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 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.
- 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.
- Our teeth, which display neither the pronounced canines of the obligate carnivore, nor the more expensive molar development of the herbivore
- 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.
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
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