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Thread: Was there a period in our evolution when we had to to use animals to survive?

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    Default Was there a period in our evolution when we had to to use animals to survive?

    My feelings are a little hurt by the reaction of a friend of mine to a question I asked Gary Francione at the Brooklyn Food Conference last Saturday. But moreso, if I am misinformed I'd like to learn what the truth is. (It was a workshop called "Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Hide Slaughterhouses, sponsored by the Occupy WallStreet Animal Issues Working Group.)

    Francione was doing his usual shpiel about moral schizophrenia, "We are all Michael Vick"... etc etc. In the Q&A I raised my hand and asked: "Speaking of moral schizophrenia -- wouldn't the period in our evolution when it was necessary to use animals to survive (i.e., Ice Age), explain alot of why the vast majority of people are so resistant to a vegan way of life?" He answered, "Well, I'm not an anthropologist, but I would suggest that there was never a time when it was necessary to eat animals". When I first became vegan 5 years ago, Francione was my first introduction to understanding most of the picture, and I hung on every word he said. So I was shocked at his answer ... I don't know how you can dismiss evolution as a factor in trying to analyze the resistance to veganism. I was also surprised that the other 3 panelists (Victoria Moran, Tim Pachirat, Noam Mohr) had nothing to say on the subject. Ok so that was that and they went on to the next questioner.

    After the event, my friend who has been a vegan and animal activist for almost 40 years, and is a self-proclaimed revolutionary communist, engaged Francione trying to get him to concede the role of capitalism as the predominant culprit in animal exploitation. I have not been convinced of this, and it was interesting for me to overhear Francione not buying it either. My friend told me that she was disappointed but not surprised at his reaction. I then told her that I was surprised at his reaction to my question. She replied that she was surprised that I even asked it ... that it revealed a certain ignorance on my part. She said don't you know that we are herbivores, ya-di-ya-da, Milton Mills ... the book "Man The Hunted" (which I have read but the authors don't address food choices in the book) ... China Study.

    So I ask those of you who may be more educated in the area of anthropology -- was my question ignorant? And if so, can you recommend some books I can read?

    Thanks in advance.
    Last edited by Garbo; May 17th, 2012 at 09:56 PM. Reason: missing word

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    Default Re: Welfarism, Abolitionism and Francione

    The Ice Age wasn't a global event. People migrating to and beyond the edges of the environment that can support them with fruits and vegetation was a choice; not a necessity to ensure our survival.

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    Default Re: Welfarism, Abolitionism and Francione

    You do mean that meat-eating was a choice? Kindly clarify.

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    Default Re: Was it an ignorant question?

    Quote Garbo View Post
    ... wouldn't the period in our evolution when it was necessary to use animals to survive (i.e., Ice Age) ...
    I was responding to that. I'm not convinced that there was such a period inflicted on us. Learned behavior (wearing animal skins, eating meat, ...) might have enabled us to inhabit new environments that were too hostile for us before, but was that migration out of necessity or by choice? Consensus is that we migrated from Africa, but far as I know there are no indications that we left because it became inhabitable. People are still there today.

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    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Welfarism, Abolitionism and Francione

    the period in our evolution when it was necessary to use animals to survive (i.e., Ice Age)
    If you specified in your question that you were thinking about eg. ice age, maybe it would be better to ask him directly what his views are about that topic? He has been participating tin this tread...


    "wouldn't the period in our evolution when it was necessary to use animals to survive (i.e., Ice Age), explain alot of why the vast majority of people are so resistant to a vegan way of life?
    Some people change diets over night, and this happens more often than ever; Atkins, low-carb, raw food, fruitarian, paleolithic, gluten-free and what not. It all depends on how easy the feel it is and - usually - how they are influenced by their surroundings. There's heavy marketing resources behind the burgers/coke/junk food diet, which is one reason it sells so well. I'm sure ice age and similar situations have made lots of people increase their intake of animal products back when these periods exited, and also is a reason why use of animal products is so widespread today: the power of habits survives generations. But I doubt that people are resistant to a vegan lifestyle because of the ice age. I think they eat meat etc simply because they aren't paying attention, because they like the taste, because they falsely assume that going vegan would involve some sort of sacrifice - in terms of taste and nutrition.

    A Norwegian survey from the 90s showed that the number of people who was interested in a meat-free diet was 12 times as high as the number of people who actually didn't eat meat. And this was in spite of no TV commercials/hardly any ads for vegetarianism.

    Re. resistance against a meat free diet, "taste" was the most commonly mentioned "resistance" against a meat free lifestyle.

    The main worries/objections among those who actually said that they were interested in living on a vegetarian diet or at least to try it for a long period was:

    Taste, like meat/fish: 38%
    Not enough variation (on a meat free diet): 37%
    Family wouldn't like it: 32%
    Difficult when eating out: 27%
    Can't make vegetarian food: 23%
    Worries about nutritional value of vegetarian food: 22%
    Small range of products: 13%
    Expensive: 7%

    The sad and ironic thing is that many of the responders from this survey 16 years ago probably have contributed in a negative way since then, and raised kids who can't make meat-free food, who like meat/fish etc, because they have grown up with parents who stayed with a animal based diet instead of changing their habits. Their lack of willingness to change their lives also means that myths about 'not enough variation' etc are kept alive, and even influences the amount and range of veg food available when eating out.
    I will not eat anything that walks, swims, flies, runs, skips, hops or crawls.

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    Default Re: Welfarism, Abolitionism and Francione

    I'm guessing, Garbo, that you really want an explanation of GF blowing off the question rather than the definitive answer.

    IMHO, experts in their limited fields frequently overestimate their intellectual powers in non-related fields. My old insurance salesman dad used to complain about that: teachers especially thought they knew everything.

    Let's all be careful in judging what is fact and what is opinion.
    the only animal ingredient in my food is cat hair

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    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Welfarism, Abolitionism and Francione

    Quote pat sommer View Post

    IMHO, experts in their limited fields frequently overestimate their intellectual powers in non-related fields.
    In this case, however, there were two 'disclaimers': "Well, I'm not an anthropologist, but I would suggest that...[etc]". I don't see that as blowing off the question.

    Did you specify your ice age example when you asked the question, Garbo?

    I don't think your question was ignorant - there are conflicting viewpoints on this topic, so it's a reasonable question to ask. To learn more about surviving ice age without eating meat, one either needs to go through a lot of books, or do what most people probably would do the read more about the topic: Google it.

    Here are some of the disagreeing opinions (from random/unknown/non-scientific sources) I found when I just tried:
    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/in...7121404AAbDtf2
    "During the ice age, some areas are way too cold for plants to survive. However, there are other areas (the Middle East, Africa, India and Australia for example) in which the climate is not so extremely cold and the land is not covered by ice. Plants can grow in such areas, and presumably these plants can be eaten by herbivores. The Neanderthals of Europe apparently hunted large game animals almost exclusively for their food, but elsewhere around the world humans were able to eat a more varied diet, which included plants, shellfish, and game animals."

    http://hatillo_pr.tripod.com/theory.htm
    "we must think about prehistoric ice ages , especially the current ice age, that started 2.58 million years ago, which is more or less when man's/primates evolution (2.4 million years ago evidence from Africa) started, but lately other advanced primates (different types of Hominids) have been found in other regions of the world that date back to same time period as the evidence from Africa according to recent News's/TV reports. Some of these new types of Hominids have been found on remote Islands, far away from Africa. When this new ice age came to be, a lot of vegetation would have died, due to changes in the climates and there would have been an abundance of frozen dead or dieing prehistoric animals all over the world. So in different parts of the world, different races of simian primates would have been forced to eat meat to survive or die. "

    http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Age-Old-Question---But-Why-Should-I-Be-Vegetarian-IF-I-Can-Eat-Meat?&id=2597201
    "As soon as you go vegetarian, the first thing you will be told from friends, family and meat eaters is that we were designed to eat meat so we are supposed to eat meat. Wrong! Just because we've evolved for thousands of years and at very brief and select times (Ice Age) had to eat meat to survive that does not mean we are supposed to eat meat. What separates us from all the other animals is our brain."

    http://in.answers.yahoo.com/question...3014547AAlgybO
    "Anthropology shows that humans were indeed vegetarians in the past. I think we began eating meat during the ice age when vegetation was scarce."

    http://gogreen.hubpages.com/hub/Did-...lways-Eat-Meat
    "Especially without knowing how to use fire and cook…I came to a conclusion that maybe our ancestors were really eating all the greens and fruits up on the trees but maybe by the coming ice age and rapid decrease of the vegetation, they found the way to feed on that secret nutrient hidden upon the trees. That key food for them is now called : EGGS"
    http://www.dfwnetmall.com/veg/hunter.htm
    "During the last Ice Age, early humans had to start eating animal flesh to survive. Unfortunately, after the Ice Age, many humans continued to eat meat."
    There may still be people living in arctic areas who wouldn't survive without killing fish or seal. But does this mean that humans, as such, need to eat meat to survive? Of course not, becuase this is only true for for some humans - and until they move to another area.

    ....which is why this should be relevant for your question too:
    http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=533284 :
    Can an ice age occur overnight?
    That depends on what you mean by "overnight". To a climatologist or geologist, the answer is "yes". They just have a different concept of what overnight means than do the rest of us. To a geologist, "overnight" means hundreds of thousands of years. Thousands of years is not just overnight to a geologist, it is a blink of the eye. Climatologists have learned that the climate can sometimes switch modes "overnight" -- where overnight means several years to a century or more.
    In other words: If an ice age takes from years to centuries or a lot more to manifest, most of our ancestors would probably have been able to move to warmer climates if they believed that the climate was warmer in other parts of the planet (and if the climate actually was warmer in other areas... unless. of course, they weren't already living on a a fish/meat based diet (even if they didn't need it) and therefore felt no reason to escape. But - if they could move to to a warmer over a period of some years, and didn't, the 'suggestion' from Francione, the non-anthropologist, would be right.

    Another possibility: Maybe Francione was thinking about the evolution of the human body only, as in "the human body has never been needing meat to survive as long as a good variety of plants were available", and sort of subconsciously took it for granted that if no plants were available, one obviously couldn't live on plants and therefore would need to eat something else to survive. In that way, the answer would reflect his "suggestion" about human physiology and nutritional needs only during our ancestors time line (those of our ancestors that would be defined as humans), and not be related to ice age/extreme volcanism/those infamous desert islands with meat but no plants (!) at all... ;-)


    (I'll move the part about this topic over the the Human Evolution subforum soon.)



    I will not eat anything that walks, swims, flies, runs, skips, hops or crawls.

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    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Welfarism, Abolitionism and Francione

    Hi,
    I've been in touch with Gary Francione today, exchanged a few emails, and he just wrote that I could post the following from him:


    On May 12, I spoke at the Brooklyn Food Conference. In the afternoon session, I was asked about whether evolution influenced my views on speciesism (that is, whether my views about the morality of animal exploitation were influenced by the fact that animal exploitation had served some adaptive role in human evolution). I responded that I am not an anthropologist and did not feel qualified to discuss this issue from that point of view. I did, however, say that, as a moral philosopher, I had concerns in that it has, for example, long been argued that there is "natural" superiority of whites, or of men, because "evolution" has selected those groups as dominant. It has also been argued that homosexuality is "unnatural" from an evolutionary point of view. For many reasons, I reject that argument completely in the context of race and sex or sexual orientation; I also reject it completely in the context of speciesism.


    I was, after that panel, also asked whether animal exploitation would be resolved of we eliminated capitalism. Although I think that capitalism is problematic in many respects and I favor a more communitarian society, I pointed out that, as a historical matter, animals had been exploited as property in virtually every human society, including in many pre-capitalist and non-capitalist societies. I also pointed out that, as a logical matter, it did not matter whether the state, the proletariat, private parties, a tribe, or an anarchist collective owned animals. If animals are property, that's a problem. So eliminating capitalism would not necessarily, or even likely, have any effect on the property status of animals.


    Gary L. Francione
    Professor, Rutgers University
    I will not eat anything that walks, swims, flies, runs, skips, hops or crawls.

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    Default Re: Welfarism, Abolitionism and Francione

    Quote pat sommer View Post
    I'm guessing, Garbo, that you really want an explanation of GF blowing off the question rather than the definitive answer.

    IMHO, experts in their limited fields frequently overestimate their intellectual powers in non-related fields. My old insurance salesman dad used to complain about that: teachers especially thought they knew everything.

    Let's all be careful in judging what is fact and what is opinion.
    No ... my motivation in posting here was to look for some validation that my question re: evolutionary survival was not meritless in terms of a possible explanation as to why most people are implacably blocked in their attitudes about animal use. The title of the workshop was "Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Hide Slaughterhouses". So my question was I think appropriately directed at the "why". And, as a strongly convicted vegan, I was not looking for reasons to excuse humans or legitimize the perpetuation of animal use. I think the psychological resistance is incredibly complex, and that evolutionary survival (though I admit I am not well-read or informed on the subject) cannot be dismissed as a factor.

    I felt devalued by my friend's belittling of my question, and I am a bit annoyed at a certain doctrinaire close-mindedness on her part for any idea that does not neatly fit her positions. There is one thing that I am non-negotiably against -- the hurting or using of animals or people ( barring dire circumstances of survival). It would be nice if there were definitive answers to many things in life, but I have learned that even things that are incontrovertibly believed to be fact are often proven in time to be untrue. As the saying goes "opinions are like a-holes, everyone has one". So it can get maddening (and tiring) trying to pin down the truth about most things.

    I asked the question because I am terribly angry and saddened by what humans do to animals and, as an activist, feel desperate for strategies to save them ... and, to save this planet. Nothing seems to be working, or working fast enough. I may have used the word "hard-wired" somewhere in the question ... wondering if our callousness is hard-wired into us because of some sort of collective subconscious survival mechanism. I am just trying to assess, with the help of others feedback, if this is the case. Is it still "human nature" for the vast majority of us, and if so, can it or will it ever change? Suffice it to say, I'm feeling pretty hopeless on the matter.

    As for Prof. Francione, I am grateful to him, and the people on the Earthlings message board, for introducing me to his eye, and heart opening teachings. A new paradigm of thought toward animals, to me, also involves raising our humanity many many notches ... a very tall order. I understand my question may have been beyond his and the panelists' scope of expertise, but nevertheless I was going for a deeper exploration, beyond moral philosophy, of the "why".
    Last edited by Garbo; May 20th, 2012 at 04:49 AM. Reason: refine wording

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    Default Re: Welfarism, Abolitionism and Francione

    The title of the workshop was "Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Hide Slaughterhouses". So my question was I think appropriately directed at the "why".
    I think we love dogs because they are lovable. We hide slaughterhouses because humans seem to be hard-wired into not wanting to witness actual murder of humans or animals. Even slaughterers have admitted that they have problems with slaughtering.

    Re eating pigs: it's all about habits. Meat eating habits can change within weeks, but most people don't know that - because they haven't tried.


    Nothing seems to be working, or working fast enough.
    IMO, it's all about 'power balance'; about the balance between the kind of (and amount of) information/media/viewpoints/tastes people exposed to from the vegan side vs. the kind of - and amount of - exposure of tastes/viewpoints and so on from the other side - the side people have grown up with. Every person on the planet is a part of that information balance, because the meat industry (etc) are using vast amounts of money, lobbyists etc to maintain the habits which keep their industry alive. By not doing anything at all, we contribute to keeping things out of balance; to keep the percentage of those who promote and support use of fur, meat and so on - high.
    I will not eat anything that walks, swims, flies, runs, skips, hops or crawls.

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    Default Re: Welfarism, Abolitionism and Francione

    Point taken, Korn. GF did present his answer as an opinion.

    And Garbo, good that you search for answers. Hope that it cheers you up to know that in an area where I heard "...we all know someone who is vegan", it is now unshockingly easy to discuss the benefits of going plant-based. A new normal lowers the barriers.
    the only animal ingredient in my food is cat hair

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    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Welfarism, Abolitionism and Francione

    GF did present his answer as an opinion.
    ...or not even that?

    I don't know if Garbo's quote is a word-by-word quote, but after he read this page and posted, through me, "I responded that I am not an anthropologist and did not feel qualified to discuss this issue from that point of view", I feel that seems very humble about that topic. I also think he has a good point re capitalism. Having said that, a less profit-oriented world probably still consume of animal products (animal product consumption have certainly exists in all communist states) if there were no proper support for animal's rights baked into the laws - but with restricted access to spend billions on marketing burgers, the sales could still go down.


    For the records, I know he usually prefers to let the communication with his readers etc go through his own site.
    I will not eat anything that walks, swims, flies, runs, skips, hops or crawls.

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    Default Re: Welfarism, Abolitionism and Francione

    Damn, my post got zapped because too much time expired. Not going to reconstruct. Suffice it to say, thanks Korn for googling all that ... I will look for books on the subject and look forward to more posts when you move this thread to the Evolution category.

    Pat thanks for the positivity and example of signs. I go up and down every hour about where it's all going, and if we have the luxury of time for anything. I too see little (and big) signs, but then you observe the culture at large and you see how enmeshed animal use is. But then an abolitionist living in times of slavery very likely could have felt the same way. I always remind myself about the trajectory of other social justice movements, and I've heard that the AR movement is moving faster than any of them. I do notice people don't ask as often anymore what vegan means. Personally speaking, my BF's daughter (who I had a falling out with 5 years ago because she rudely shut me down when I asked her and her fiancee to watch Earthlings, this after forwarding me "friendly" emails from PETA about the seal slaughter because she knows I love animals) told him about the grapeleaves now being sold at Costco, and then said "Dad, maybe eating meat is not such a good thing". (P.S. My BF is 99% vegan after a tumultuous period in our relationship). Plus she lives on Long Island which is a hot-spot of cancers. My own sensitive and animal-loving sister who says she "tries to be vegan but is not perfect" recently told me that she's finally given up eggs because of what she learned about egg production a few years ago. So I think ambient repetition of the vegan message is having an effect and we have to keep up the momentum.

    And yes I was gratified that GF's rejection of capitalism being the cause of animal exploitation concurred with my own. I notice my friend has been modifying her choice of words on this to make more sense.

    I'll revisit GF's forum. Haven't looked at the site in a while. I remember "Revolution of the Heart" which so resonated with me. And I printed out hundreds of his tri-fold leaflet, and "We Are All Michael Vick" article and gave them out. To my family too, who were unphased. That's another story. Ok let me not ramble ... thx everyone ...
    Last edited by Garbo; May 20th, 2012 at 06:11 PM. Reason: grammar correction

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    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Welfarism, Abolitionism and Francione

    my post got zapped because too much time expired
    Hi,
    If this ever happens to you or anyone else in the future: this forum has auto-save, so if you lose something, you should se a "Restore Auto-Saved Content?" option around the lower left corner of the Quick-Reply box.
    I will not eat anything that walks, swims, flies, runs, skips, hops or crawls.

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    Default Re: Welfarism, Abolitionism and Francione

    Quote Korn View Post
    Hi,
    If this ever happens to you or anyone else in the future: this forum has auto-save, so if you lose something, you should se a "Restore Auto-Saved Content?" option around the lower left corner of the Quick-Reply box.
    I finally noticed that when it was too late. Had a little trouble with it too and my re-created message taking. Had to go back to "home" on the site and find the thread again to repost successfully.

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    Default Re: Was there a period in our evolution when we had to to use animals to survive

    I know that in some parts of the world (such as the Arctic) people still need to hunt to survive due to lack of plant food. And of course my main problem with the carnist world is obviously not them, otherwise I would be writing a letter to them. The unnecessary consumption of factory farmed meat in affluent societies is a much bigger problem.

    That being said, humans aren't naturally supposed to live in the Arctic anyway. If we were we would be completely comfortable walking around outside in the ice and snow naked.

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