The Original Human Diet — Meat and Lots of It

Despite the abundant evidence presented by the human body itself, some animal rights activists maintain that homo sapiens evolved as a primarily |vegetarian| species and that meat did not make up a large proportion of the human diet until the development of settled agriculture. Unfortunately for this view, research into the diet of the earliest human beings is revealing just the opposite — the first humans ate far more meat than even present day Americans do.

A number of anthropologists, paleontologists and others around the world are beginning to synthesize what they’ve learned about the “evolutionary diet” that human beings ate in the Paleolithic era that extends back several hundred thousand years and ends with the rise of agriculture about 10,000 years ago.

Although there are still some unanswered questions, it is clear that meat formed the single largest source of food for paleolithic human beings. Professor Loren Cordain, among the world leading experts on the this topic, believes the paleolithic diet was likely close to the diet of the few remaining groups of hunters and gatherers. Whereas the average American receives about 38 percent of daily calories from animal products, the typical hunter and gather obtains 65 percent of his calories from animal products.

Ironically, although the typical American eats less than half the amount of meat their paleolithic ancestors did, they consume 50 percent more fat — much of it coming from sources that were unavailable to Paleolithic humans such as diary products and oils. Similarly, the paleolithic diet was much higher in carbohydrates than contemporary Western diets, paleolithic humans obtained carbohydrates from low-sugar and high fiber foods. People in Western countries get most of their carbohydrates from high sugar, low fiber foods.

As John Macgregor sums up the implications of the paleolithic diet for today’s nutrition and diet debates,

The ancestral record does not support the SAD (standard Australian diet) — but neither does it add credence to diets seen as “natural” by vegetarians, fruitarians, natural hygienists, macrobiotic followers and their countless splinter groups.

Just what mainstream dietary experts have long been recommending — people should eat a balanced diet that is low in fat and combine that with regular exercise rather than try to emphasize one food or food group to excess over any other.

Source:

First, catch your cow. John MacGregor, SMH.Com.Au, February 20, 2001.

Meat Consumption on the Rise

In a news story a few days
ago in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a PETA official seemed to think
she was winning the war to get people to abandon meat. In fact hog and
cattle prices are going through the roof as the nation’s prosperity keeps
driving meat consumption upwards.

Just a year or two ago, the
U.S. government was expanding its aid to hog farmers as pork prices plummeted,
but now demand is so high that pork production is nearing record highs.
Hog prices have doubled over the last year even with this high production.

As agricultural economist Rodney Jones told the Associated Press,

We are seeing some very strong indications that demand for all
the meat products has improved relative to a year ago — we are certainly
seeing that in beef and we are seeing it in pork. We are able to move
higher quantities at the retail counter at relatively higher price levels.

Source:

Consumers
eating more meat; Beef, pork markets rebound, The Associated Press, December
13, 1999

Study Suggests No Link Between Dietary Fat and Breast Cancer

One of the shibboleths of the
animal rights movement is that eating meat is unhealthy and contributes
to diseases such as cancer. But a new report from the ongoing Nurses’
Health Study suggests at least some of those claims may not prove to be
true.

Researchers compared the diet
of women in the study who didn’t have breast cancer with the almost 3,000
women in the study who did have breast cancer. What they found was surprising
– there was no association between consumption of fat and breast cancer.
In addition, researchers found that women who ate large proportions of animal
fat were at no greater risk of breast cancer than those who didn’t.

As the researchers summed
up their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association,
“Our research indicates it’s highly unlikely that women who consume
a low-fat diet are protected against breast cancer. Equally it appears
a high-fat diet also poses no increased risk for the disease.”

There are some limits to study,
though. It only looked at a 14-year time period, and the results of low
fat diets may require longer than 14 years to show any decreased risk.
In addition, the study didn’t look at women with extremely low fat intakes
of 10 percent or less of total calories.

There is one bright spot for
animal rights activists in the study, though – it does contradict results
of animal studies which found associations between high fat diets and
cancer.

Source:

No link between dietary fat and breast cancer, study shows. Brenda Coleman, Associated Press, March 9, 1999.

Harold Hillman defends "ethical vegetarianism"

The Fall l998 issue of Free Inquiry featured an article by Harold Hillman
on “The Limits of Ethical Vegetarianism.” Hillman is a medical researcher
who is the director of the Unity Laboratory of Applied Neurobiology in the United
Kingdom. On the other hand he considers himself an “ethical vegetarian,”
meaning he doesn’t eat meat because he think it imposes needless suffering or
as he explains it, “ethical vegetarians feel that it is morally wrong to
kill animals to eat when one can live a healthy life without doing so.”

Hillman is certainly a reasonable advocate of this position. For example he
concedes that since “vegetarians tend to eat, smoke and drink less and
exercise more than the population at large … one cannot know for certain whether
their improved health is due to their way of life or to their diets.”

But he also takes his philosophy well beyond eating practices, concluding that
“an ethical vegetarian should not wear leather shoes, belts, or watch straps,
or buy such items as wallets, handbags, baseballs, footballs, or cricket balls”
or even common glues, although Hillman concedes that “I am not sure whether
there are any alternatives to the manufacture of these products at present.”

And yet Hillman believes it is not inconsistent with this doctrine to continue
to perform medical experiments on animals. He writes that “as a medical
researcher, I believe that medical and biological advances — to the advantage
of human beings and animals alike — could not have been made without experiments
on animals.” Hillman does argue that the use of animals should be minimized
where possible, but argues that nonetheless it is consistent with ethical vegetarianism
to continue such experiments.

I happen to think Hillman’s argument is grossly inconsistent. Once Hillman
commits himself to the claim that “we should avoid all pain to animals
and the use of products requiring animals to suffer,” there is no magical
exception that says “except for medical research.” In logical terms,
Hillman is guilty of the fallacy of special pleading (hunting, meat eating and
fur farming are unnecessary, but medical research is my livelihood. You can’t
take that away.)

If people should not buy baseballs that are made with animal products, should
they receive medical treatment which required animals to suffer and die in order
to be developed? Hillman seems to think using animals for medical research is
“necessary” but of course using animals for that purpose is no more
“necessary” than using them for furs or baseball.

I don’t mean to pick on Hillman since I’ve seen some fanatical hunters who
make the opposite argument — that hunting animals in the wild with weapons
such as bows and arrow is a natural and spiritual thing to do, and thus should
continue, while experimenting on animals in labs is a cold calculating process
which should be severely restricted if not banned outright.

As far as I’m concerned once either side of the argument is conceded, the whole
animal rights argument logically follows. If it is immoral to eat animals it
is certainly immoral to perform medical experiments on them and vice versa.
Where ethical vegetarians, a few fanatical hunters and the entire animal rights
community are wrong is in believing either activity is morally questionable.

One year after beef recall, no decline in beef consumption

A little over a year ago the largest
recall of beef in US history led to speculation that Americans might curb
their beef consumption over fear of |E. coli| — so far, that simply
hasn’t happened.

Hudson Foods Co. recalled 25 million
pounds of beef produced at its Columbus, Ohio, plant based on fears that
the meat may have been contaminated with potentially deadly E. coli.
Although prices in the cattle futures and similar markets declined in
the days immediately after the recall, Americans average yearly consumption
of beef has remained steady at about 64 pounds.

Part of the explanation for the
continued popularity of beef has been the industry’s quick initiatives
to combat E. coli contamination. Ranchers, meat packers and others
in the beef industry quickly formed the Beef Industry Food Safety Council
in the wake of the Hudson Foods recall to promote education and research
into preparing beef safely. Most plants also stopped the reprocessing
of meat left over from the previous day — no one in the industry wants
to have to recall several days worth of production as Hudson did because
of its reprocessing procedures.

Hudson Foods sold the Columbus
plant, but it is still not completely off the hook. The U.S. Attorney’s
office in Oregon is investigating whether the managers at the Hudson plant
tried to cover up the extent of the E. coli contamination.

Fund for Animals lectures Dalai Lama about peace

People with only a passing
familiarity with the Dalai Lama — the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner — might
assume the religious leader to be a vegetarian. In fact not only does
the Dalai Lama eat meat, but recently he has told reporters he approves
of some medical experiments on animals. Sounds a lot like the animal welfare
position espoused by this site.

Well, of course, it annoys
animal rights activists to no end to have the world’s best known preacher
of peace not in their camp. On August 5, 1998 The Fund for Animals released
a letter it sent to the Dalai Lama urging him to issue a statement affirming that
“Buddhism’s compassionate opposition to all forms of animal abuse,
including the genetic manipulation of living beings and the use of animals
in scientific research.”

According to the letter, authored
by The Fund for Animals coordinator Norm Phelps, “By refusing to
make your [the Dalai Lama’s] body a coffin for slaughtered animals, you
can only enhance your work for world peace.” The letter does not explain how going vegetarian will convince the Chinese to withdraw from
Tibet.

No word yet on what the Dalai
Lama thought of the letter. Could it be that the Dalai Lama values the
life of a breast cancer victim over the life of a lab rat?

Source:

Animal advocates tell Dalai Lama that ‘peace begins in the kitchen. The Fund for Animals, Press Release, August 5, 1998.