• Sumo

Much of the criticism that vegetarians receive is that humans are made to eat meat, so why wouldn’t we? Since meat has been a part of our diet for thousands of years, we probably wouldn’t be where we are today in terms of intelligence, physical anatomy, and the overwhelming success our species has experienced.

This type of reasoning fails to take in the bigger picture – there are all sorts of reasons humans are where we are today, and it doesn’t rest on the shoulders of meat consumption.

Why Humans Are Omnivores

Yes, humans can eat meat. And it is true that we are designed to eat meat, on some level. But, humans are built to eat meat on occasion – not regularly.

We are omnivores, and this gives us the flexibility to eat meat when we need to. Before the advent of weapon development (like spears, and bow and arrows) it was nearly impossible for us to hunt prey for their meat. Humans are not fast, don’t have claws, don’t have sharp teeth, and are not natural hunters. If we happened upon a dead animal, we could eat it as a means of surviving. Humans began eating meat as a survival mechanism – not a staple food.

In this same vein, we are not designed to eat over 200 pounds of meat per year – the average American intake. This becomes clear when you consider some of the following physiological data.

What About Chimps? 

Some nay sayers also bring up the fact that chimpanzees eat meat, which are the closest ancestors to humans, sharing about 98.5% of the same DNA. Chimpanzees do eat meat, but it composes a mere 3% of their time spent eating, amounting to 1% of their diet. The large majority of their eating time is spent on fruits.

Strangely, though, chimpanzees eat the majority of their meat in the summer months, when most food is most available and plentiful. One would assume that chimpanzees would eat meat in the wet winter months, when food is more difficult to come by. It may be that chimpanzees hunt in the summer months to gain extra weight for the winter months, when food is less available. At this moment in time, nobody really understands why they act this way.

The evidence remains the same, though: chimpanzees get an almost non-existent amount of calories from meat.

Why Humans Should Eat Very Little, If Any Meat 

Humans are most closely related to herbivores in terms of our physical anatomy. Carnivores have claws – humans do not. Meat eaters do nor sweat, but get rid of heat through their tongue – humans perspire. Carnivores have sharp teeth with no molars – humans have a whole lot of molars. Meat eaters have shorter intestines to quickly pass meat through their body – humans have very long intestines, which are great for plants and grains. Carnivore saliva does not pre-digest foods – humans saliva is a great digestive device.

Again, this is not to say that humans never ate meat, but that they ate it only as a means of survival. We are much better suited for a plant based diet, with occasional meat products (although the latter is not necessary).

Eating Too Much Meat Actually Harms Humans

Studies on vegetarianism continually show and support that vegetarians have longer life spans. They also have lower incidence rate of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and have healthier digestive systems. This is largely accredited to the reduced amount of fat and cholesterol from abstaining from meat, and replacing these calories with whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits.

If You Eat Meat, Eat It Rarely 

Clearly, humans can eat meat on occasion without compromising their health, and it may even benefit their health. For this reason, a growing number of people are embracing the flexitarian diet – a diet in which people simply eat less meat, rather than treat it as a staple. It is only a “diet” in as much as it is compared to the traditional American diet, which is meat centric.

I, personally, am a vegetarian – it just makes my life easier to manage. My health has benefited as a result, and the question of eating meat is moot. I also feel a little more connected to my ancestors, who were eating a largely plant based diet.