Are Humans Vegetarians?

Work goals. Check. Exercise. Check. Oh, wait, I haven’t yet posted a New Year’s diet article. Well, I’d better rectify that, then. Have you ever noticed how comment threads discussing the scientific way humans are supposed to eat quickly devolve…into science? Also, ad hominem attacks about how stupid and murderous non vegans are. And how stupid vegans are for being little idealistic snits.

Let’s put this into perspective, shall we? One person cites the scientific reasons for humans being omnivores by comparing us to animals; another — carnivores by comparing us to animals; another still — herbivores by comparing us to animals. And they simply don’t seem to get the irony inherent in all of the smug claims. Have you ever stopped to consider that you can’t really compare humans to animals because animals aren’t sitting at their stupid computers arguing over what is healthiest for them to eat? Instead, they are either pets of humans and eating whatever humans feed them, or they are animals in the wild eating whatever they are wired to eat on the base level of instinct. They certainly aren’t humans writing books about animals revolting from human oppression. Although they probably should. But they won’t because they’re animals and not humans. See the difference yet?

Now, if you were to pretend for a moment that humans bore any resemblance to the animal kingdom, and went with instinct as an indicator, I think you’d have to say that humans are omnivorous animals, as humans throughout history have eaten a wide variety from the animal and vegetable kingdom. In fact, good luck on finding a pure vegetarian society; you will only find those in small (usually religious) pockets. As those pockets aren’t offering up crispy bacon and beef ribs torn heartily from bones, they tend to remain very small pockets, indeed (oh, wow, I could go for a plate of tasty ribs right now! I’m feeling so….carniverous).

But I don’t prefer to call humans omnivorously instinctual animals. After all, we are entirely dissimilar to every animal on the planet. Have you ever heard of an animal preserving his food through smoking, salt, sugar, canning, and pickling? No? Neither have I. Have you ever heard of an animal inventing refrigerator units and Tupperware to keep food fresh longer? No? Neither have I. Nor have I heard of animals cooking their food with fire, brick ovens, propane burners, and electric ranges.

So why does anyone think I should care that humans bear some similarities with herbivores or carnivores? I’ve never, for the life of me, seen an herbivorous deer cooking its leaves to break up the cellulose in order that the plant’s minerals become more accessible. But we do that. We cook and we pickle and we dress our foods with vinegar, oil, and spices. We do this so that it tastes good and becomes more digestible to us.

Because of our non-animalistic ways, we’ve also somehow managed to invent computers, where we look up recipes and argue about the healthiest ways to eat/diet/prevent cancer. Some of us even use our invented internet for spouting our religiously dogmatic postures, such as, Humans are vegetarians just like all the other herbivores out there!! No, we are not, or we would be vegetarians. We would graze the fields and not suffer extreme digestive disorders from doing so. And we would, thank God, shut the hell up about it. Instead, we skip the grass, boil our peas, and grill our fish until the flesh falls tastily off the bones. At some point, we even figured out how to bread our food and deep-fry it, which didn’t help us digest it at all. It just happened to be wickedly tasty. What animal has ever done that?! How can you argue with observable reality? Well, okay, you can, but that’s only because you’re a human…and not a cow.

So bon apetit! Have fun with your New Year’s resolutions. I hope you find a delectable diet that gives you great health and even more enjoyment.

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5 comments

  1. I’m wondering if animals WOULD prepare their food like us if they had thumbs and more brain power. I read somewhere that we’re able to use a lot or higher brain functions because we’re bipeds and we have less “sun contact” and so aren’t as resource intense (to keep us cool).

    1. My point is more that we can’t be properly given the same classification as animals (herbivore, carnivores) because we chemically alter our food through processing and cooking. We can be vegetarians because we can soak and cook legumes, for example, when they would otherwise be indigestible protein to us. But the same also goes for meat. Our stomachs don’t have to deal with raw flesh due to cooking, and our non carnivorous teeth can manage cooked meat without too much trouble.

      1. Your comment reminded me of an article I found, and posted about a few months ago. Too lazy to go schlep through my posts to find it, but I thought it was a good bit of evidence against human-end macroevolution. I think evolution is probably a real thing, but humans are too odd to be a product of it.

  2. Excellent points.

    Some animals do, however, prepare their food to a certain degree. Raccoons wash their food, bears let it rot, bees make honey, etc, (though bees and bears and raccoons do not discuss the best methods of doing any of the above that we’ve ever been able to detect–and certainly not on the Internet).

    I suggest people answer the question by looking at the pertinent evidence–human evidence of what people have been shown to do. As you say, there have been precious few all-vegetarian societies, while on the other hand there have been some human societies that got virtually all their calories from eating meat, such as the Inuits and other Arctic inhabitants. But to be able to survive on nothing but meat, they needed kayaks and lances and bone knives and spearheads (as are very commonly found in prehistoric artifacts). While societies that have lived mostly on vegetables needed mortar and pestle and grain-cutting knives and bakeries. Even the Africans I saw gathering wild fruits and avocados had baskets to put them in and used knives to cut them.

    As you say so well, comparing humans to any other creature on Earth in terms of how we eat is pointless. We aren’t like any of them.

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