Number of animals killed in the world by the meat, dairy and egg industries, since you opened this webpage. This does not include the billions of fish and other aquatic animals killed annually.

Based on 2007 statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations' Global Livestock Production and Health Atlas.

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Posts Tagged ‘anthropology’

We Are Omnivores

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010
A Buffet of Fruits and Vegetables

Plants provide all of the protein we need. To state we need only animal flesh for our amino acids is akin to stating we need kiwi, and not oranges, for vitamin C.

One way people casually dismiss suggestions to drop meat from their diet is by hoisting up the fancy word omnivore.  “But we’re omnivores,” they state with a hefty, steak-sauce covered dollop of pride.  “We must eat these animals.  That’s what omnivores do.”  It sounds very scientific, doesn’t it?

Omnivore does not mean “must eat meat” any more than it means “must eat cockroaches.”  It is laughable (to us, certainly not to the cows and chickens) to suggest that omnivores, who by definition can eat nearly anything, must eat one particular thing: flesh.

Being omnivores, we’re highly adaptive.  It means we can obtain nutrients from both plants and animals.  It does not mean that we’re enslaved to a particular type of fruit or creature for nutrition.

Because we can does not mean we must.

Plants provide all of the protein we need.  To state we need only animal flesh for our amino acids is akin to stating we need kiwi, and not oranges, for vitamin C.

Our status as omnivores, in fact, is exactly the perfect argument in favor of a plant-based diet.  We have a buffet of food choices.  To restrict our intake to one particular item, flesh, when more affordable, compassionate alternatives exist, is blind, wasteful and cruel.  To pretend that the buffet does not even exist, that we are trapped into eating but one source of protein, is not just incorrect, it is insane.

Omnivores and Cockroaches

Saturday, August 28th, 2010
Cockroach for dinner? No, thank you.

Omnivore does not mean "must eat meat" any more than it means "must eat cockroaches."

If we really are omnivores, then this is an even stronger argument in favor of eating only plants.  We can thrive on them.  We don’t need meat.  We are omnivores.

Vegans are omnivores. People who eat meat are omnivores. Maybe you eat cows and chickens. Maybe she eats only plants. Our culinary behavior does not change our biological capability to digest darn near anything we cram in our hinged, grinding little mouths.

It is important to press the issue that vegans are omnivores, too. Too often in the world of vegan discussions do people say things like, “My omni friend said…” I don’t know about you, but I’m reluctant to stop “being an omnivore” and start “being a vegan.” No offense to sissies, but it makes me sound like a sissy.

To even hint that you are no longer an omnivore makes it sound like you’ve given up an innate aspect of your humanity. To give up being an omnivore, if such a thing were possible, sounds like giving up your nature, doesn’t it? You’re less than human, then. You’ve resigned from your birthright as an Eater of All Things. Therefore, you’re less likely to survive in situations where eating disgusting things is necessary. If you’re less likely to survive, who the heck wants to be you, mimic you, or even produce children with you?

Vegans are not giving up omnivore status, if such a thing were even possible. Omnivore is something we are. Veganism is something we do.

You now have a solid reply when someone says, “Sorry, I couldn’t be a vegan. I’m a hard core omnivore.”

“I’m an omnivore too.”

“Huh? You don’t eat meat.”

Can-eat-anything does not mean must-eat-meat.” Or, to put it my favorite way, “Omnivore does not mean we must eat meat any more than it means we must eat cockroaches.”

By Hook and Claw

Monday, September 14th, 2009

By what methods do true predators hunt, trap or gather food?

Occasionally you will encounter someone pointing at his teeth and asking, “Oh yeah? Well what are these for?” It may be tempting to answer, “From the looks of it, sending your dentist to the Caribbean.” If you are engaged in a real conversation , however, you’ll want to share a few facts with your friend.

We’re talking about the evolution of humans, not what we’ve done since learning to read and write and keep animals in cages. Certainly, we had our teeth, guts and hands long before we had tribes and enslaved (“domesticated”) creatures. It follows that our soft, little hands are hardly suited to any sort of dexterous hunting. Ever seen a kung fu movie where the master grabs a fish out of the water with his bare hand? There’s a reason such a scene is meant to impress us: catching a fish with our bodies alone is very, very hard.

The same is true for deer. Ever outrun one? Sneak up on one and tackle it? Of course not. Yet deer are a favorite source of food for real predators. You, though? You’re a slow, smelly, clumsy, upright human. You weren’t built like a wolf, a jaguar, a hawk or any other viscous killing machine.

You are built like a playful, joyous monkey. You should be proud of this.

Images of Mighty Man as the primal hunter are absurd. We simply are not built for (“have not evolved the necessary appendages and abilities for”) hunting and killing. We cannot even cram chunks of corpses into our mouths without knives to cut for us.  The very item, steak knife, is a shining reminder of how pitiful our hands and teeth are at rending flesh.

“Ah-hah!” You might say, if you’re prone to such noises. “But we have Mighty Tools and we have Smart Communication. We build nets and use sticks and organize hunting parties. We use this superiority of mind to deceive and entrap our prey. We do not need talons or beaks or the ability to consume uncooked flesh without puking up the worms and bacteria found in it. Our minds have transcended our bodies, and it is our brilliant and unique intelligence which makes us such great hunters.”

Well, that point of view would make a lot of sense, except for one thing: the order of evolution. Long before we threw rocks and spears, we evolved these delicate little hands with (relatively) soft little fingernails. Before we realized we had to cook our meat in order to digest it, we evolved stomachs that work best on fruits, nuts and leafy greens. We evolved the intelligence to use fire long before we used it cooking corpses which, otherwise, sicken and kill us.

Here’s a word that is sure to make your palms sweat, your heart race and your mouth go dry: dentists. I love dentists, and not just because dental appointments are a good excuse for me to call off work the rest of the afternoon. Dentistry is an in-your-face reminder that our teeth are soft, cavity-prone, misshapen little nubs. Want to see our huge, scary, killer teeth in action? Ask your grandfather to sink his vicious chompers into an uncooked, unskinned cow rump. It won’t be pretty. It might remind you of caramel apple night at the nursing home.

Comparative anatomy is, in fact, one of the better arguments in favor of eating a plant-based diet.