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  • “Recognize meat for what is really is: the antibiotic and pesticide laden corpse of a tortured animal.” - Ingrid Newkirk

    I have been trying to dig up research on whether or not humans are supposed to be herbivores or omnivores, however the literature is seriously lacking on this subject. It is not difficult to come across pro-vegan websites listing off the many morphological and physiological congruences between humans and herbivores, and disparities with carnivores and omnivores. They all seem to be getting their information from Dr. Milton Mills' paper entitled "The comparative anatomy of eating". It is a fascinating, well-written and logical account that is enough to convince anyone. Well, anyone with an untrained eye.

    While I do not refute any of the facts of this article (as an entomologist I do not have the expertise to ascertain its validity), however there are a few crucial flaws that raise red flags for me. First, this article is completely devoid of references. Any good scientific review should include the sources of its information. Even Wikipedia articles come with an often lengthy list of citations.

    The second red flag is that this article was not published in a peer reviewed journal. I'm sure we've all heard the sage advice "You can't believe everything you read on the internet". Which is precisely why I try to obtain my information from reputable sources, the best of which is a peer-reviewed journal. For those of you who are unfamiliar, peer-reviewed simply means that the paper has been scrutinized by other scientists (the identity of whom is unknown to the author) prior to publication. This limits the chance that the content is complete rubbish. In other words, quality control.

    A little searching reveals that Dr. Mills is in fact a real doctor who graduated from Stanford university, practices in Northern Virginia, and is on the advisory board for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. This suggests to me that the information in this paper has a higher likelihood of containing accurate information. That being said, I am still disappointed that a published doctor would fail to cite his sources in an essay with profound implications for the vegan community.

    All things considered, it is a recommended read. If you're not in the mood for reading, he has concisely summarized all his arguments in a table at the end.


    As I was trying to find reputable evidence for the human-herbivore connection, it dawned on me "Why does it matter?" Think about it, even if we were meant to eat meat, the meat we eat now, and the way we eat it, is certainly not how nature intended.

    First of all, I don't think anyone will negate that we are certainly not meant to consume the breastmilk of another species, so lets do away with that right from the start.

    Secondly, if we were supposed to eat meat, I imagine it would be in the same way that chimpanzees eat it. Although chimps do eat meat, it does not constitute a major part of their diet, nor does it seem that there is a nutritional need that necessitates hunting in chimps, as a group of 10 or more will cooperate to hunt a 1kg juvenile monkey. I will note, that of the great apes, only chimps and humans eat meat, suggesting that this behaviour has only recently evolved, therefore supporting the anatomical similarities between humans and herbivores. A recent reversion to hunting in chimps and humans, paired with the limited presence of meat in the diet, would provide insufficient selective pressure to alter our herbivorous characteristics.

    Thirdly, and most importantly, the meat we eat is not natural. Domesticated livestock have been selectively bred for productivity and plumpness. Selective breeding deprives the gene pool of important traits that protect against disease and otherwise improve the health of the animal. As a result, the meat in the grocery store has been filled with antibiotics, not to mention growth hormones, steroids, and other things that I'm sure I'm not even aware of.

    From a nutritional point of view, the animals we eat are a far cry from their more robust, wild counterparts. Let's take beef as an example. Beef cattle belong to the same Genus as yaks, making them the closest related animal that is regularly consumed by humans that I could find any information on. A fact sheet found on the DelYaks website informs us that yak meat contains only 3-5% fat compared to 8.5% fat in lean beef or over 12% in a lean t-bone steak. DelYaks also claims that yak meat is a higher source of protein, vitamins and minerals, while having less cholesterol and triglycerides than beef. As an aside, from an environmental and economic perspective, yaks (and the ancestors of cows) subsist totally on grass that is grazed from pastureland, reducing their environmental footprint and costs required to raise them. Which again comes back to the chemicals in our meat: the grains fed to livestock were also produced using pesticides, further increasing their load of unnatural toxins.

    The same exercise could be done with chickens, but I think you already see my point. Whether you want to argue that humans are meant to eat meat or not, most people would agree that the way our society eats meat is not supported by our evolutionary past.

  • "If not you, then who? If not now, then when?" - Hillel

    I just watched a really great presentation that concisely summarizes the many environmental arguments against meat consumption. It's well worth a watch, and it's not very long, so take the time to check it out. Better yet, pass this presentation on to your omnivorous friends so that they can become more conscious of what the repercussions are of eating meat.

  • "We all love animals. Why do we call some pets and others dinner?" - k.d. lang

    On the philosophy of veganism

    There are entire volumes written on the philosophical arguments for animal rights. While they are filled with compelling logical arguments, for me, there is only one that is necessary.

    We can all agree that the practices involved in animal agriculture cause pain, suffering, discomfort, death, and an overall unnatural existence for the animals in question. Furthermore, we know that we do not need to eat animals, or animal products, to acquire proper nutrition. Therefore, eating meat causes unnecessary pain, suffering and death. This means that humans in developed nations eat meat not because they need to, but because they want to.

    To some this might not sound horrible. But consider this: you believe that it is unnecessary to subject an animal to painful testing when you can get as good, if not better results via other testing methods. So if a researcher decides to administer painful tests on a rabbits, for example, that means he does not do it because he needs to, but because he chooses to. To put this in more anthropocentric terms, we do not need slaves for farming. We did not die of starvation because there were no more slaves to work the land, therefore slavery was not a necessity, but a choice made by slave traders and plantation owners.

    See where I'm going with this?

    We have a choice when it comes to the way we eat. The nutrients we need to sustain our bodies can all easily (and may I add, frugally) be obtained from plant sources. A choice to eat meat (and animal products) is a choice to subject animals to unnatural and inhumane conditions.

    This logical and irrefutable argument was all I needed to convert.

  • "Vegetarian: A person who eats only side dishes." -Gerald Lieberman

    So, in my first post I promised to post my animal rights paper that I wrote a few years ago. Unfortunately I inexplicably only have partially completed versions of it on my computers. Instead, I will have to explain it to you bit by bit. There are many arguments for veganism: philosophical, ethical, environmental, biological. I will end up talking about them all at some point.
    In the meantime, here is an unscientific blog about a vegan holiday, and my thoughts on being a happy, agreeable vegan.


    I have successfully survived my second vegan xmas, baking and all, and I have to say, it was pretty damn easy. Every year my family, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, their kids (and their dogs) get together for a big family dinner. Last year I simply ignored some of the dairy products and did the best I could with side dishes. Lucky for me my family has an obsession with side dishes, all of which are vegetarian, some even fully vegan, so I did fine. My family also always needs more stuffing that will fit inside the bird, so they make some in a casserole dish, totally veg!

    This year my totally adorable grandmother even made her mashed potatoes by putting them through a ricer so that they were smooth and fluffy without adding any milk or butter. My brother and his wife weren't able to come to dinner at my grandparents this year, so they came to my mom's place on boxing day for a fully vegan holiday dinner. If I do say so, it was delicious.

    I love to cook, and truth be told, I believe that you cannot be a happy vegan without dabbling in some fun and exciting culinary adventures. Where would I be without the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen and Vegan Yum Yum? I hate when people make comments like "Not even cheese? How boring!" A quick scan of these divine blogs will prove to anyone just how exciting vegan cooking can be. I would wager a guess that most vegans eat a far more varied and interesting diet than most omnivores, at least in North America. Anyway, I digress (get used to it). The point of all this is, I love to cook, and I also like exceeding people's expectations, so naturally I get a great thrill out of impressing people with truly delicious vegan foods. Every vegan food blog will likely include an anecdote about an omnivore's reaction "This is vegan?!". I live for that reaction.

    My brother, I love him dearly, but he's a pain in the ass (again, I say this in the most loving way). As any brother would do, he loves to make fun of me, and lately, one of his favourite picking points is veganism. I wanted to shut him up, so I made my favourite nut loaf, my mom's stuffing recipe, steamed asparagus and broccoli, and roasted potatoes. It was divine, and even my brother grudgingly admitted "It's not bad."


    I try not to be picky when someone else is kind enough to cook for me, I'm not going to be an asshole and inform them that the margarine they used instead of butter for my benefit actually has whey in it and won't be able to eat it anyway. I'm not allergic, it won't kill me, and I don't want to give vegans a bad name. There are a lot of hard core vegans out there who think this is hypocritical (and a lot of omnivores like to use things like this as ammunition against me) but just hear me out.

    When you tell someone you're a vegan, a mix of confusion and disgust seems to set in. They've come to terms with the not eating meat, vegetarianism has been around for a long time... but as soon as you tell them you don't eat dairy and eggs, they go through 2 stages.
    Stage 1 "Does not compute": No part of their brain is understanding how a human being can subsist without breast milk products of another species.
    Stage 2 "Shock and awe": Slowly realizing you aren't joking, you do not in fact eat dairy, and this must be the most impossible task in the world.
    The second stage may be accompanied by feelings of disgust as they assume you eat nothing but salad and tofu, or possibly feelings of superiority, belittling you in their mind as some kind of crazed granola crunching hippy.

    Similar to my enjoyment of exceeding expectations, I thoroughly enjoy proving people wrong. If I am picky, difficult, condescending, or downright irritating, I will be confirming their assumptions. Instead, I am flexible within reason, demonstrating to people that becoming vegan doesn't mean that you can never eat in a restaurant again, that you can be happy, healthy and satisfied, and that there are shades of grey that make a difference. The more difficult it appears to be a vegan, the more resistant people will be. And the truth is, it doesn't have to be difficult, you don't have to eat strange or crazy foods to acquire proper nutrition, and you don't have to alienate your friends and family.

    The fact is, if you're a vegan, a vegetarian, or something in between, you're making a difference, whether you do it for animal welfare, the environment, or just for your own health.

  • “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated” - Ghandi

    I became a vegan about a year and a half ago now, and it is one of the best decisions I ever made. At this point, I could not imagine ever wanting to go back to an omnivorous lifestyle ever again. I have always believed in animal rights, and in my heart I always knew that all living things are of equal value and deserving of equal respect. All the while I was living with what is known as "cognitive dissonance".

    Cognitive dissonance is when one holds two conflicting ideas, especially when one idea conflicts with a fundamental element of ones self-concept. My self concept was that I believed that animals deserved to live their lives free of pain and suffering, and yet, I still ate meat. I also believed that I was an environmentalist, and yet, I still ate meat.

    For me the turning point came slowly, there was no light bulb moment. I had been thinking about vegetarianism for as long as I can remember, but I cannot tell you what held me back. There were, however, several catalysts that finally brought about this shift in my consciousness. One of the biggest ones was a term paper that I wrote for my political biology class. We were allowed to write about anything we wanted, as long as it related to biology, and it was controversial. I chose to write about animal rights.

    It was the philosophy discussed by Gary Francione on his website that made me finally become aware of my cognitive dissonance. Once made aware of one's inner conflict, a side must be taken. The only solution for me was to become a vegan. Writing this paper was a fundamental event that shaped who I am today, and I will post it in my next blog.

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