Cues from the Body: We’re Wheat-eaters, not Meat-eaters

Humans – Designed to be Vegan

Some people still mistakenly believe that humans are born to be meat-eaters. The fallacy of the ‘meant to eat meat’ myth is easy to see when the characteristics of naturally vegetarian animals and naturally carnivorous ones are viewed side-by-side, as outlined in the table on the next page.

Basic anatomical comparisons show that people have much more in common with herbivores than carnivores – or even omnivores! Just a look at an adult’s mouth – let alone a child’s – shows that the opening is too small for anything but relatively small pieces of food. We can’t even swallow those whole, but must chew them finely and mix them with saliva before the ball of food will slide down the oesophagus. If too large a piece is swallowed, it can lodge over the windpipe and prevent the air from getting to our lungs. Because we are so poorly equipped to chew and swallow meat, choking is common in populations that eat a typical Western diet. Thousands die each year from choking on food, usually meat products.

In contrast, carnivorous animals such as cats seem not to have to chew their food, but tear off chunks and swallow them almost immediately. It is sometimes suggested that the existence of canine teeth in humans proves that we are adapted to eat meat. However, our teeth are much better suited for eating starches, fruits and vegetables – not tearing and chewing flesh. What many refer to as our ‘canine teeth’ are nothing at all like the sharp blades of true carnivores designed for processing meat. Scientists have been saying for decades that we are an herbivorous species.

For example, Dr W. S. Collens, research scientist at the Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, USA said: “Examination of the dental structure of the modern man reveals that he possesses all of the features of a strictly herbivorous animal” (Collens and Dobkin, 1965). Such features include jaws that can open and close as well as move forwards, backwards and side-to-side. This is ideal for biting off pieces of plant matter and then grinding them down with our flat molars. In contrast, carnivores’ lower jaws have very limited side-to-side motion. They are fixed only to open and close, which adds strength and stability to their powerful bite.