Are humans omnivores or herbivores?

Discussion in 'The Science Forum' started by Bugsy, Oct 14, 2009.

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  1. Interestingly, when I posted a thread on the weird and wonderful stuff folks around the world eat, I mentioned in passing that I happened to be a vegan. This prompted a few comments, so I thought it'd be interesting to dedicate a thread to the subject.

    First off, I initially refused to eat meat (along with my twin sister) at the age of seven when our Da slaughtered one of our rabbits for the family pot. I then became a Buddhist and vegan at the age of 16. So all in all, I've been a vegetarian/vegan for about 54 years. In that time, I've heard all manner of arguments for and against, and although I'm not evangelical about it, there are occasions when I'm prompted to talk about it.

    On the thread that triggered this one, there were one or two of the usual arguments such as this one from Murphy_Slaw:
    The tusks that elephants sport are nothing more that enlarged canine teeth, but elephants are herbivores. Gorillas (as our close relations) also have very large canine teeth, but they're also herbivores.

    Another one is this, offered by Ottar:

    We’ve already considered the teeth, so let’s progress to the digestive system. Carnivores have very short digestive systems. The intestines of a lion or tiger are about ten feet long. On the other hand, herbivores have much longer intestines to get as much as possible out of the ingested food. The intestines of a typical human are something like 35 feet long.

    Next question.

  2. Just a thought, but how about the lack of protein from a lack of meat in the diet, excluding things like dietary supplements, which are a relatively new invention, is actually against evolutionary principles.

    I.E, lack of protein means that the average vegetarian will be weaker than the average meat eater, and therefore more likely to be killed in any form of dispute, and therefore not able to carry on the genealogical line.

    Its just a thought, but must be worth considering!

    This was inspired by an article today that I read that theorised that compassion and care for others is an emotion that is derived purely from Nurture, not Nature, and putting one in harms way for other, possible weaker individuals is likely to get one hurt or killed and damage the ability for one to carry on the line, whilst allowing those who are weaker to survive and not make the race stronger overall.

    Fuck me, a sensible post from me. What is the world coming to!?
  3. Whats the point no less animals will be slaughtered.
  4. No poll Bugsy?
  5. proteins and special oils vitamins and minerals which are unavailable from non meat sources or found in such minute/in efficient quantities. that give us brains and stuff innit.

    Essential for individual and species development

    Most people who go out into the wilds to "forage" and eat nuts and roots and other shuzzer alone loose crashing amount of weight very quickly

    Meat eaters are cleverererer
  6. Interesting subject Mr Bugs.

    Personally, I'm a 'carnivore' by choice. with bit of ruffage thrown in by fast food places and German bread.

    I do believe, that the arguements between whether humans are omnivores, herbivores or carnivores, is complicated by our need to cook and prepare our food. Another interesting trivia, the Chimpanzee, who is also a close relative, is a an omnivore and actually goes hunting other primates for food.

    As 'Man' has evolved and our dependency on food, exactly as Mother nature provides it wains, I feel that it will be a question of biological history and not 'what we are now'.

    what I want to know is, why is the smell of bacon frying so damned mouth watering to all?
  7. I'd suggest that we have evolved to be able to consume both hence the teeth and digestion system. By being able to succesfully live of both we are also able to live of one or the other (though i'd guess a fruit and veg only diet would be more healthy than a pure meat one) but the ideal for a human is probs somewhere between, abit of meat and a little bit more fruit and veg.

    The idea that diet somehow makes someone left wing like someone earlier said is abit retarded. As the saying goes you are what you eat, so Stanley1975 must be eating a thick c*nt everyday.
    • Like Like x 1
  8. [My bold in your post, Praetorian] There's a school of thought that suitable and sufficient protein can be extracted from just about any diet. This is borne out by gorillas, which are about three times the size of the average human being, but THIRTY times as strong. A gorilla could spin you across the road like a fückin' frisbee. Also to be considered is the fact that elephants, although herbivores, are among the strongest animals on the planet, easily lifting tree-trunks weighing a couple of tons on their tusks.

  9. Another point, is the time that herbivores spend in grazing. They spend an enormous amount of time purely eating, whereas carnivores and herbivores (less chavs), spend only a small percentage in comparison.
  10. I would say we are omnivores by design as that is natures way of covering all its bases.

    Yes,you can eat and live as a vegan.

    yes,you can eat on a mostly meat diet.( fish and all the tasty stuff )

    yes,you can live on any mixture.

    Makes us adaptable as a species and also not locked geographically.....good design I reckon.

    I would say I very heavily lean towards a meat dominated diet...I love the stuff,In fact I would go as far to honestly say If I have a meal that does not contain meat...I actually feel completely unsatisfied and even a little ill.

    Bacon of the Gods,closely followed by fresh from the oven crackling.
  11. There are two main reasons that (western) people become vegetarian. The first is supposed health benefits, which are demonstrably false.
    The second is being morally against the killing of animals for food. I'm afraid just as many, often more, animals are killed in the production of food crops as meat. Forest clearance, soil cultivation, pest control, harvesting, etc., all result in lots of dead critters. Some of the largest environmental concerns in the world at the moment are in regard to the production of some typically vegetarian crops. If you eat soya, you've killed a primate or ten.

    Elephant tusks are incisors, not canines. Elephants don't have canines.
    Gorillas supplement their diets with insects, by the way, so aren't purely herbivorous.
    Chimpanzees are our closest relations and are very much omnivorous.

    Which is great, but we aren't carnivorous, we're omnivorous, we won't have the same digestive system as an obligate carnivore, just as we don't have the same digestive system as an obligate herbivore.

    Not necessarily. Arctic tribal groups (Inuit, Evenki, etc.) live on almost purely meat diets, but are among the healthiest people on the planet.

    Such animals are much better at processing fibre than we are. We are not particularly good at processing fibre: we cannot process cellulose at all, which is where a lot of herbivores get most of their protein from. They also spend most of their time eating, we don't. Even if we wanted to, we're not able. A horse, for instance, spends about 18 hours a day eating.

    The only reason you manage to survive as a vegan is because of the existence of supermarkets. Evolution hasn't caught up with supermarkets just yet. What do you think you would eat if you had to forage for food?
    Humans eat whatever is available, that is why we are so successful and have managed to colonise the globe.
  12. Well ottar,

    hats off to you, can't argue with a post like that!
  13. Bugsy.You won't eat them,but you don't mind if rabbits warm you up at night?
  14. Oh, but you can! Viz:

    The first point has to do with why folks become vegetarians/vegans.
    OK, Ottar, you say that the supposed health benefits are demonstrably false, but you conveniently forgot to demonstrate why. The human body is truly a miracle and can cope with meat for decades before the damage sets in. We were never designed to digest meat in the amounts that are considered normal. The digestive juices of carnivores will burn a hole through a plank of wood, those of humans won't. In addition, there's a reason why carnivores have such short digestive tracts and why our much longer ones aren't suitable for digesting meat.

    Some of the largest environmental concerns have nothing to do with edible crop production and everything to do with cutting back forest to provide grazing land for cattle. It’s the main reason why the Amazon forest is disappearing at such an alarming rate.

    In continuation of that theme, here are a few figures that everybody can look up for themselves: it takes 12 pounds of cereals and 226 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat. That in itself is insane enough, but when you add in the colossal amounts of energy wasted in the further processing (transport, slaughter, cooling etc), then it becomes surreal.

    Most folks become vegetarians/vegans because it’s the most reasonable and sustainable alternative to the incredible wastage incurred by the meat industry. If we were ALL vegetarians, we’d have more than enough nosh for everybody.

    The second point is about canine teeth.
    Yes, elephants’ tusks are incisors and not canines. However, other animals’ tusks are canines. And yes also that gorillas supplement their diet with insects. Actually that’s about 0.1% of the typical male gorilla diet of around 75 pounds of foliage, bark etc per day. Chimpanzees are mostly herbivorous and only opportunistic carnivores.

    The third point was about our digestive system.
    Now this is an interesting one. A lion/tiger/dog/cat is most obviously a carnivore. A cow/horse/sheep is instantly recognisable as a herbivore. No two ways about it. But then along come human beings with a digestive tract remarkably similar to that of herbivores and suddenly the hitherto clear-cut difference becomes a little blurred. Carnivores have no appendix, while herbivores do. Carnivores (all of them) can only move their jaws up and down, while herbivores (again, all of them) can also move theirs from side to side. You believe that we’re omnivores; I believe that we’re herbivores. So it’s really a question of belief. But while you’re doing your best to convince me that I’m wrong, I don’t give a shite. You see, if you eat a varied but purely meat-based diet, you’ll die, but if you eat a varied but purely veggie-based diet, you won’t. Simple as.

    The fourth point is about a vegetarian diet being healthier than a meat an’ veg diet.
  15. I think we are genuinely omnivores – true herbivores like cattle aren’t able to digest meat properly and true carnivores like cats aren’t able to digest vegetation. We can do both, so QED as far as I’m concerned.

    But that’s not the same as saying we should eat as much meat as we currently do. True, we’ve evolved to be omnivores - however we also evolved to be small, slow, virtually unarmed, completely unarmoured and above all extremely tasty omnivores. The idea that we could have stood our ground over a kill or carrion against a genuine carnivore or even most of the competitor scavengers doesn’t hold up when you look at how well-equipped for killing they were compared to our ancestors. By the time we evolved the advanced brains and tool-use to make up for our lack of size and strength, our dietary patterns had long-since been fixed.

    If you think about it, we actually evolved to get most of our protein intake from grubs and larvae, insects, nuts and seeds, and pretty much anything else that was small and couldn’t run away. Meat was only ever a small portion.