This article may bring me some heat, but busting down dogma in nutrition, and taking heat for it, is something I have been doing for decades, before there was an internet. Yes, there was a time before the internet, but I digress. Why am I writing this article? Because I have grown tired of rehashing the same information with dogmatic vegans who attempt to use the same false narratives and pseudo-science as their justification for recommending people go vegan. Vegetarians of the lacto-ovo variety seem to view being a vegetarian as a way of eating. Vegans however often approach it as more of a belief system, bordering on religion, and as with many of that ilk, don’t tend to let facts get in the way of their belief system. I’m supportive of any nutritional approach people wish to follow that they feel is best for their goals, but I loath dogma based on pseudo-science and demonstrably false claims such as “protein intakes above the RDA are bad for the kidneys” and “creatine has been shown to cause cancer” or the various “facts” some in the vegan community rely on to push an agenda. The goal of this article is to give people the facts, and let them make their own decisions.
I’m going to cover these topics in broad strokes, and leave it to the reader to follow up with the sources and links provided should they want to dive deeper into the details of each section. That’s the only way I can keep this article just short of text book length. In no particular order, these are some of the most common claims made by proponents of veganism:
“Humans Are Not Meant To Eat Meat”
This is in line with some claiming humans are naturally herbivores. There’s not a single evolutionary biologist, human anatomist, or respected human paleontologist, or major scientific group focused on human anatomy and physiology that view modern humans as anything but omnivores. There’s various claims of differences in teeth, or digestive systems, and so forth, of humans comparing us to other animals attempting to show we are herbivores, and they’re easily debunked. An excellent article examining that topic, is written by the a vegan biologist HERE which covers the topic in great depth. To quote from the article:
“…trying to claim that humans are something else than omnivores are just counter productive since it’s quite easily debunked and we lose credibility. There are plenty of reasons to be vegan and still stick to what is true.”
We know that human ancestors were eating meat for at least two and half million years and one generally well accepted theory is we evolved into modern humans due in large part to our ancestors eating nutrient and calorie dense animal parts; meat, marrow, organ meats and so forth. How much animal flesh, marrow, or organ meats our ancestors ate varied greatly, dependent on geographical location, seasons, availability, and so forth. Claims that humans are not carnivores are correct! Humans are not carnivores, they’re omnivores, and our anatomy and physiology is quite clear on that one, and those vegetarian sources more interested in science – such as The Vegetarian Resource Group – agree with that assessment. (1). Humans are omnivores, the end. Of all the reasons offered by vegans as to why humans should not eat meat, I consider this one the lamest by far and it ends any credibility they may have.
Should We Eat Like Our Closest Relatives?
A logical segue from the last section is to address the common claim our closest relatives, the Chimpanzee, are herbivores and therefore we should follow their nutritional approach.
Why we should eat like our closest genetic relatives I don’t know, but let’s explore that one. It’s illogical on its face of course, but also false. The view of the sweet peaceful fruit eating chimp as who humans should emulate is misplaced. Chimps are hunters of animals, and highly aggressive hunters at that. While most of their food is plant based (fruit) to be sure, chimps are active hunters, and just like humans, will hunt an animal they eat, usually other monkeys, to virtual extinction if given the chance. When they run out of one species they like to eat, they start hunting others. (2) Yes, we humans and chimps have quite a bit in common, as chimps will form hunting parties, as well as start wars against other tribes, but that’s another topic for another day. In one location, chimps wiped out almost 90% of the Red Colobus monkey population due to over hunting. So yes, chimps are more like us than maybe most imagined, and not always in a good way. As one researcher put it:
“In their tendency to blindly over-hunt their prey, chimpanzees are rather similar to humans. Perhaps that’s not too surprising, as they are our closest living relatives.” (3)