What is ‘natural’? The chicken who cannot survive six weeks without her heart giving out, the turkey who can’t breed without human intervention or the cow selectively bred to produce far more milk than is good for her health?
Farmed animals are artificially inseminated, endure many mutilations and are selectively bred to have large litters. They are engineered to put on weight fast, unless they’re an egg-laying hen, in which case they’re bred not to put on weight, as that would be a waste of food. They are fed artificial feed, have their breeding cycles manipulated with hormone sponges inserted into their vaginas, and the length of their day is managed through artificial lighting. It’s impossible to imagine anything less natural than the animal farming industry.
Often when people say that eating meat is ‘natural’ they are really asserting two things: we have always done it (which is not true) and that we have all the right biological equipment to eat meat (again, not true).
The food our ancestors ate would have depended on what era they lived, their geographic location, as well as the season, the climate and the weather, but anthropologists say that our early ancestors were predominately vegetarian.1 Like other apes, they tended to only scavenge meat that true carnivores left behind.
Look at your hands and teeth – they are useless for ripping flesh (the canine teeth people cite as ‘proof’ that we should eat meat look nothing like the canines of carnivores and are misnamed). And our lack of speed means we would not even be able to outrun a lame antelope. These things are not a problem for true carnivores, like jaguars and tigers but they do set us apart from them.
It’s true that we can tolerate a small amount of meat in our diet but our bodies have never really adapted to it, and certainly not the amount that is typically consumed today. Our intestines are long and look more like those belonging to our herbivorous friends than our carnivorous ones. True carnivores like cats have very short intestines as they need to move meat out of their system quickly before it putrefies. No wonder food poisoning remains a big problem for us long-gutted animals, with 48 million Americans affected each year and 3,000 dying. The most deaths come from eating poultry and dairy.2
Finally, we should ask ourselves, if eating meat is so natural, why do meat eaters suffer heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and some cancers more than vegans?3
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3 Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, ‘Position of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets’, 2016 [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27886704]