have at least the rights that other animals have. Every animal has an effect on the ecosystem. That's just reality. There is no special way that humans are worse than other animals and while we can be better than other animals when we are at our best, the AR way is worse than useless for this purpose.

    We've seen the environmentalists and the animal rights people revise science, a lot. There is simply too much evidence against a vegan diet out there. If you tell them that, they will of course hammer on you with their negative emotion and how we don't have the right to live at the expense of other animals, so the evidence against a vegan diet doesn't matter, we must go vegan even if it kills us. If you can find anyone who has not cheated for years on a vegan diet, they are probably dead or nearly dead.

    I'm not going to give them the time of day to argue with them anymore. I don't respect animal rights groups for their passion for the animals, because they push for mass sterilization and the destruction of human-owned animals which in many cases are most of a species and are doing quite well under human care. There are also the lying and the violence. The attitudes expressed by Mr. Cantor are that humanity must cease to exist in any meaningful way. Agriculture does not exist that does not "disrupt ecosystems", it never can, it never will. Anything that humans would be allowed under such regimes would be by buying indulgences from whoever. That "whoever" will be the lowest form of live that has ever existed, the worst threat to humanity, and should not be allowed to have power.

    Animals are generally considered to have an absolute right to do what they do, and that applies to humanity too. We are doing what we were created to do and we're already doing it Nature's way. We don't understand all of the risks of failing to use animals or failing to change local ecosystems, but there are risks to humans and animals. Lack of fire management allows massive destruction of animal habitats, for one thing. The use of the buffalo has made their numbers strong again. The failure to eat horses is resulting in mass starvation and hoarding of the animals on government installations. Humans do a lot of good in this world. We're entitled to the meat.

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