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As nature intended?

MagazineDecember 1998 (Vol. 9 Issue 9)As nature intended?

Most of our views on the significance and ritual of hunting and meat eating are speculation

Most of our views on the significance and ritual of hunting and meat eating are speculation. Here are the arguments for and against whether we were meant to be omnivorous or vegetarian:

Humans are meant to be omnivorousOur closest evolutionary relative, the chimpanzee, not only eats meat, but enters into quite sophisticated hunting rituals.

Early human diets appear to be extremely varied, and included foods of animal origin either taken opportunistically (such as the eggs of small birds, invertebrates and small mammals) or through scavenging and hunting (Philos Trans R Soc Lond Biol Sci, 1991; 95: 281-8).

Two distinct species emerged from the first man, those in the genus Homo and another of the genus Australopithecus. The latter were vegetarian with a jaw and teeth which were heavier and more suited to chewing and grinding roots. Teeth of the Homo species of the same period are smaller and lighter, more suited to tearing and chewing meat. While Homo developed, Australopithecus became extinct between five hundred thousand and a million years ago (Ronald Schmid, Native Nutrition, Rochester, Vermont: Celestial Arts, 1987).

Australia's aborigines, often cited as a model for good human nutrition, were and, in some traditional groups, still are typical hunter gatherers.

All the foods implicated in food allergy and intolerance are recent foods which come from the dietary switch at the time of the agricultural revolution. Allergies to meat are rare, while allergies to grains, pulses and some fruits and vegetables are a common cause of health problems.

Humans are meant to be vegetarians

Humans evolved not from the Homo species but from their vegetarian cousin Australopithecus. Meat eating was forced onto our species by environmental changes, so that in effect we have become behavioural omnivores rather than evolutionary omnivores (Peter Cox, The Encyclopaedia of Vegetarian Living, Bloomsbury, 1994).

"Traditional accounts of human evolution greatly exaggerate the importance of hunting," says Cox. Since men were the hunters and women the harvesters of vegetables and grain, the importance of these food items has been diminished in relation to the importance of women and women's work in our society.

Most other primates are vegetarian.

We are evolving into a species that is more vegetarian. Our bodies have a genetic memory of what they need for optimum health, according to American naturopath Peter D'Adamo. While newer blood types may be more adapted to grain based diets, the oldest and most common blood type, type O, belongs to the omnivorous hunter gatherer. (see, Peter D'Adamo, The Eat Right Diet, Century, also WDDTY, 1998, vol 9 no 2).


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