A Look at Human Anatomy and Evolution in Regard to Diet
A common argument between meat eaters and non-meat eaters is whether or not the human body is anatomically engineered for the consumption of meat. Despite being on a plant-based diet myself, I will do my best to put my biases aside and explore both sides of this particular debate.
In Nature there are ways to determine the dietary classification of animals other than just looking at what food they eat. We can also tell if an animal is a herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore based on its anatomy. To begin we will take a look at the argument stating that humans are herbivores.
Chopping and Grinding Jaws
Herbivores have a jaw capable of both chopping (up and down) motion and grinding (side to side) motion. Carnivores have a jaw only capable of the chopping motion. Perhaps the grinding motion allows herbivores to chew their food more thoroughly to prepare it for a digestives system that is less durable than that of a carnivore. Humans of course are capable of this same grinding motion; therefore, we cannot be classified biologically as carnivores.
Short Intestinal Tract
Herbivores have a much longer intestinal tract than carnivores do. When raw meat is left out in the sun for extended periods of time it becomes putrefied and unhealthy bacteria begin to contaminate the meat. This same putrefaction of meat can happen inside the body of an animal as well because of the moisture content and high temperature of the stomach and intestines. Carnivores’ bodies evolved to have a much shorter intestinal tract in order to fully digest meat before putrefaction can take place. Herbivores have a very long intestinal tract that would be unable to digest meat in time and could potentially subject the animal to illness. Humans also have this long intestinal tract which indicates again that perhaps the human body is not meant to consume meat.
No Claws or Very Sharp Teeth
Here’s a simple one. Would you be able to hunt, kill, and eat an animal without using a weapon or any cooking or dining supplies and utensils? Probably not. And if you did, in some way you would likely suffer physically and psychologically in the following weeks. Humans do not have claws or long sharp teeth designed for tearing other creatures’ limb from limb. We only see this happen in zombie movies.
A number of these scientific arguments stating that humans are herbivores are lined out in the book Inner Engineering by Sadhguru.
These arguments are also backed by this PETA article.
Or are we Omnivores?
Then of course on the other side there is the argument that the human mind in combination with the human body is what enables humans to eat meat and that eating meat actually helped us evolve into the intelligent beings that we are today.
Humans Can Run Long Distances
Humans are definitely not the fastest species on the planet, but we are one of the top species when it comes to distance running. This allowed people to run in packs and chase down animals that were very fast but has weak endurance. In this regard it is possible that humans evolved to run long distances for the purpose of hunting and consuming meat.
This point is backed by this NYTimes article.
Meat Provided Minerals and Nutrients that Helped us Develop High Functioning Brains
Our ancestors who live in hot dry environments often had to result to eating animals because of the lack of fertile soil and vegetation in those areas. Many argue that this was how humans began developing our high functioning brains that helped us build modern civilizations. In addition to its nutritional value, meat could be eaten in small amounts and still provide adequate energy for daily tasks. This allowed early humans to have more time and more energy to improve themselves and their communities.
These ideas about meat, the brain and human evolution come from this article written by a professor at Berkeley. Check out that article here.
Both sides make very good arguments. However, I would like to conclude by bringing our attention to the present. Even though it is likely that the consumption of meat was necessary for the advancement of our early human ancestors, perhaps today the only way that we can continue to evolve for the better is to transition to a plant-based diet. I say this because we are facing a huge environmental crisis and there is undoubtedly a diabetes and heart disease epidemic. This epidemic is taking place partly because of the mass consumption of meat and dairy products. With modern knowledge of nutrition and agriculture, the human species could not only survive on a plant-based diet, I believe they would thrive on one.