I’m going to estimate that at least a slim majority of vegans believe humans are omnivores. Obviously that doesn’t mean they think that humans must eat animal products along with plants. Just because humans can eat meat doesn’t mean they should. Carnivores have no choice — they have to be blood-thirsty, evil bastards to survive. Omnivores on the other hand can get away with acting like herbivores because our bodies make due with whatever we toss in ‘em.
There’s a flaw in this logic, though. If the omnivorous nature of humans allows us to be pure vegetarians without a hitch, then humans could exploit that flexibility in the other direction and just as easily be pure carnivores. Yet almost no vegans believe that a human can be carnivorous healthfully.
Coming to the rescue are vegans who argue that humans are in fact herbivores. According to this assertion, vegans aren’t taking advantage of the plasticity of human dietary needs; rather, they’re observing the true and natural human diet. This vegan subset feels it’s a better bet to frame veganism as a physiological requirement. If you allow meat eaters the choice of whether or not to keep eating meat, most of them will choose incorrectly. It’s more effective to argue that not only should we not eat animal products, we cannot.
To make their points, “humans are herbivores” vegans compose charts comparing human traits to the characteristics of established carnivores and herbivores (omnivorism is dismissed as a mildly modified carnivorism in such charts). These charts always conclude that humans are obviously herbivores.
GoVeg links to a supporting article by John Robbins. Robbins gave up the Baskin Robbins fortune to advocate veganism, so you better believe he’s going to take the hard line approach. He points out how difficult it would be for a human to tackle a deer and bite its head off. Then he quotes nutrition author Harvey Diamond as saying, “You put a baby in a crib with an apple and a rabbit. If it eats the rabbit and plays with the apple, I’ll buy you a new car.” Incidentally, Harvey Diamond later repudiated vegetarianism.
Also referenced on the GoVeg.com page is Dr. William C. Roberts, M.D., editor of the American Journal of Cardiology:
[A]lthough we think we are one and we act as if we are one, human beings are not natural carnivores. When we kill animals to eat them, they end up killing us because their flesh, which contains cholesterol and saturated fat, was never intended for human beings, who are natural herbivores.
Chilling stuff. But check out this sneaky little equivocation from Dr. Roberts:
Question to Dr. Roberts: “Are human beings herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?” Answer from Dr. Roberts: “Although most of us conduct our lives as omnivores, in that we eat flesh as well as vegetables and fruits, human beings have characteristics of herbivores, not carnivores.”
Did you catch that switcheroo? Because that’s often how “humans are herbivores” vegans address the question of omnivorism. They don’t address the question — they substitute “carnivore” for “omnivore” and hope you don’t notice.
Now he’s an interesting bit of gossip for you. I know someone who used to work at Baylor Heart & Vascular Hospital, where Dr. Roberts still works, and he thought he saw Dr. Roberts eating chicken there. “Doesn’t he talk about how humans are herbivores?,” my source asked a co-worker. “Yes, but he eats fish and chicken,” the co-worker was rumored to say. Does Dr. Roberts not care that the saturated fat and cholesterol in that flesh is killing his gentle herbivorous body?! And if not, doesn’t he care that he’s frightening people away from foods that he enjoys regularly?
Still, a vegetarian leader not following his own advice doesn’t make us omnivores. If humans are herbivores and thus unable to properly digest animal products, I’ll have to clarify that the “Them” in my blog name refers to actual carnivores and omnivores, not omnivore pretenders like humans. But I don’t want to have to do that. So I decided to create my own chart that would prove humans were at least omnivores and were maybe even carnivores.
Unfortunately, reality is not a clay to be molded any which way I like. During my research, as I increasingly encountered inconvenient facts and figures contradicting everything I had set out to prove, the bitter ex-vegan devil on my shoulder whispered, “Who cares if you’re wrong?! You have to crush veganism at any cost! You must destroy those who strive for compassion over violence! If you have to lie to do that, then lie your fucking head off, man!”
But guess what? I shooed that anti-vegan devil away. I am a truth seeker — even if that means admitting that everything I have ever said, thought or done is 100 percent incorrect. This wasn’t easy for me. But for the sake of intellectual honesty, I present my “Are Humans Carnivores, Omnivores or Herbivores?” chart.
Let’s start by comparing humans to the typical carnivore…
CARNIVORE: Rigid cell wall, non-motile, chloroplasts, plasmodesmata.
HUMAN: Soft cell wall, motile, lysosomes, centrioles, flagella.
CARNIVORE: 3 lb., including pot and dirt.
HUMAN: 170 lb., including clothes.
NUMBER OF STOMACHS
METHOD OF REPRODUCTION
HUMAN: Doing “it.”
LAND OF ORIGIN
CARNIVORE: North and South Carolina.
MAIN PROTEIN SOURCE
HUMAN: Gardein Home Style Beefless Tips.
ADDITIONAL ENERGY SOURCE
CARNIVORE: The sun.
HUMAN: Amy’s Non-Dairy Rice Crust Cheeze Pizza.
CARNIVORE: 10 days.
HUMAN: 2 days.
LENGTH OF INTESTINES
CARNIVORE: Not applicable.
HUMAN: 28 feet.
SOURCE OF CHOLESTEROL
COLON CANCER AND/OR HEART ATTACK RISK FROM ALL-MEAT DIET
CARNIVORE: No colon or heart to attack.
HUMAN: With both a colon and a heart, risks to these organs may exist.
POPULATION IN 1992
HUMAN: 5.5 billion.
MEANS OF COMMUNICATION
CARNIVORE: Intricate network of underground root and chemical connections.
GUILTY CONSCIENCE FROM EATING SENTIENT CREATURES?
NUMBER OF HEADS
CARNIVORE: Often seven or more.
MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION
CARNIVORE: Swaying in breeze.
BODY OR STEM?
If humans are indeed carnivores, then, we must look something like this:
Does that seem right to you? Are we carnivores? Before you give me your final answer, let’s see if humans can find a little more common ground with one of nature’s most notorious omnivores:
What a disgraceful creature. But are these miserable omnivorous scavengers anything like humans?
OMNIVORE: One third of a pound.
HUMAN: 170 lb.
METHOD OF REPRODUCTION
OMNIVORE: Laying eggs.
HUMAN: “The nasty.”
ABILITY TO STALK PREY FROM AIR AND SWOOP DOWN FOR A SURPRISE ATTACK
LAND OF ORIGIN
OMNIVORE: Sharp beak for biting carrion.
HUMAN: Soft lips for nibbling fruit.
FAVORITE HORSE-RELATED ACTIVITY
OMNIVORE: Eating horses on the beach.
HUMAN: Riding horses on the beach.
SIZE OF INTESTINES
OMNIVORE: A few inches at best.
HUMAN: 28 feet. Not inches. Feet.
METHOD OF OPENING NUTS
OMNIVORE: Dropping nuts in the street and waiting for cars to run over them.
HUMAN: Purchasing unshelled nuts.
AWARENESS THAT ONE ANIMAL SHOULD NOT EAT ANOTHER ANIMAL
OMNIVORE: Seemingly unaware.
HUMAN: Sometimes aware.
OMNIVORE: The Crow.
HUMAN: The Shawshank Redemption.
FAVORITE EDGAR ALLEN POE STORY
OMNIVORE: The Raven.
HUMAN: The Tell-Tale Heart.
OMNIVORE: The Crow and the Pitcher.
HUMAN: The Little Mermaid.
MEANS OF FLIGHT
OMNIVORE: God-given wings.
HUMAN: Fossil fuel robbed from mother earth.
So it seems that if humans were omnivores, this is what we’d look like:
You still think humans are omnivores, Mr. Michael “I try to eat humane meat but I’ll eat factory farmed meat if it’s more convenient” Pollan? Wait, don’t say anything yet! We still have to examine the most moral, distinguished and civilized of the groups… the herbivores:
HERBIVORE: 170 kg.
HUMAN: 170 lb.
HERBIVORE: Sign language.
HUMAN: Sign language, et al.
HUMAN: B and some others.
LAND OF ORIGIN
HERBIVORE: “The wild thing.”
HUMAN: “The wild thing.”
FETAL GESTATION TIME
HERBIVORE: 8 1/2 months.
HUMAN: Around 8 1/2 months.
HERBIVORE: A day in at the zoo.
HUMAN: A day out at the zoo.
DISTINCTIVE DENTAL FEATURES
HERBIVORE: Sharp canine teeth that are not for eating meat.
HUMAN: Sharp canine teeth that are not for eating meat.
NUMBER OF HEADS
HERBIVORE: Small and large intestine.
HUMAN: Small and large intestine.
OTHER SIGNIFICANT BODY PARTS
HERBIVORE: Legs, arms, lungs, fingers, eyes, one brain and one heart.
HUMAN: Legs, arms, lungs, fingers, eyes, one brain and one heart.
Putting all that together, this is what we might expect a human herbivore to look like:
Gee, I wonder which one most resembles humans.