Are Humans Natural Frugivores?
By: Vasu Murti
The frugivores (gorillas, chimpanzees and other primates) have intestinal
tracts 12 times the length of the body, clawless hands and alkaline urine and
Their diet is mostly vegetarian, occasionally supplemented with carrion and
Flesh-eating animals lap water with their tongue, whereas vegetarian
animals imbibe liquids by a suction process.
Humans are classified as primates and are thus frugivores, possessing a set
of completely herbivorous teeth.
Proponents of the theory that humans should be classified as omnivores
note that human beings do in fact possess a modified form of canine teeth.
However, these so-called canine teeth are much more prominent in animals
that traditionally never eat flesh, such as apes, camels, and the male musk
It must also be noted that the shape, length and hardness of these so-called
canine teeth can hardly be compared to those of true carnivorous animals.
A principle factor in determining the hardness of teeth is the phosphate of
Human teeth usually contain 1.5% phosphate of magnesia, whereas the
teeth of carnivores are composed of nearly 5%.
It is for this reason they are able to break through the bones of their prey,
and reach the nutritious marrow.
Zoologist Desmond Morris made a case for vegetarianism in his 1967 book,
The Naked Ape:
"It could be argued that, since our primate ancestors had to make do without
a major meat component in their diets we should be able to do the same.
We were driven to become flesh eaters only by environmental
circumstances, and now that we have the environment under control with
elaborately cultivated crops at our disposal, we might be expected to return
to our ancient feeding patterns."
In The Human Story, edited by Marie-Louise Makris
"Recent studies of their teeth reveal that the Australopithecines did not eat
meat as a regular part of their diet, and were mainly peaceful vegetarians,
rather like chimps or gorillas. The popular image of the murderous ape is
now as extinct as the Australopithecines themselves."
Dr. Gordon Latto notes that carnivorous and omnivorous animals can only
move their jaws up and down, and that omnivores "have a blunt tooth, a
sharp tooth, a blunt tooth, a sharp tooth - showing that they were destined to
deal both with flesh foods from the animal kingdom and foods from the
"Carnivorous and omnivorous mammals cannot perspire, except at the
extremity of the limbs and the tip of the nose; man perspires all over the
body. Finally, our instincts; the carnivorous mammal (which first of all has
claws and canine teeth) is capable of tearing flesh asunder, whereas man
only partakes of flesh foods after they have been camouflaged by cooking
and by condiments."
"Man instinctively is not carnivorous," explains Dr. Latto: "...he takes the
flesh food after somebody else has killed it, and after it has been cooked and
camouflaged with certain condiments. Whereas to pick an apple off a tree or
eat some grain or a carrot is a natural thing to do; people enjoy doing it; they
don't feel disturbed by it. But to see these animals being slaughtered does
affect people; it offends them. Even the toughest of people are affected by
the sights in the slaughterhouse.
I remember taking some medical students into a slaughterhouse. They were
about as hardened people as you could meet. After seeing the animals
slaughtered that day in the slaughterhouse, not one of them could eat meat
Author R.H. Weldon writes in No Animal Food:
"The gorge of a cat, for instance, will rise at the smell of a mouse or a piece of
raw flesh, but not at the aroma of fruit. If a man can take delight in pouncing
upon a bird, tear its still living body apart with his teeth, sucking the warm
blood, one might infer that nature had provided him with a carnivorous
instinct, but the very thought of doing such a thing makes him shudder. On
the other hand, a bunch of luscious grapes makes his mouth water, and even
in the absence of hunger, he will eat fruit to gratify taste".
As far back as 1961, the Journal of the American Medical Association
"A vegetarian diet can prevent 97% of our coronary occlusions."
More recently, William S. Collens and Gerald B. Dobkens concluded:
"Examination of the dental structure of modern man reveals that he
possesses all the features of a strictly herbivorous animal. While designed
to subsist on vegetarian foods, he has perverted his dietary habits to accept
food of the carnivore.
It is postulated that man cannot handle carnivorous foods like the carnivore.
Herein may lie the basis for the high incidence of arteriosclerotic disease".
Keith Akers in A Vegetarian Sourcebook (1983) responds to the argument
that killing animals for food is natural:
"The main problem with this argument is that it does not justify the practice
of meat-eating or animal husbandry as we know it today; it justifies hunting.
The distinction between hunting and animal husbandry probably seems
rather fine to the man in the street, or even to your typical rule-utilitarian
The distinction, however, is obvious to an ecologist. If one defends killing on
the grounds that it occurs in nature, then one is defending the practice as it
occurs in nature.
When one species of animal preys on another in nature, it only preys on a
very small proportion of the total species population. Obviously, the
predator species relies on its prey for its continued survival.
Therefore, to wipe the prey species out through overhunting would be fatal.
In practice, members of such predator species rely on such strategies as
territoriality to restrict overhunting and to insure the continued existence of
its food supply.
Moreover, only the weakest members of the prey species are the predator's
victims: the feeble, the sick, the lame, or the young accidentally separated
from the fold. The life of the typical zebra is usually placid, even in lion
country; this kind of violence is the exception in nature, not the rule.
As it exists in the wild, hunting is the preying upon isolated members of an
animal herd. Animal husbandry is the nearly complete annihilation of an
In nature, this kind of slaughter does not exist. The philosopher is free to
argue that there is no moral difference between hunting and slaughter, but
he cannot invoke nature as a defense of this idea.
Why are hunters, not butchers, most frequently taken to task by the larger
community for their killing of animals?
Hunters usually react to such criticism by replying that if hunting is wrong,
then meat hunting must be wrong as well. The hunter is certainly right on 1
point - the larger community is hypocritical to object to hunting when it
consumes the flesh of domesticated animals. If any form of meat-eating is
justified, it would be meat from a hunted animal."
In his 1975 book, Animal Liberation, Australian philosopher Peter Singer
"Killing an animal is in itself a troubling act. It has been said that if we had to
kill our own meat we would all be vegetarians. There may be exceptions to
that general rule, but it is true that most people prefer not to inquire into the
killing of the animals they eat".
"Very few people ever visit a slaughterhouse; and films of slaughterhouse
operations are rarely shown on television. Yet those who, by their
purchases, require animals to be killed have no right to be shielded from this
or any other aspect of the production of the meat they buy".
"If it is distasteful for humans to think about, what can it be like for the
animals to experience it?"
Peter Singer concludes in Animal Liberation that:
"By ceasing to rear and kill animals for food, we can make extra food
available for humans that, properly distributed, would eliminate starvation
and malnutrition from this planet. Animal Liberation is Human Liberation,
By: Vasu Murti www.all-creatures.org/murti/art.html
Article: Are Humans Natural Frugivores?