Q: Are humans designed to eat meat?
A: The jury is still out on this one. There is an ongoing debate within the scientific community to determine whether humans are naturally herbivores, carnivores or omnivores. While we love our vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, in the interest of fairness and the fact that we are not scientists, here are some points brought up from all sides of the carnivore vs. herbivore vs. omnivore argument for your consideration. Chances are, we are designed to be omnivores and have been all along – but evolution has granted us the luxury of choosing whether to eat meat or not. Now we have developed the use of tools, farming and gardening, and the ability to cook. So now, vegetarianism is a choice we can make. See the many environmental benefits and health benefits and ethical reasons for vegetarian diets to decide if a vegetarian diet is right for you.
Argument: Humans are Herbivores
- No sharp front teeth, but flat rear molars for grinding.
- Have a digestive tract that is 10 to 12 times the length of the body (as opposed to the typical 3 times the body length to quickly process meats in meat-eating animals)
- Have stomach acid 20 times weaker than carnivores.
Argument: Humans are Carnivores
- We have canine teeth, which act as the sharp front teeth for tearing meat.
- Humans have always eaten meat.
- Meat tastes good to humans, and we crave the taste of meat.
Argument: Humans are Omnivores
- Humans are historically “opportunistic” feeders. We are capable of processing both animal and vegetable protein, and survived based on what was available. Now, with farming and ranching, food sources are readily available without the need for hunting and gathering, so humans are easily capable of sustaining all-vegetarian diets but can also process meat.
- The structure of our hands and jaws suggest an omnivorous diet. Broken human molars are often confused with omnivorous animals on archeological sites.
- Evolutionary increase in cranium size and reduction of jaw size may have resulted in shorter canines in humans.
- There are no primates with a strictly carnivorous diet. All are either omnivores or herbivores.
- Our intestines are somewhere between carnivores and herbivores on intestinal length and the number of absorption crypts to digest meat and other foods.
(This is the best article we have read about human dietary design – it acknowledges human capability to consume and digest meat, but thoroughly explains why vegetarianism is a logical dietary design for the modern human.)
Know of more points on any side of the argument? Tell us in the comments!