Meat-eating: Very Recent in our Evolutionary Past

Human- Animal Relationship Change

Hunting also helped to change our relationship with animals but the biggest change in that relationship occurred with the move from hunter-gatherer to livestock farmer, from nomadic tribes to settlement and domestication. An even bigger change took place with the introduction of factory farming. The farmer owns the creature, controls its life and death – he dominates it and here is where speciesism begins. Only when domestication began did Homo sapiens begin to believe that they were the dominating mammal, free to exploit every other living creature.

Meat-eating began only in the last one-and-ahalf million years. Contrasted with the life of an 80-year-old human being it means that only in the last 15 years would meat have been eaten. For 65 years we were vegetarian. This has huge significance for our health today.

Research already shows us that wellbalanced plant-based vegetarian and vegan diets supply not only all the nutrients that the body needs but also reduce the risks of many degenerative diseases such as heart disease, some cancers and obesity. Diets based on fresh fruits and vegetables, wholegrain foods such as wholemeal bread, plant protein sources such as beans, along with fresh nuts and seeds are the healthiest of all diets. The reason? It is the diet most similar to the diet of our evolution.

Of course no-one can deny that human beings became omnivorous – in fact, humans colonised the world because they could adapt to the available food sources. However the truth is that very little meat was eaten compared to today’s consumption. Hunting was given a great boost when climactic changes destroyed the food sources in the northern climes in the great Ice Ages. However in evolutionary terms this is a very short period and the evidence is that our bodies have not fully adapted to the change.

HOMO ERECTUS

1.9 MILLION-300,000 YEARS AGO Africa, Europe, Asia Thick-set, muscular species 5-6 ft (1.5-1.8 m) tall, with sloping forehead, receding jaw and large brain (60-80 per cent of the average today). They had fire, huts, some sort of speech, specialised tools, crude rituals and advanced hunting techniques. Still largely plant-eaters.

HOMO SAPIENS

(Neanderthal man, modern man) 300,000 YEARS AGO TO PRESENT Worldwide Large-brained, adaptable species with wide regional differences. They had complex social organisations, advanced speech and tool-making skills. Modern humans (subspecies Homo sapiens sapiens) emerged about 120,000 years ago, and displaced all rivals to colonise the world.