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ALexiconofLove
May 19th, 2008, 07:57 PM
but the idea some vegans send out (eating meat is natural, eating vegan isn't, we still suggest that you eat vegan) sends out a very confusing signal.

I don't think arguments about what is "natural" are relevant to ethical questions, so I don't find it confusing. If someone wants to argue with me about meat-eating being natural, I would rather explain to them that what is natural is irrelevant to what is ethical than get into an argument about whether humans are herbivores, omnivores, or fruitarians. I don't think the latter argument has a clear winner, and we may never know exactly what all, most, or some people ate ten thousand or a hundred thousand years ago. And knowing what people ate a hundred thousand years ago may not even be useful, because our species is constantly evolving. I don't think every species has a natural, ideal diet that remains constant over time.


I have yet to see one person post something that have convinced me that we are 'natural omnivores'.

I'm read many of the old threads and posts and I'm not convinced people are "natural herbivores." I've seen a lot of fallacious arguments comparing human anatomy to the anatomy of carnivores and herbivores, when in fact no one argues that we are carnivores. There is huge variation among the anatomy of omnivores. Some have sharp teeth (dogs), some have flat teeth (sloths). Some eat large amounts of meat, some very little... this can even be true within the same family (panda bears live mostly on bamboo, polar bears live mostly on meat).

But I wouldn't dismiss the possibility that humans are natural herbivores. I'm just not convinced. And I don't really care, except that I think when vegans assert that we are herbivores as a bald fact, they are opening veganism to attack. Why should we hinge our philosophy on scientific theories that have not yet been proven? Why should we hinge our philosophy on scientific theories at all, since even "proven" scientific theories can be found false at later points in history?

I totally agree with your comment that the dietary habits of apes, chimpanzees, and other primates is irrelevant to the question of what humans have been eating for the past 150,000 years. :)


Some vegans almost seem 'obsessed' with promoting that idea of humans being natural omnivores.

And some are "obsessed" with promoting the idea of humans being natural herbivores. I think both obsessions are silly, because they distract from the core issues of vegansim.


They use arguments like 'I know x omnivores who aren't sick,

Well sure. Doesn't everyone? But anecdotal evidence is not as good as statistical evidence.


Even if people don't get sick from eating certain amounts of something (like leaves from trees, paper, dirt, sand, mud) this isn't an evidence that we are natural mud (etc.) eaters... right?

No, of course, not. :)

But there is a lot of variation in meat intake of different omnivorous species, and I'm sure that species that only eat very small amounts (like the 5% insects you mentioned above) would get sick by eating more, so showing that an omnivorous species gets sick when consuming large amounts of meat does not prove that they are naturally herbivorous either.

Edited to Add: If a person has a cat who gets sick on conventional cat food (full of hormones and antiobiotics from franken-animals) and then gets well eating vegan food, it doesn't prove that cats are herbivores.

Korn
May 20th, 2008, 01:05 AM
I don't think arguments about what is "natural" are relevant to ethical questions I partially agree, so I created a new thread out of this post - and will respond later!

Here's the very short version: Since you both say that you don't think arguments about what is "natural" are relevant to ethical questions, and therefore 'don't find it confusing', and that you believe that humans are omnivores - plus, you don't disagree with people who claim that a vegan diet isn't natural... my point isn't that while this may not be confusing for you (are you really sure? ;) ), it contributes to maintain confusion among non-vegans. I'm asking if you are really sure because you both state the we are omnivorous - and because you rather want to discuss 'ethics' than natural, but still have posted that you consider humans omnivorous (in a thread about arguments pro/con eating meat) and that there is no 'clear winner' in that discussion about whether humans are omnivores/herbivores or not. What I know is that I'm not even an omnivore, and I find your statements confusing! :)

I've already commented your belief that humans are currently omnivorous in another (http://www.veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?p=460856#post460856) thread where you have written about the same topic, and asked you what you actually mean when you say that we are omnivorous, and will post later about why I think the natural/non-natural topic is important in this thread.

ALexiconofLove
May 20th, 2008, 01:21 AM
Sorry, it is no longer my belief that humans are currently omnivorous--I don't believe there's enough evidence to conclude that humans are "naturally" or "supposed to be" herbivores or omnivores.

xrodolfox
May 20th, 2008, 04:01 AM
I think that regarding what is ethical, what is "natural" is irrelevant.

Humans can thrive without animal products, and regardless of it being natural, or unnatural, or whatever label regarding the "naturalness" of a diet; humans can thrive on a diet abstaining from animal products.

I don't even see how any claims of what is natural in a diet can be anything but a distraction from the argument on the ethics of veganism.

cobweb
May 20th, 2008, 10:56 AM
i think it shouldn't be relevant because nothing is 'natural' these days anyway, but as so many meat-eaters seem to think it is important then it becomes so, it would seem.

ALexiconofLove
May 20th, 2008, 11:51 AM
I agree with Rodolfo, of course (that's been my whole point). But there are practical considerations to think about. Korn and Cobweb think that it's important for us to argue that a Vegan diet is natural because meat-eating humans want to eat a natural diet. I think it's important for us to not link our arguments with unproven scientific theories because it makes aspects of veganism provable or disprovable, which they shouldn't be.

Personal experiences comes into this as well, I'm sure. It seems like Korn has encountered many people who say they're not vegan because it's not natural. I've encountered many people who think vegans are wackos because we sometimes subscribe to (very loudly and adamantly) unproven scientific theories. So we probably each have a different idea of what is more harmful to veganism.

harpy
May 20th, 2008, 12:11 PM
FWIW I suspect from what I've read that it's 'natural' for humans to eat anything they can get their hands on, and that that's the secret of our evolutionary success (if you can call it that!): we have been able to survive and reproduce when particular types of food are scarce by eating other foods instead. (ETA so a variety of different diets could have been 'natural' for humans at different periods of history and pre-history.) But obviously eating everything we can get our hands on when food is relatively plentiful is not a good idea, from any point of view.

I agree with Rodolfo, though. We only need to show that (a) you can be healthy on a vegan diet and (b) that it's more ethical - then its naturalness is irrelevant.

gogs67
May 20th, 2008, 11:27 PM
FWIW I suspect from what I've read that it's 'natural' for humans to eat anything they can get their hands on, and that that's the secret of our evolutionary success (if you can call it that!): we have been able to survive and reproduce when particular types of food are scarce by eating other foods instead. (ETA so a variety of different diets could have been 'natural' for humans at different periods of history and pre-history.) But obviously eating everything we can get our hands on when food is relatively plentiful is not a good idea, from any point of view.

I agree with Rodolfo, though. We only need to show that (a) you can be healthy on a vegan diet and (b) that it's more ethical - then its naturalness is irrelevant.

Totally agree with that as well!

And, slightly off topic, but new scientific evidence pertaining as to why we (humans) became so successful points to a rogue gene that appeared around 200,000 years ago that caused a rapid shrinking of the Temporalis muscle (runs from behind the eye, round the skull) which, in turn left the skull free to expand rapidly and let the areas of the brain involved in the process of language increase in size dramatically, and so seems to give validity to Darwins theory!
Communication rather than adaptability of diet led to our domination of the planet!

Klytemnest
May 26th, 2008, 06:24 AM
I partially agree, so I created a new thread out of this post - and will respond later!

Here's the very short version: Since you both say that you don't think arguments about what is "natural" are relevant to ethical questions, and therefore 'don't find it confusing', and that you believe that humans are omnivores - plus, you don't disagree with people who claim that a vegan diet isn't natural... my point isn't that while this may not be confusing for you (are you really sure? ;) ), it contributes to maintain confusion among non-vegans. I'm asking if you are really sure because you both state the we are omnivorous - and because you rather want to discuss 'ethics' than natural, but still have posted that you consider humans omnivorous (in a thread about arguments pro/con eating meat) and that there is no 'clear winner' in that discussion about whether humans are omnivores/herbivores or not. What I know is that I'm not even an omnivore, and I find your statements confusing! :)

I've already commented your belief that humans are currently omnivorous in another (http://www.veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?p=460856#post460856) thread where you have written about the same topic, and asked you what you actually mean when you say that we are omnivorous, and will post later about why I think the natural/non-natural topic is important in this thread.

I have never stated that a vegan diet is "unnatural", nor would I tacitly agree with this statement. I am simply saying that what is "natural" is irrelevant. I mean, what does "natural" mean, anyway? Clearly we, humans, are able to thrive on vegan AND omnivorous diets. Sure, I think a well-balanced vegan diet is probably healthier than a well-balanced omni diet, but still - we are ale to survive and thrive on omni diets.

Furthermore, "natural" is not always synonymous with "best". Nature is mindless. Just because we evolved a certain way does not necessarily mean that this is the best conceivable way for us to be. So, even if we evolved as herbivores "naturally" - so what?

It doesn't matter how we evolved. The FACT is that we are perfectly capable of eating meat and thriving. This fact alone is enough to categorize the human species as "omnivorous." Cats are not omnivorous. Goats are not omnivorous. We are. We have a choice. They don't. We can thrive on vegan diets and we can thrive on omnivorous diets.

For me the choice is not a matter of evolution and "natural design"; it's a matter of ethics.

And yes, you are an omnivore, Korn. So am I. So are we all. We are perfectly capable of eating meat and thriving. But we choose to lead vegan lifestyles. It's not that the call of nature, my own nature, revealed to me my true "veganness." It was the ethical considerations of meat consumption. I loved eating meat. I ate meat just about every day until the age of 30 or so. And I did just fine. It did not kill me, nor did I suffer terribly as a result of meat consumption. So, even if meat consumption is not very healthy for us, I still do not think one can make the argument that we are "natural" herbivores the same way horses are. Horses cannot go on the Atkins diet; we can. Unfortunately...

Don't be mad at me for calling you an omnivore, OK? :-) For me it is not an issue of what we are; it is an issue of what we ought to be. They are two very different things. A while ago I heard that humans are not really "naturally" monogamous. Does that mean that I am therefore justified in cheating on my partner? No. Even if it is our nature to have multiple partners, that has little to do with the ethical issues of trust and commitment.

I understand your interest and passion on this subject. Ultimately, I don't think it matters. I don't think it should matter. This is a door omnis like to open in search for justification for their choices. I do not agree with opening this door. It doesn't matter which side wins or loses this debate. It's an irrelevant issue, and I do not like the idea of the omnis feeling that they have achieved ethical justification of their choices. Don't allow them to think that all they have to do is find evidence for the "naturalness" of an omnivorous diet. Nature is mindless. Nature is not driven by ethics, and this is why we should not let nature dictate what our ethics should be.

Korn
May 26th, 2008, 08:29 AM
I am simply saying that what is "natural" is irrelevant. I mean, what does "natural" mean, anyway?

Dear Klytemnest,

that's an interesting combination of statements. ;) If you discuss what's natural and not - or if it's relevant - the meaning of 'natural' is quite important. I looked up some common definitions of natural when we had a similar discussion earlier, and here's some common and relatively similar definitions of natural:

• existing in or produced by nature; not artificial or imitation

• (used especially of commodities) being unprocessed or manufactured using only simple or minimal processes

• A substance that is derived from mineral, plant, or animal matter and does not undergo a synthetic process

• Produced or existing in nature; not artificial or manufactured.

• occurring in nature

• about material: Material found in nature, such as wood, stone, gases, and clay.

• Not altered, treated, or disguised

• in accordance with nature

• existing in nature or created by the forces of nature, in contrast to production by man; not made, manufactured, or processed by humans


Some people state that 'everything is natural', which just leaves the word with absolute no meaning. I think lots of confusions comes from using only two words: natural and unnatural. Since we are not born with clothes - and sometimes need clothes - we need a third term, like 'nature friendly', or 'compatible with nature'. More about this later.




Clearly we, humans, are able to thrive on vegan AND omnivorous diets. With the thousands of posts and articles on internet documenting...
a) links between common human diseases and diet
b) in particular, links between common - and serious - diseases and animal products...
...I don't think the word 'clearly' fits into that sentence. If you could prove that all the links between heart disease, digestive problems, cancer etc. and meat are based on fake science or have been manipulated, maybe the word clearly would fit in - and the same goes for the naturalness of drinking milk from other species. Health authorities now warn against giving babies cow's milk since it may increase the likelihood to develop diabetes in many children, and human incompatibility with cow's milk isn't a new thing, as this: (Early man 'couldn't stomach milk' (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6397001.stm)) and other articles discuss. (We have a thread about the 'naturalness' of drinking milk here (http://www.veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=13902).)

Maybe we could 'thrive' on a combination of eating synthetic supplements and juice made from grass, bark or soil, but that doesn't mean that such a diet would be 'natural' for humans - so 'thrive' and 'natural' are two different things - and the main point is that with an average human being sick 10 years of his life, and a at least third of the population dying of diseases we have found no cure for, claiming that humans are 'thriving' on the diet that is linked with these problems is a very strange thing to do- 'Struggling' would be a better word.



Nature is mindless. That's a conclusion - but you don't say how you got to that conclusion... Most people in this world have deep respect for nature, and if you look at the body of an animal or human, you'll see that there's a lot of 'intelligent design' baked into us all. One doesn't have to be religious to see that there's a 'meaning' in how humans' and non-human animals' bodies are equipped from nature. There's a reason we have teeth in the mouth, and not in our neck. ;)



So, even if we evolved as herbivores "naturally" - so what? Even if some vegans don't care about natural or not, to claim that it is natural for us to eat meat and/or that we are omnivores represent a different statement than saying that it doesn't matter what's natural, which you do:


Of course it is "natural" for us to eat meat. I did it for most of my life.
You really seem to mix up 'natural' with 'normal'.


But why does it matter? It has already been proven that eating meat is not necessary for our health, longevity or survival. Heck, abstaining from meat may even lead to better health and survival.
So - is a diet that causes reduced health or reduced live expectancy 'natural' (remember that we are vegans, so we also take the ethics into consideration)? I'm not saying that whatever diet that makes us live until we are 200 is 'natural', but shouldn't a consideration of what's best for our health (without harming nature in 'a non-healable way') be taken into consideration? There are poisonous plants, so obviously, not everything that grown in nature is good for humans - but that's a different topic.

If someone claim that it's "of course natural" for us to eat meat (like you do), my main response (in addition to all the reports about health issues associated with animal products) that we - unlike omnivorous/carnivorous animals aren't even equipped with a body that is capable of hunting and killing deer, sheep kettle, fish or birds. The concept of 'natural' stops already before these poor creatures has been converted into food.

• Natural, or natural processes have been defined above. Stones appear in nature, but trying to chew on them would seriously damage our 'naturally occurring' (and necessary) teeth, so eating stone doesn't seem natural to me.
• Every product in the world is made out of something which at some point has been 'naturally occurring in nature, but that doesn't mean that 'everything is natural'.
• "Destroying" a plant and eating it is a very different activity than killing an animal and eating it. Since we need food to survive, it makes sense to me to consider what diet that would be least damaging to nature, most 'natural-friendly', and also which diet that can provide as good or better health than a meat based/combined diet and at the same cause as little harm to animals, the planet and humans as possible. That would be a truly 'nature compatible' diet.
• According to natural, human instincts, most humans may want kill an animal in order to survive in a life/death situation, but that doesn't mean that it's 'natural' to kill and eat meat under normal conditions.
• 'Synthetic' lifestyles, based on a lot of chemicals, environment unfriendly poisons are common these days, but that doesn't mean that these people are having a 'natural' lifestyle. Living in a way that causes long time damage on the planet we live on when there are other options, isn't living 'in accordance with' nature.





And yes, you are an omnivore, Korn. According to the common definition of omnivore, I'm not even close. Far from it.


We are perfectly capable of eating meat and thriving. Google 'meat' and the names of some common diseases. Please document that all those reports about links between eg. cancer or heart disease and meat consumption are wrong.


Give up meat and your life will get better - you will enjoy better health, your planet will enjoy better health.
So - according to you we 'thrive' on a diet that will cause reduced health (compared with living on a vegan diet). But doesn't thrive have to do with 'surviving well'? How can eating something that means reduced health be considered as just as natural as something something that will give us improved health, as long as ethical values also are taken into consideration? If 'thrive' is a condition for natural, and thrive has to do with not only surviving, but surviving well, wouldn't 'survive better' equal 'more natural' as long as ethics is taken into consideration?


Cannibalism exists in nature, right? It's natural. So, there is nothing unethical about it? Of course not - nobody in here claimed that everything that you can find in a forest - be it a rabbit, a poisonous mushroom or a republican should be eaten, or that ethics shouldn't be taken into consideration. But to go to the extreme opposite doesn't make sense. We don't need to exclude 'nature friendly' when we discuss ethics - or exclude ethics if we discuss 'nature friendly'.

It's mainly your "We are animals. They are animals. Animals eat animals. We are omnivores"-thing I don't get. Millions of animals on this planet has never eaten chicken, fish or beef. Some animals kill/eat these living beings, some don't. You seem to use the same illogical excuse that some meat eaters use when they claim that it's natural for humans to eat meat because some animals do it: they select to look only at the animals who actually eat meat, and use those as a reference. It just as illogical as to claim that we shouldn't eat meat because sheep doesn't eat meat.

Eating meat means killing nature in several ways:

First of all, an animal is killed, and animals are part of nature - right?

Since I don't buy the slightly euphoric we-should-live-on-light-and-not-eat-plants theory, and because apples doesn't scream or try to escape when I pick them, I don't see eating plants as killing - or as destroying nature. Eating a plant isn't a 'planet-unfriendly' activity.

And - finally, not only are there many diseases associated with eating meat and dairy products (more than half of the world population still can't 'stomach' milk); our very planet can't 'stomach' how humans today use animals as food. Is a diet natural if both the planet, the animal, and humans' health suffer as a result of as that diet? Do you even feel a natural impulse to kill if you see a bird or a squirrel? Is killing goats, cows or dogs and tearing them apart psychologically built into our instincts?



Hey, I grew up on meat. I loved the taste. I used to chew on chicken bones and suck out the bone marrow! Sure, and if you would spend a couple of years with dogs (http://www.veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=18008&highlight=dog) in your childhood, you would bark. I guess we agree that this neither makes it natural for you to eat meat or natural for humans to crawl on the ground and bark...

ALexiconofLove
May 26th, 2008, 02:32 PM
This is kind of tangential... maybe it just belongs in a thread called "What does natural mean?" :p


here's some common and relatively similar definitions of natural:

existing in or produced by nature; not artificial or imitation

But nature imitates too. There are butterflies that look they have eyes on their wings and flowers that look like bees.

Also, humans are produced by nature, so aren't the things we do by extension from nature? Or are human beings the sole animal considered outside of nature? Can other animals have activities that are "unnatural"? For example, other animals use tools... sometimes even to catch food. So if are tools artificial or natural?

So many people seem to define natural as being everything man or womankind doesn't do, whereas our activities our unnatural... but since we are animals, that argument has never made sense to me.



(used especially of commodities) being unprocessed or manufactured using only simple or minimal processes

But something is not either processed or unprocessed... each person would have to decide for him or herself what "minimally processed" is. And "processing" is not a very clearly defined term itself. Does processing mean heating? Does it include only chemical changes or does it include other changes? And why is something that is processed unnatural?



A substance that is derived from mineral, plant, or animal matter and does not undergo a synthetic process

This makes sense to me if there's a good definition for a synthetic process. "Synthetic" and "process" are both a bit wishy-washy in the same way that "natural" is.



Produced or existing in nature; not artificial or manufactured.

occurring in nature


This is what throws me for a loop. Everything in the universe exists within nature, even the artifial and manufactured things.



about material: Material found in nature, such as wood, stone, gases, and clay.


All materials are found in nature, some are just created by human beings (a part of nature). We could say "materials that were not created by human beings," but again, why are human beings and their activities not considered a part of nature when all other animals and their activities are?



Not altered, treated, or disguised


Things are altered, treated, and disguised in nature.



in accordance with nature

existing in nature or created by the forces of nature, in contrast to production by man; not made, manufactured, or processed by humans


So, the whole definition of natural hinges on the idea that man's activities (and his activities alone out of all animals) exist outside of nature. To me, this seems a bit presumptuous, an attempt to define ourselves as different and separate from nature (on the outside looking in) when in fact we aren't.



Some people state that 'everything is natural', which just leaves the word with absolute no meaning.

Yeah, that's me. :p The word doesn't mean anything to me! Its existence seems to be rooted in the idea that men and women and their activities are outside nature. I am open to explanations, though. Gotta think about that "synthetic process" bit.

bryzee86
May 26th, 2008, 02:41 PM
I've not read the posts on this thread cos my head hurts, but I just wanna throw some things out there:

Take your clothes off;
get rid of your oven, microwave, fridge etc;
Move out of your home;
Stop cycling;
Don't drive;
Don't take the bus;
stop drinking tap water.

I could go on for days. Those things aren't natural.

I think we should stop debating whether something is "natural" or not, but instead just live our lives as fully and harmlessly as possible. After all, some people believe rape or murder to be "natural", but it doesn't mean we should do it.

ALexiconofLove
May 26th, 2008, 03:29 PM
With the thousands of posts and articles on internet documenting...
a) links between common human diseases and diet
b) in particular, links between common - and serious - diseases and animal products...
...I don't think the word 'clearly' fits into that sentence. If you could prove that all the links between heart disease, digestive problems, cancer etc. and meat are based on fake science or have been manipulated, maybe the word clearly would fit in - and the same goes for the naturalness of drinking milk from other species.

Eating meat and drinking milk are two different things. There are lots of creatures in the world that eat meat, and only one that drinks milk. Being the sole creature that does something doesn't necessarily make that activity "unnatural"... Or, because I don't like that word, maybe we could say "doesn't mean we are not evolved to participate in that activity"? But it makes it less likely. And the less time we have been eating something (2 or 3000 years? Maybe 4000) makes it less likely that we are optimallly evolved to eat that thing. If human beings continued to drink milk for another 5,000 years, maybe we would become optimally evolved to drink that thing. At the moment, are gene pool has taken a step in that direction (a la the mutation that allows some people to drink milk), but I don't think we're fully evolved for it (supported by the medical things Korn mentioned!).

Eating meat is something that some earthlings evolved the ability for way, way back. But that doesn't mean homo sapien is optimally evolved to eat meat. What have human beings been eating for the past 150,000 years? The answer to that question would be useful (though I don't think relevant to vegan ethcis), but as Korn has pointed out, it's a difficult thing to determine, and the current method of saying "Look, we found a crude knife at one archeological site, everyone at this time period must have eaten meat!" is dumb. :)



Maybe we could 'thrive' on a combination of eating synthetic supplements and juice made from grass, bark or soil, but that doesn't mean that such a diet would be 'natural' for humans

I will just take "natural" to mean the diet we are currently ideally evolved to eat (Sidenote: maybe my problem with the word "natural" is just that there's usually a clearer, more exact word or phrase that could be used?). The problem is, creatures are never perfectly evolved to their environments, because evolution happens over such long periods of time, whereas environmental changes can occur quite rapidly. Evolution for most creatures doesn't just stop (although I think there are some ocean species that have been around for ages and ages without changing much?), and omnivores can evolve herbivores or carnivores, or omnivores can evolve to eat more meat or less meat.

So the best way to find out what we are currently evolved to eat is to see which diets make us healthiest, which diets make us live the longest, which diets make us smartest or most energetic, etc. I guess there could actually be different diets for these things?

Anyway, as Korn points out, there are many studies documenting that meat-eathing is unhealthy, and I don't question the scientific-ness (?) of those studies, but the *conclusions* of some of those studies may be flawed. If you say "People who ate red meat once a day were three times as likely to develop x, therefor red meat is bad," you've left several things out of the equation. Most red meat today comes from cows fed hormones and antibiotics, and it's very possible that those two things are responsible for health problems. You're also showing that people who eat red meat once a day get sick, but humans could be evolved to eat red meat once a month or once a year (so that eating more makes them sick).

I'm not trying to argue that people should eat hormone free, antibiotic free red meat a few times a year... I think it would be wrong from an ethical standpoint. I'm saying I haven't seen proof that we are not evolved to do that or that such a diet would not be healthy. I'm concerned that if we convince people to eat a vegan diet for health reasons, and then they find out that certain non-vegan diets can be just as healthy or healthier, they will go back to eating meat and/or feel like veg*ns trust any scientific study that supports their beliefs while discounting any that go against their beliefs.

Again, not saying that nonvegan diets of any kind *are* healthy, but rather that by linking our philosophy to scientific claims, we make our philosophy falsifiable. It's like the Catholic church and Galileo... if they hadn't jumped on the bandwagon of certain scientists and philosophers and their claims about the cosmos, the church would not have been in so much trouble when Galileo showed up saying the earth revolved around the sun. But the whole thing was pointless, because the arrangement of the cosmos cannot prove or disprove the existence of God. Likewise, discovering the diet that humans are ideally evolved to eat (if such an ideal diet even exists) does not prove or disprove the statement that killing unnecessarily is wrong.


Even if some vegans don't care about natural or not, to claim that it is natural for us to eat meat and/or that we are omnivores represent a different statement than saying that it doesn't matter what's natural, which you do.

True. I think my problem with the statement "humans are natural omnivores" or "humans are natural herbivores" is that I disagree with the word "natural" and there are a gabillion different eating patterns (based on type of animal eaten, amount of meat consumed, etc.) that could all be called omnivorous.


If someone claim that it's "of course natural" for us to eat meat (like you do), my main response (in addition to all the reports about health issues associated with animal products) that we - unlike omnivorous/carnivorous animals aren't even equipped with a body that is capable of hunting and killing deer, sheep kettle, fish or birds.

No, we need tools to do so. But other animals use tools to catch food, and I think that is part of evolution. If a creature can fashion a tool to catch prey, then there is no evolutionary pressure for the body to change. If a bonobo can stick a twig into a hole and get termites to crawl on the stick, there is no evolutionary pressure the bonobo to grow a probiscus (sp?). But if all the bonobos start eating termites, there will be evolutionary pressure to evolve toward eating termites. If humans have knives and spears to catch animals, there is no evolutionary pressure to grow claws and fangs.



"Destroying" a plant and eating it is a very different activity than killing an animal and eating it. Since we need food to survive, it makes sense to me to consider what diet that would be least damaging to nature, most 'natural-friendly', and also which diet that can provide as good or better health than a meat based/combined diet and at the same cause as little harm to animals, the planet and humans as possible. That would be a truly 'nature compatible' diet.

Word. But not applicable to the question of whether or not we are best evolved to eat some sort of omnivorous diet or some sort of herbivorous diet. ;)

Korn
May 26th, 2008, 03:32 PM
All materials are found in nature What do you mean by 'nature'? The Universe? Existence?

IMO we should aim at not making this more difficult than it is...




Originally Posted by Korn
Some people state that 'everything is natural', which just leaves the word with absolute no meaning.
Yeah, that's me.

I choose to stick to the commonly used ways to define 'natural'.



Everything in the universe exists within nature, even the artifial and manufactured things.
'Natural flavoring' or 'natural colors' - when used about food, normally means flavors or colors that comes from natural sources, with no or minimal processing. Colors or taste made in a lab by mixing chemical substances that are very different from their original/unprocessed form wouldn't be called 'natural' by most people.

Again - if 'natural' doesn't mean anything/if "everything is natural", this thread will be meaningless... The same would be true about a lot of literature about saving our environment.

Like I said, term like 'nature friendly' or 'compatible with nature' are needed if we discuss natural, because nobody claims that we're just going to sit still with an open mouth and drink rainwater whenever it rains and consume nothing else.

When a label says '100% natural', eg. about a juice, it means that there's no added, artificial flavors or color in it. But... apple juice doesn't grow on trees - apples do. The moment they make juice out of a few apples, we have already done something with the apples. I can't really see how that represents a problem in this context.

Some people will say that 'humans always ******, so it's natural', but that's a misuse of the word natural; what they refer to is normally 'normal'.

Regarding imitation - IMO it doesn't matter if some butterflies look like they have eyes on their wings and some flowers look like bees, because the part about 'imitation' refers to the difference between eg. 'orange juice' and 'drink with an imitated orange taste', not to chameleons. :) (There are even laws saying that you can't call a soda drink eg. 'lemon soda' if it contains less than only a certain percentage actual juice from a lemon - at least in some countries. If it's an imitation, it's not a lemon drink, and they can't put '100% natural' on it if lemon taste come from synthetic colors.).


My point is that humans aren't even equipped from nature to kill and tear apart and animals - we need tools to do this. The most important disagreement I personally have with people who claim that it's natural for humans to eat meat/unnatural to live on a vegan diet, is they're use of the fact that 'we can make tools'. Yes - we can make tools, but that doesn't mean that whatever we do with these tools are 'nature friendly'. We can make nuclear bombs, but nuclear bombs aren't occurring in nature. If they would be commercially available, nobody would put a '100% natural' sticker on them. Nobody defended the use of nuclear bombs by saying that using nuclear bombs were a natural thing for humans to do, or that the bombs were 'natural'. Nobody defended rape or use of violence by saying that violence and rape has occurred among humans for thousands of years, so 'it's natural'. Normal and natural are two very different things.

How can it be 'natural' to produce guns, or factories designed to mass slaughter chicken? If it is natural to produce tools that kill animals, killing animals isn't natural for others that those animals that have the claws, speed and jaws that's needed to kill them. Others need to make tools, and if they make tools, they can decide whether they want to make weapons or tools needed to grow and harvest strawberries. There's no logic in saying that 'because we can make tools, it's natural to kill other animals'. It's 'natural' for a lion, but not for a human.


One could say that from nature's side, we are equipped with what it takes to catch and eat larvae, snails, worms, ants and other creatures that are easy to catch, but I've yet to hear any of those who claim that eating meat is natural suggest that we/they should start eating snails and larvae. One could even argue that something that requires fire isn't natural, because most places on earth, fire doesn't occur naturally. Most plants can be eaten raw, most non-vegans basically prefer cooked (etc) meat.

I'm not saying we shouldn't use fire or clothes, I'm saying that whatever way we choose to cultivate nature, we should try to do it in a way that doesn't damage nature in ways that will be harmful for the planet, we should strive for a 'nature friendly' culture - and if we use tools - which we do, we should of course strive for causing as little harm as possible. The moment we move from nature to culture, these things become important, and while natural isn't always good and 'cultural' isn't bas as such, I have tried for many years to understand why people claim that (a few) people claim that eating vegan isn't natural, while eating meat is.

The other thing is that we live in such a de-naturalized world that we're not even close to a natural lifestyle, but this doesn't give us an alibi to harm animals, humans or the planet unnecessary.

If we kill a human or an animal, we actually - and directly - destroy nature, because humans and animals are part of nature. To me - and most people - peeling a banana is very different from and much more dramatic way of 'processing' natural resources than peeling the skin off a cow. The main thing is of course that one of the two expresses a wish of not wanting to be killed, harmed or have it's skin peeled off. Nobody has managed to convince me that a banana feels pain the way an animal does.


I believe most people use the word 'natural' in ways very close to the definitions above, and ALoL - if you have a problem with the definition of 'natural', I don't think I can help you, really... there are of course areas that some people may consider natural or 'nature friendly' that others won't, but that doesn't make it 'natural' to eat meat or 'unnatural' to eat vegan. Let's try to keep it simple. :)

If someone can help me understand why human consumption of meat should be considered natural (as opposed to 'normal'), but eating vegan isn't - please give it a try. :) I've tried hard to understand it for many years with no success!

ALexiconofLove
May 26th, 2008, 03:40 PM
If it is natural to produce tools that kill animals, killing animals isn't natural for others that those animals that have the claws, speed and jaws that's needed to kill them. Others need to make tools, and if they make tools, they can decide whether they want to make weapons or tools needed to grow and harvest strawberries. There's no logic in saying that 'because we can make tools, it's natural to kill other animals'. It's 'natural' for a lion, but not for a human.

What about animals that use tools to catch their prey?

Korn
May 26th, 2008, 03:41 PM
Yes, what about them?

ALexiconofLove
May 26th, 2008, 03:43 PM
If they use tools to catch their prey, does that mean it is unnatural to eat those animals?

ETA: Also, I snuck in a post before your post... don't know if you saw it... guess we were typing at the same time. :)

Korn
May 26th, 2008, 03:49 PM
Short version: I'm not saying that we shouldn't use tools, or that other animals shouldn't use tools, or clothes, or pianos. I'm saying that the fact that we can create tools can't be used as an excuse to say that killing animals is natural/that we are natural omnivores - or that eating vegan isn't natural.

One could of course say that stones are 'naturally' occurring in nature, and one could kill animals by throwing stones on them, but of course I don't support that...

I'm not saying that we should be 'all natural' all the time, but that our culture, our ways cultivating nature should be as nature- (and human- and animal-) friendly as possible.

ALexiconofLove
May 26th, 2008, 03:54 PM
I'm not saying that we should be 'all natural' all the time, but that our culture, our ways cultivating nature should be as nature- (and human- and animal-) friendly as possible.

Well I can definitely agree with that.

Klytemnest
May 27th, 2008, 09:53 AM
I have gotten quite a few complaints about the length of my posts, so I'll try to be brief. I have said just about everything I have to say on the subject of "natural". The fact is that we are able to eat and digest meat. That alone makes us omnivores. Sure, there is evidence that continued consumption of meat is probably not good for us. But during the course of human evolution, eating meat was better than starving to death. We evolved as omnivores, we evolved with the ability to eat and digest meat - and that was an evolutionary advantage.

To argue against this fact is, I think, Korn, counter-productive to our cause. As I said earlier, this is a subject favorite of people who are seeking to argue against veganism. They argue that since nature made us to be omnivores, we should not feel guilty about obeying it. The facts are on their side, Korn. We are omnivores. We can eat and digest meat. This ability enabled us to survive as a species - during the thousands of years when Whole Foods was not around the corner and we were always at the brink of starvation. We CAN eat meat. But that has nothing to do with the issue at hand. The relevant fact is that even though we are able to eat and digest meat, its consumption is 100% unnecessary for our survival and wellbeing. So whether met consumption is natural or unnatural is immaterial. It is unnecessary - and therefore eating meat is unjustifiable. Natural shmatural.

Rami

Korn
May 27th, 2008, 11:27 AM
Here are some common definitions of omnivore:

"an organism whose diet consists of a wide variety of foodstuffs, including plants and animals"
"animal that consumes all kinds of food, particularly both animals and plants"
"Referring to the habit of consuming a broad variety of plant and animal foods"
"organisms that eat both animals and plants."
"an animal that includes both animal and plant material in its normal diet."

The term doesn't normally cover what we 'are able to', but what we do, what we consume, what we eat. I'm not a celery eater even if I'm able to eat celery.


If we should describe what most people in the Western world eat, we could descrive them as omnivores - not as in 'meant to eat a diet consisting of plants and meat' - but as in 'actually eating plants meat'.

If we should describe the hundreds of millions of vegetarians in the East, we couldn't call them omnivores, because they don't eat flesh. A vegetarian is physically able to put flesh in his mouth (he wouldn't be a vegetarian then), but that doesn't make him a meat eater or omnivore according to the common definitions.

"Is able to" is very different from "is doing".

Non-violent humans 'are able to' to kill other humans, but that doesn't make us all 'murderers'. Vegan and vegetarian humans who physically 'are able to' to kill animals shouldn't be described as 'hunters'. We can even kill and eat snails and larvae and eat them raw - without using any manmade tools - but that doesn't mean that we are snail eaters. Most importantly, veg*ns who 'are able to' eat meat aren't meat eaters/omnivores either - for the same reason - even if they 'are able to' eat meat. We are able to eat paper, mud and dehydrated cow poo as well, but that doesn't make us natural mud (etc) eaters... right?




The fact is that we are able to eat and digest meat. That alone makes us omnivores.


They argue that since nature made us to be omnivores, we should not feel guilty about obeying it.
'Obeying'.. how does 'obeying' go together with 'are able to'? Should we do everything 'we are able to'? Should we kill and eat an animal and not feel bad about it just because 'we are able to'?


The facts are on their side, Korn.
Which actual facts are you referring to? That eating meat isn't associated with known and common health problems? Or the fact that statistically, a lot of humans have been eating meat throughout history? If 'humans have been ******** for thousands of years' is a criterion for stating that it's "natural" for us to do it, and/or that we shouldn't feel bad about it, it would be natural to rape as well. It would also be 'natural' to die at the age of 30-40 years. If the definition of short-lived would be to die before you're 40, humans should be defined as 'short lived' if humans historic life expectancy should be the criterion.



We are omnivores. We can eat and digest meat.
Did you try to google eg. meat and cancer? Instead of just repeating your conclusions, why not try to elaborate a little...


during the thousands of years when Whole Foods was not around the corner For hundreds of thousands of years, humans had direct access to only organic food, and ALL food was probably what we today would call 'whole food'. For thousands of years humans more or less lived inside a whole food store. There have been diseases, ice ages, hunger, periods of severe draughts and other reasons that humans have eaten both animals and each other, but that doesn't mean that we are 'meant to' eat meat, or that we are cannibals. Do you think a non-cannibal in an area that was historically known for cannibalism in the past would claim that 'I'm a cannibal, because I'm able to digest human meat'? Or 'My forefathers ate human meat for thousands of years, so I'm a cannibal'? Or even worse: "Humans are cannibals?"

You don't even seem to be willing to agree that some humans have been eating meet while others haven't when you claim that all humans are omnivores (including myself).

If you haven't already googled eg. meat and cancer, meat and heart disease, or meat and arthritis - please do. You could also try to read about the effect meant production has on our environment. We 'are able to' eat meat, but as you have said earlier, eating meat is associated with health problems.

If you read about all the health - and digestive - issues associated with meat consumption and still want to claim that all humans are omnivores, or natural omnivores, and not even the planet can 'stomach' humans' so called 'need' to produce all the flesh our species want, I can't see anything natural about it. To me, that 'we are able to'-claim does not make sense at all when discussing what our natural diet is, neither does it support your ideas that you, I and everyone else are omnivores.

Now - if you think we are natural cannibals, natural rapers and natural murders, because we are capable of eating humans, killing humans and rape humans... that would be a different story. I truly hope you don't suggest we should define what humans 'are' ( as in 'we are omnivores') based on all the cruel stuff 'we are able' to do.

ALexiconofLove
May 27th, 2008, 01:46 PM
This is from Wiki, so not very reliable, but at least shows that there are other definitions of omnivore around besides the ones listed by Korn:

"Omnivores (from Latin: omne all, everything; vorare to devour) are species that eat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eat) both plants (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plants) and animals (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animals) as their primary food (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food) source. They are opportunistic, general feeders not specifically adapted to eat and digest either meat or plant material exclusively.[1] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnivore#cite_note-humansareomnivores-0)"

Note that the term applies to species, not individuals. So just because some people have vegan cats, it doesn't mean that cats are herbivores.

Based on this definition, the classification of a species as omnivorous relies on two facts: what members of the species eat and what they are adapted to eat. It's possible for those two things to be at odds, though not usually very long (due to evolutionary pressure). Of course, we could say that "evolutionary pressure" is heart attacks, obesity, etc., but modern medicine prevents it from working.

So, do humans eat an omnivorous diet? For all recorded history, most humans have. Even most Indian people consume milk (though I don't know if that is even categorized as part of an carnivorous or herbivorous diet because no other animal consumes it...). But recorded history is not very long. Before that, it's guess work. I think we can conclude that *some* humans ate meat based on archeological evidence, but it's hard to generalize from that.

The second half of the definition (what is a species adapted to eat) is the bit that's interesting to argue about, because we have more evidence to pick through.

Ultimately, though, I think probably very few people eat a diet that is anything like what people ate even a hundred years ago (due to the junk that's in our food now).

"Although there are reported cases of herbivores (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbivores) eating meat matter as well as examples of carnivores (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnivores) eating plants (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plants), the classification refers to the adaptations and main food source of the species in general so these exceptions do not make either individual animals nor the species as a whole omnivores."

I'll see if I can find info from a better source, but this goes against the argument that individual animals of an omnivorous species can call themselves herbivores... but I'll keep doing it anyway, because it makes me sound cool. :cool:

Based on the definition that "an omnivore is what it eats," (as opposed to, an omnivore is what it has evolved to eat), I would say that if most humans throughout the existence of the species (150,000 years?) have eaten an omnivorous diet, then we are omnivores. Of course, I don't know what human beings have been eating for the past 150,000 years, nor is it entirely implausible that our digestive system has evolved and changed somewhat during that time period (especially given that some humans developed the ability to drink milk several thousand years ago).

So I'm still fence-sitting. But still doesn't matter to Veganism. :)

Klytemnest
May 27th, 2008, 05:14 PM
Lexy, good post.

Korn, you seem to be unleashing your vegan ire on me as if I were "the enemy" (I assure you, I am not), and are beginning to introduce arguments that have nothing to do with whether or not we are omnivores - like the fact that eating meat wreaks havoc on the environment.

I agree that we should have defined "omnivore" before we launched into this discussion. The definition I was using was the one Lexy provided. Unlike herbivores, we are adapted to eat meat. To me that justifies classifying humans as omnivores, not as herbivores.

But you are right. You and I do not eat meat so, I suppose it's awkward for us to think of ourselves as omnivores or meat-eaters. Awkwardness aside, I think merely keeping in mind that by "omnivore" one means "adapted to eat meat" should be enough.

By saying that for most of its history humanity did not live around the corner from a Whole Foods store, I meant that we simply did not have the convenient and abundant source of food we have today. I was not talking about the fact that the diet of our ancestors was "whole" and "organic". I was making the point that without having a convenient and abundant source of food, humans were often on the brink of starvation, and thus the adaptive trait of being omnivorous is what prevented them from becoming extinct. That is all.

So let's not bicker over labels like "omnivore". I hope that by now I have cleared up my position (with Lexy's help). After all, labels do not matter. Facts do. And it is a fact that we are adapted to eat meat - unlike herbivores. Sure, eating meat is bad for us. But it is better than starving to death. And this is what makes it a beneficial adaptation for our species. If you disagree with this, then I have no idea how to continue this conversation.

Off to work.

Rami

cobweb
May 27th, 2008, 05:18 PM
just to stick my oar in, i do think it sounds pretty annoying to state that 'humans are omnivores' or 'you are an omnivore'. We're clearly not, we're herbivores, we live on plant matter and i am personally certain that early man did, also.

Klytemnest
May 27th, 2008, 05:30 PM
just to stick my oar in, i do think it sounds pretty annoying to state that 'humans are omnivores' or 'you are an omnivore'. We're clearly not, we're herbivores, we live on plant matter and i am personally certain that early man did, also.

As I have explained already, it depends on which definition of "omnivore" we use. I was using the definition of "adapted to eat both meat and plants, and not exclusively adapted to eat either." By that definition it is irrelevant that we choose not to eat meat. We are adapted to, whether we choose to or not. This does not in any way weaken our vegan arguments or ethical stance.

If you define "omnivore" and "herbivore" as mere descriptions of one's diet, then, yes, the correct label would not be omnivore - since we do not eat meat.

How did you get to be certain that early man was an herbivore? What specifically do you mean by "early man"? How far back to you go? But more importantly, do you think that early man's diet is the diet we should follow today?