Chapter 15 – But
We’re Meant to Eat Meat
The most reply in the world when you tell someone you’re
a vegetarian is, ‘But we’re meant to eat
meat!’ Let’s get it straight right now, we
are not meant to eat meat. Humans are not carnivores
like cats; we’re not even omnivores like a pig
or a bear.
If you really think you’re meant to eat meat,
try running into a field, jumping on the back of a cow
and biting it! You wouldn’t even be able to get
your teeth or fingernails through its skin. Or try picking
up a dead chicken and chomping on it; we just don’t
have the teeth for eating meat without cooking it first.
We are in fact herbivores - and that doesn’t mean
a creature like a cow with four stomachs that spends
all day munching grass. Cows are ruminants; herbivores
eat a whole range of vegetable foods, like nuts, seeds,
roots, shoots, fruits and berries. How do I know this?
Because numerous studies have been done on what apes
eat. The gorilla, for example, is entirely vegan.
An eminent doctor, David Ryde, one-time medical adviser
to the British Olympic Association, once tried a little
experiment. He displayed two pictures at a medical exhibition.
One was of a human’s intestines; the other of a
gorilla’s intestines. He then asked his colleagues
to look at them and make any comments. All the doctors
present thought both pictures were of human beings and
not one identified the gorilla.
I know it doesn’t go with Nike trainers, Benetton
jumpers and Oxy-10 spot remover, but that’s what
we are – apes. Over 98 per cent of our genes are
the same as a chimpanzee’s and any visitor from
space trying to work out what type of animal we are would
immediately classify us as a type of chimp. They’re
our nearest relative. Terrible that, when you think of
the disgusting things we do to them in laboratories.
A good indicator of what our diet would naturally be
is to watch our ape relatives in the wild. They are almost
entirely vegan. Some eat a little meat in the form of
termites or maggots (very tasty) but this accounts for
a tiny part of their overall diet. A scientist called
Jane Goodall lived in the jungle alongside chimps and
studied them for ten years. She made a note of everything
they ate and was able to show exactly how much of it
was meat – it was the equivalent amount to a pea
a day. So little, in fact, that their teeth and gut are
those of a vegan.
However, the ‘we’re meant to eat meat’ brigade
got very excited when naturalist David Attenborough showed
a film on TV of one particular group of chimpanzees hunting
and eating colobus monkeys. They said this was proof
that we’re natural meat eaters.
There is no real explanation for this group of chimps
but they do seem to be the exception. Most chimpanzees
don’t go looking for meat and never pick up frogs
and lizards or other small creatures from the forest
floor, although they are there for taking. It’s
thought that their liking for termites and maggots is
because of their sweet taste.
A good way of telling what an animal is supposed to
eat is by looking at its body. An ape’s teeth,
like ours, is made up mostly of flat surfaces for crushing
and grinding. Our jaws are also designed to move from
side to side to help this process. Both these characteristics
are the signs of a mouth designed to cope with tough,
vegetable foods full of fibre.
Because foods of this type are difficult to digest,
the process starts as soon as the food is in the mouth
when it’s mixed with saliva. The chewed up mass
then passes through the body very slowly, snaking its
way through the long intestines so all the nutrients
can be absorbed.
Meat eaters, like cats, are built completely differently.
Not only does a cat have claws to grab hols of its prey
but its teeth are sharp, with no flat surfaces. Its jaw
can only move up and down in a chopping motion and the
animal bolts its food down in big chunks. It doesn’t
need a cookery book and British Gas to help digest it
The inside of a carnivore’s stomach is a bubbling
mass of acid that would take the paint off a car. It’s
designed to break the meat down quickly so the poisons
released by the meat as it decays don’t hang around
too long. Its intestines are short, about three times
the length of its body when stretched out in one line,
and are designed to get the waste out of the body as
quick as possible.
Imagine what would happen to a piece of meat if you
left it on a window sill on a sunny day. It wouldn’t
take long before it began to rot and produce poisonous
toxins. This process can also happen inside the body
which is why animals which are meant to eat meat get
rid of waste as quickly as possible. Human digestion
is much slower because our intestines are about 12 times
the length of our bodies. This is thought to be one reason
why colon cancer is much higher in meat eaters than in
Obviously humans did start eating meat at some time
in history, but for the majority of people in the world
right up into this century, meat was a comparatively
rare food and most people ate it only three or four times
a year, usually at big religious festivals. It’s
only really since the Second World War that people started
eating meat in such huge amounts – which may explain
why heart disease and cancers have suddenly become the
biggest killers of all known diseases. One by one, all
the excuses used by meat eaters to justify their diet
have been demolished. The weakest one of all is that
we’re meant to eat meat!