9 Reasons Your Canine Teeth Don’t Make You a Meat-Eater

photo: Jordan Chez/iStockphoto

photo: Jordan Chez/iStockphoto

One of the most common justifications for meat-eating that vegans encounter is, “If I wasn’t meant to eat meat, then I wouldn’t have these canine teeth!” It’s a knee-jerk defense that’s often made after a meat-eater has been confronted with information about animal farming cruelty, or with the fact that humans have no biological need for meat, milk or eggs.

But there are several serious problems with the “canine teeth” argument, the most glaring one being the premise that “the presence of canine teeth = meant to eat meat.” In truth, with the exception of rodents, rabbits, and pikas, nearly all mammals have canine teeth. In fact, several herbivores have ferocious canine teeth, and, as you’ll see in the gallery below, the largest canine teeth of any land animal belong to a true herbivore.

Another problem with the “canine teeth” argument is the idea that, just because we have a physical attribute that enables us to do something harmful, we are morally justified to perform that activity whenever we want. Humans are physically capable of inflicting all kinds of violence, but our capacity to harm others has nothing to do with whether or not we are right to harm others. Indeed, most people would say it is wrong to cause harm when you can just as easily avoid doing so. And we can easily (and drastically) reduce the harm and death we cause to other animals simply by making different choices at the grocery store.

Scroll down for more good reasons why our canine teeth don’t make us meat-eaters, and check out our gallery of surprising images of some stunningly fang-tastic herbivores.

Reason #1 Your Canine Teeth Don’t Make You A Meat-Eater: The Hippo

canine teeth

photo: Craig Arnold/National Geographic

Not only do most mammals, including herbivores, have canine teeth; but the largest canine teeth of any land mammal belong to a true herbivore: the hippopotamus. Hippos are extremely territorial and aggressive; their sword-like canines, which can reach a terrifying sixteen inches in length, are used for combat and play no role in feeding. The hippo’s diet consists of grass, on which it grazes at dusk.

Reason #2 Your Canine Teeth Don’t Make You A Meat-Eater: The Gorilla

canine teeth

photo by Hauke Steinberg, used with permission

Gorillas are almost exclusively herbivorous. Mountain gorillas prefer a diet of foliage — leaves, stems, pith, and shoots — and a small amount of fruit. Lowland gorillas also eat leaves and pith, but they eat more fruits, and, occasionally, tiny ants or termites. Gorillas’ giant canines have nothing to do with eating meat.

Reason #3 Your Canine Teeth Don’t Make You A Meat-Eater: The Saber-Toothed Deer

canine teeth

photo: wikimedia commons

Say hello to my little friend: the saber-toothed deer. You read that right — it’s not photoshop, it’s just a tiny deer with giant fangs! Musk deer, as they’re officially known, are herbivores who live in the forested mountains of Southern Asia. They’re around 2 feet tall, weigh between 15 and 37 pounds, and the males’ elongated canine teeth form saber-like tusks which they use in territorial disputes, or when competing for mates. So what kind of food do musk deer tear into with those vicious canines? The menu is a virtual gore fest: leaves, flowers, grasses, mosses and lichens.

Reason #4 Your Canine Teeth Don’t Make You A Meat-Eater: The Gelada Baboon

canine teeth

photo: wikimedia commons

Geladas are the only primates who primarily eat grass – grass blades make up to 90% of their diet. The rest consists of flowers, rhizomes, roots, herbs, small plants, fruits, creepers, bushes and thistles. Insects may be eaten, but only rarely. Geladas use their sharp, two-inch canines to attack rivals or potential predators.

Reason #5 Your Canine Teeth Don’t Make You A Meat-Eater: Camel Fangs!

canine teeth

photo: doopedia

Camels are herbivores with an average lifespan of 40 years. They eat foliage, dry grasses and desert vegetation — mostly thorny plants. Sharp canine teeth in both the upper and lower jaws enable them to crush woody plants for food.

Reason #6 Your Canine Teeth Don’t Make You A Meat-Eater: The Javelina

canine teeth

photo of javelina by creative commons flickr user bill85704; skull, wikimedia commons

The Javelina, or peccary, is a furry cousin of the pig, found in the deserts of southwestern U.S., and in Central and South America. Primarily herbivorous, javelina eat a variety of native plant foods including agave, mesquite beans, prickly pear, roots, tubers, nuts, and other fruits and vegetation. Their spear-like canine teeth are used for self defense, and to shred cactus pads, a primary source of nourishment. Thanks, little fur pig, for demonstrating once again that plenty of primary plant-eaters have canine teeth; even huge, fierce stabby ones.

Reason #7 Your Canine Teeth Don’t Make You A Meat-Eater: Comparative Anatomy

canine teeth

photo by Rowan dg Corkill

In her new book, Mind If I Order The Cheeseburger?, Sherry F. Colb discusses the comparative anatomy of carnivores, omnivores, and herbivores. “[M]ammalian carnivores and omnivores share a number of physical attributes that make them well suited for killing and tearing apart their prey. They have a wide mouth opening, relative to head size; a simple jaw joint that operates as a stable hinge for effective slicing but which is ill-suited to side-to-side motion; and dagger-like teeth spaced apart to avoid trapping stringy debris. They also have sharp claws. (2) The mammalian carnivores and omnivores additionally have huge stomachs that enable gorging, an important capacity in animals who tend to average only about one kill per week. (3) These animals also have a very low gastric pH (which means their stomachs are very acidic), enabling the breakdown of highly concentrated protein as well as the killing of dangerous bacteria that typically colonize decaying flesh. (4)

…Each of these traits enables the lion or bear to use her body to kill prey. Herbivorous animals, by contrast, have fleshy lips, a small mouth opening, a thick and muscular tongue, and a far less stable, mobile jaw joint that facilitates chewing, crushing, and grinding. Herbivores also generally lack sharp claws. (14) These qualities are well-adapted to the eating of plants, which provide nutrients when their cell walls are broken, a process that requires crushing food with side-to-side motion rather than simply swallowing it in large chunks the way that a carnivore or omnivore swallows flesh.

Herbivores have digestive systems in which the stomach is not nearly as spacious as the carnivore’s or omnivore’s, a feature that is suitable for the more regular eating of smaller portions permitted with a diet of plants (which stay in place and are therefore much easier to chase down), rather than the sporadic gorging of a predator on his prey. (15) The herbivore’s stomach also has a higher pH (which means that it is less acidic) than the carnivore’s or omnivore’s, perhaps in part because plants ordinarily do not carry the dangerous bacteria associated with rotting flesh. The small intestines of herbivores are quite long and permit the time-consuming and complex breakdown of the carbohydrates present in plants. In virtually every respect, the human anatomy resembles that of herbivorous animals (such as the gorilla and the elephant) more than that of carnivorous and omnivorous species. (16) Our mouths’ openings are small; our teeth are not extremely sharp (even our “canines”); and our lips and tongues are muscular. Our jaws are not very stable (and would therefore be easy to dislocate in a battle with prey), but they are quite mobile and allow the side-to-side motion that facilitates the crushing and grinding of plants.

Our stomachs are only moderately acidic, a fact that becomes salient around Thanksgiving, when even slightly undercooked dinners of turkey flesh result in many cases of food poisoning from the illness-causing bacteria that easily survive in our stomachs. (17) Like herbivores and unlike carnivores and omnivores as well, we have long small intestines, enabling the digestion of complex carbohydrates, a process that begins in our mouths, where we, like the committed herbivores, have carbohydrate-digesting enzymes as well. (18)

Does any of this mean that people are incapable of eating and digesting animal products? Of course not. With weapons to kill animals, we do not need dagger teeth, and with fire to cook flesh, we can usually avoid the pitfalls of a stomach that is ill-equipped to kill the pathogens that populate raw flesh.

Despite our flexibility in accommodating animal-based foods, however, it nonetheless remains clear that we are anatomically well suited to plant-based eating…[A]nimal-based foods are unnecessary for us, and they carry significant costs and risks. While it is beneficial to have complex plant carbohydrates slowly make their way through our very lengthy small intestines, the same cannot be said for having meat rotting in our intestines for extended periods of time. (19)

However much people may enjoy eating animal products, then, nature does not unambiguously commit us to, or reward us with good health for, consuming them. Our nature is quite different from that of lions, and our choices about what we eat are accordingly far more flexible and correspondingly susceptible to moral scrutiny. Where we have another choice—indeed a more healthful choice—for which our anatomy and physiology amply equip us, we cannot simply invoke nature to justify what we do. It is true that we could not reasonably accuse lions of acting immorally in consuming animals. But simply put, we are not lions.”

See the full excerpt (with citations) from which this text is taken, at Sherry Colb’s Free from Harm article, Two Arguments For Eating Animals: It’s Natural and Animals Do It Too.

Reason #8 Your Canine Teeth Don’t Make You A Meat-Eater: Science Confirms Humans Have No Biological Requirement For Animal Products

canine teeth

graphic by Ashley Capps

Leading government and public health organizations worldwide now acknowledge that a vegan diet is not only a viable option for people of any age, but that eating plant foods instead of animal-based foods can confer significant health benefits, including reduction in incidence of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attack, stroke, and some types of cancer.

American Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, the U.S.’s oldest, largest and foremost authority on diet and nutrition, also recognized that humans have no inherent biological or nutritional need for animals products: “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.” For more information, see the full article, Catching Up With Science: Burying the “Humans Need Meat” Argument.

Reason #9 Your Canine Teeth Don’t Make You A Meat-Eater: You Have a Choice

canine teeth

photo by Elige Veganismo of cow in restraining device for slaughter

Many people insist that eating animals is “natural” — and therefore morally neutral — because other animals eat animals. But it’s important to realize that, with a few exceptions, when humans kill other animals for food, we’re not doing what animals do in nature. Humans have no biological need to consume meat or any animal products. When animals kill other animals for food, they do as they must, in order to survive; they have no choice in the matter. Many humans, on the other hand, do have a choice, and when people with ample access to plant-based foods choose to consume animals anyway — because they can, or because they like the taste — they are not killing from necessity, as animals (and some humans in crisis or subsistence situations) do. Whether we’re talking about a lion taking down a water buffalo, or a human in some remote or impoverished location with no alternative to eating animals: these are acts of survival, and do not equate to, nor justify, the unnecessary exploitation and killing of animals for profit and pleasure.

Farmed animals are individuals with distinct personalities and emotions, just like our own cats and dogs. They feel affection, they form deep friendships, they long to be safe and happy, and to be free from fear and pain. Most of all, they share in common with us the desire to go on living. When we have access to plant-based foods, and understand that we have no need to consume animal products, then the question of eating animals really comes down to this basic question: when able to freely choose, would you rather help an animal, or harm one? If we believe it is better to help than to harm, then veganism is the only consistent expression of our values.

Please learn more about animals exploited for meat, milk and eggs, even on small farms, by checking out our in-depth report, A Closer Look At What So-Called Humane Farming Means.

No related content found.

Get an email alert when posts like this one are published.

Interested in republishing this article? Read our requirements first!

About Ashley Capps

Ashley Capps received an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her first book of poems is Mistaking the Sea for Green Fields. The recipient of a 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, she works as a writer, editor and researcher specializing in farmed animal welfare and vegan advocacy. Ashley has written for numerous animal rights organizations, and in addition to her ongoing work for Free from Harm, she is a writer and researcher at A Well-Fed World. For more information on her poetry or advocacy writing, please visit her website. She also runs the vegan facebook page Make Compassion Consistent.

30 comments

  1. “You also didn’t address what I wrote regarding synthetic fertilizers. How plants are grown makes a huge difference too. Agricultural impacts the environment often in harmful ways hurting other living creatures. I rarely if ever buy any produce from grocery stores especially since the term organic has been largely reduced to a marketing term”

    this is very true however 70-90% of crops (depending on the grain) grown are fed to farmed animals so it is yet again animal agriculture doing the vast amount of harm. you may want to check out veganic gardening if you would like to learn about the method of growing food and doing the least harm possible.

    http://gentleworld.org/beginners-guide-to-veganic-gardening/

    it is also a fact that it takes many more resources to produce a calorie of plant based food compared to producing a calorie of animal based food. the tremendous inefficiency of ALL forms of animal agriculture is partly due to the fact that much of the energy is used by animals just living their lives and it is therefore much more effecient to consume plants directly as opposed to filtering nutrients through someone else’s body.

    “While it’s true that many animals are killed due to conventional agriculture techniques, it’s quite clear that being vegan reduces the amount of land used, habitat destroyed, and wildlife displaced. It’s also clear that vegans aren’t intentionally killing animals for unnecessary reasons, such as our palate pleasure or our culinary traditions. And that’s an important distinction. Just because we can’t avoid all harms to others (given institutional circumstances beyond our individual control), that doesn’t give us permission to participate in intentional and unnecessary violence and killing. For example, we know from statistical analysis that when we build roads, many people will die on those roads, but we don’t use that as an excuse to intentionally drive over pedestrians. If animals die incidentally in the production of vegan foods, then the proper solution is to improve the production processes—not to go kill animals intentionally.”-Timothy Putnam

  2. This argument is so widespread, but has always seemed incredibly nonsensical. Human canines have to be among the wimpiest and least suited carnivory imaginable. Mine can barely pierce a piece of paper. Somehow I don’t think they’d be much use tearing any hide or flesh out in the wild. Same for those for our fierce “claws” of ours. Culture (technology / toolmaking) made us killers, not “nature”.

  3. how come people do not use non-human animals as examples to justify eating their own children or procreating by rape? of course, THAT would be ridiculous and inhumane.

  4. All of those animals with the exception of the deer and the cow have been documented to eat meat. Granted they are opportunistic about it, and you’ll never catch them hunting.

    The long toothed dear is part of the Cervidae family, which is part of the Artiodactyla order. Artiodactylas are hoofed animals, and a number of animals within the order eat meat. Bovidae also fall into the category of Artiodactylas.

    In summary unless you can disprove evolution this post is factually incorrect.

    • Your comment misses the fundamental point of the article, Mr. Research, which is that the presence of canine teeth does not prove that humans must eat other animals. In summary, unless you can disprove evolution, this point remains factually correct and the technicalities you point to do not negate the main point of the article.

      • It is a fact that hippos, musk deer, and camels are all officially classified as true herbivores. The gorilla, the gelada baboon, and the javelina I do not refer to as herbivores, but state that their diets are primarily herbivorous; this is also true. There is nothing about what I have written that is factually inaccurate. The point still stands that nearly all mammals, including most herbivores, have canine teeth, and that the large and fierce canine teeth of the herbivores and other primarily plant-eating animals featured here has nothing to do with a need to eat meat. Nor do our much smaller canine teeth; humans have no biological requirement for animal flesh or secretions.

        • Chickens don’t have any teeth and they are omnivores. Whales don’t have teeth but they live on krill (animal protein). Toads eat insects but don’t have teeth. Females rabbits, when startled, eat their young, but they don’t have canines either. So with so much variation especially with omnivores, deducing one way or another that species should or shouldn’t eat other animals because of their teeth isn’t exactly sound reasoning.

          As for Gorillas, up to 10% of their diet is insects, so they’re not exactly vegetarians. Moreover, chimps to whom humans are most genetically similar, have diets that range from 10 to 35% meat including fresh killed meat from hunted animals when available.

          Though aside from dogs, cats and other livestock, no wild animals eat other animals raised on/in CAFO’s. Humans shouldn’t either. Buy meats from small farmers that let their animals run around on pasture. Buy from small farmers that don’t use antibiotics or hormones. Buy from small farmers that don’t feed their livestock gmo’s or inappropriate grains.

          Same hold true with vegetables. Buy from farmer markets from producers that don’t use synthetic fertilizers or synthetic pesticides. Or grow your own vegetables. Many grocery stores sell goods that aren’t well sourced. Personally I rarely shop in them.

          As for “no need to eat meat”, that more your bias and the gospel you choose to believe rather than “fact”. Studies like the China Study have a lot of critics. Here’s just one.
          http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/07/07/the-china-study-fact-or-fallac/

          Pastured raised meats are nutrient dense especially the organ meats. Pastured meats are also high in Omega 3’s, minerals and fat soluble vitamins that are difficult to get from vegetables alone especially in harsher climates. It’s called bio-concentration the higher you go up the food chain. Plus a lot of land isn’t suitable for crops, again especially in harsher climates.

          The key is eating higher quality meat from animals raised on pasture A LOT less often. Here’s an example of the type of farm I’m talking about that supplies Whole Foods

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5l0N9ryJmbQ

          • I’m afraid you’ve missed the main point of this article as well as the mission of this website which is to pose the question: if we can get all the nutrients we need from plant sources and live healthy lives — which of course we know we now easily can — then why wouldn’t we? What sense does it make to harm animals if we believe that it is wrong to harm animals for profit and pleasure? On an ecological level, pasture raised animals produce more carbon emissions and are a miserably inefficient use of our planet’s very limited natural resources, less efficient than feedlot raised animals. Your solution for us is neither ethical or humane. And by the way, you have your own “gospel” as you called ours. You have your own beliefs that you are promoting, so it strikes us as pretty disingenuous of you to dismiss our position, suggesting that it is akin to some religious zealotry. We call it moral realism, that is, living by the principle of the Golden Rule which we say we all believe in, and actually acting on it in our daily lives, instead of trying to pitch pseudo-ethical, pseudo-sustainable solutions that are too little too late.

        • Unfortunately it appears than that the site’s mission than is highly debatable and not the Gospel your site believes that it is. Plus many of the comments cited in the rebuttals below my comment are grossly mistaken particularly about small farms with pastured animals being no different than CAFO’s.

          In response to this gross mistake, let me start with the animals themselves. Industrial farms rely on industrial breeds that aren’t genetically diverse. Industrial animals have been modified for production. The small farms I support instead raise heritage breeds of livestock. Without these small farms many of these breeds like the kuni kuni or mangalista pig would have gone extinct. These heritage breeds are selected based upon the outdoor environments where they live. Industrial pigs (largely modified yorkshires) in contrast now can barely survive outside.

          There are also huge differences in both what’s fed to animals on small farms with pastured animals and what’s fed to factory confined animals. Feeding cows grains like what happens on CAFO’s for example instead of grass is torture because cows can’t digest grains.

          Plus how manure is handled is completely different as well. On small integrated farms, livestock especially ruminants are composters and when holistically managed, that is rotated through paddocks, naturally fertilize fields building soil and sequestering carbon. This compost is nutrient dense and thus makes great fertilizer for plants making plants more nutritious. Whereas with CAFO’s manure scraped off concrete floors ends up in lagoons where it off gases methane which is a big problem that contributes to global warming.

          Additionally when livestock isn’t integrated and growers rely on tillage or non till/glycophosate with NPK fertilizers, there is a ton of damage done (HARM) to the environment to produce these synthetic fertilizers as well as from the run off from these synthetic fertilizers. Do some research on dead zones to understand that agricultural isn’t exactly “no harm” to animals either especially for produce in your grocery stores nor is the carbon foot print small for transported produce shipped to regions when veggies and fruits are out of season.

          Rather than rely on videos documenting contracted farms, I suggest some of you actually visit small farms that aren’t contracted and talk to small farmers that use sustainable methods so you’re not so misinformed.

          For a good contrast and compare video please
          watch this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrRqi8-Y8ak

          Anyway in regards to the article, my point was and simply still is that an argument for or against canine teeth as being a rational for being vegan or a carnivore is a moot point since certainly in nature there are also plenty of omnivores and carnivores without any teeth as there are vegetarians with teeth including canines. The author’s POV then is simply one that parses data to support her view point. In general, whether people are paleo or vegan or somewhere in-between, they always can cite a litany of sources and experts to validate their view point, so what they choose to belief has as much to do with their beliefs and faith rather than indisputable facts.

          For me personally,. having been vegetarian, vegan for a large part of my life, if I don’t know the farmer or how an animal has been raised or treated, I will choose a healthy (not overly processed) vegan option . Though when I know that the animal has been humanely raised, I will eat it especially since, contrary to much accepted propaganda perpetuated largely by big Ag and Pharm companies plus the research and organizations these groups finance, fat and saturated fat are important especially to neurological function.

          Ketogenic diets have been shown to help many neurological disorders especially epilepsy. For me this isn’t an abstraction, my Parkison symptoms were really bad when I was a vegetarian and vegan. Now that I’ve reincorporated animal fat back into my diet, I’ve been able to cut way back on my medications. B12 and other fat soluble vitamins are also another big issue. Fortifications and supplements are’t as easily absorbed…though again depending on which studies you choose to believe, this is also debatable. Plus every one’s dietary needs are different, there is not one size fits all solution that works for every one.

          Anyhow, regardless, the goal is the same either way, and that’s to change the food system to reduce and minimize animal suffering so whether that be done via a boycott or the support of alternatives, we have similar goals

          • Hello Small Farmer,

            I’d like to open my response to your last comment with a quote from social psychologist Melanie Joy, to frame this subject a little differently from the start:

            “There is a vast mythology surrounding meat, but all the myths are in one way or another related to what I refer to as the Three Ns of Justification: eating meat is normal, natural, and necessary. The Three Ns have been invoked to justify all exploitative systems, from African slavery to the Nazi Holocaust. When an ideology is in its prime, these myths rarely come under scrutiny. However, when the system finally collapses, the Three Ns are recognized as ludicrous.” ~ Melanie Joy

            Free from Harm is a site of over 700 plus pages now in which we have painstakingly researched the subjects you touch on. You make a case for sustainable pasture raised animals. We’ve shown how pasture raised livestock is not at all a viable alternative to CAFOs and is even more ecologically problematic in certain respects than CAFO-raised animals. See our collection of articles, some from leading environmental and climate experts (who do not have a vested interest in promoting the livestock industry) on this subject at http://freefromharm.org/agriculture-environment/.

            We do agree that the the presence of canine teeth does not make an argument for eating animals. We wrote this to combat one of the most commonly raised defenses of meat eating from omnivores and even small farmers. Vegans do not defend their diet on the presence of canine teeth, at least none we have heard from.

            You present the options of being omnivorous or vegan or vegetarian as simply a “personal” choice. We challenge this defense since the issue of animals cannot be seriously considered when animal interests can be so easily discarded on a whim when we have a taste for bacon-flavored ice cream. See our essay, Eating Animals and the Illusion of Personal Choice at http://freefromharm.org/animal-products-and-psychology/five-reasons-why-meat-eating-cannot-be-considered-a-personal-choice/.

            You claim that farmers who raise heritage breed animals are akin to “conservationists.” We hear this argument all the time. In response, we’ve published several articles, including this editorial on an educational video promoting heritage breed chickens and pastured chickens raised for their eggs at http://freefromharm.org/animal-products-and-ethics/the-story-of-an-egg-documentary-is-without-a-yolk/. In this article, I addressed this idea of the farmer “conservationist” as follows: “The pastured folks in this film would probably argue that the breeding of heritage chicken breeds is actually a species-conservation effort. And in doing so they assert that these breeds are comparable to saving endangered species in their natural habitat. Yet domesticated breeds would never have existed had it not been for human intervention and manipulation of the original wild red jungle fowl. If conservation were the sole interest of heritage breed enthusiasts, they would be running sanctuaries, allowing their birds to live out their natural lives rather than making money on their eggs and reinforcing their false perception as commodities. The use of an artificially-bred animal as a commodity that will be intentionally slaughtered at a fraction of her natural lifespan for profit sabotages the spirit of species-conservation on a very fundamental ethical level.

            All this to me raises the fundamental question I think we must ask ourselves: With as fas as we have removed the chicken from her natural habitat and as far as we have biologically manipulated her body to produce eggs, can “pasture-raised” or any new label the egg industry can fabricate ever hope to normalize what is fundamentally nether normal or natural for hens? I think not.” The full article is at http://freefromharm.org/animal-products-and-ethics/the-story-of-an-egg-documentary-is-without-a-yolk/#sthash.ZscLieRU.dpuf.

            You claim that conscious consumers who care about animals can consume their flesh and bodily secretions with a clear conscience if they are raised “humanely.” This is perhaps the most widespread myth that we have challenged on this site through investigative reporting that we have often conducted ourselves to show how animal agricultures has systematically used humanewashing in their language and branding. For our collection of article on the subject, see http://freefromharm.org/tag/humane-farming/. I often cite this quote on those who promote “happy” meat: “…the more humanely an animal is treated, the greater is the bond of trust, and the greater the bond of trust, the more severe the crime of betrayal. By this standard, killing ‘humanely’ treated animals could be a much greater act of betrayal.” from Hope Bohanec’s recent book, “The Ultimate Betrayal: Is There Happy Meat? – See more at: http://freefromharm.org/animal-products-and-ethics/the-ultimate-betrayal-is-there-happy-meat-an-excerpt-from-the-book/#sthash.3dQP4e6M.dpuf

            Finally, you make the claim that chronic diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease is attributed to a vegan or vegetarian diet. This is of course inconsistent with mainstream nutritional science which blames the clogging of arterial passageways with plaque from animal foods as the culprit behind all of the chronic vascular diseases that are highly prevalent in countries where meat consumption is a mainstay of the diet. I’m sure you have your Weston Price studies to cite to claim the opposite is true. Yet, the evidence from mainstream science on the benefits of a plant based diet are quite overwhelming. I cite the AAND as follows:

            In 2009, the American Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, the U.S.’s oldest, largest and foremost authority on diet and nutrition, also recognized that humans have no inherent biological or nutritional need for animals products: “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”

            While a well-balanced vegan diet can easily provide all of the nutrients we need to thrive, that doesn’t mean that all vegans are healthy. Just as people who eat meat, dairy and eggs often suffer from nutrient deficiencies, a poorly planned or junk-food vegan diet can also fail to meet nutritional needs, leading to health problems. Total raw food diets and diets composed of only very-low-fat foods can also make it harder for some people to get all the necessary nutrients. But with the rare exception of someone who suffers from multiple serious plant-food allergies, science now recognizes that a healthy vegan diet is a safe option for everyone.

            So what about ex-vegans? Although some former vegans will have experienced poor health as a result of an imbalanced diet, many others were simply struggling with difficult cravings. And while cravings— and the discomfort they produce— are real, it’s important to recognize that a craving is not a need. As much as it may feel like we are actually suffering from a life-threatening cheese deficiency, we know that withdrawal from highly pleasurable or addictive sensations can produce a multitude of physiological responses, including feelings of depression, fatigue and deprivation. We also know that cheese cravings aren’t indicative of an actual biological need, because cow’s milk is made for baby cows.

            It’s also true that, just like meat-eaters, some vegans will struggle more than others to stay healthy. As Ginny Messina, R.D., observes: “Nutrient needs vary among individuals, so some people may need to work a little bit harder to obtain everything they need. And some vegans are not getting enough of what they need because they are eating diets that are too restrictive and/or they are not taking appropriate supplements.

            – See more at: http://freefromharm.org/health-nutrition/catching-up-with-science-burying-the-humans-need-meat-argument/#sthash.gPvUmqG1.dpuf

          • Small Farmer,

            the following quotes address your position very succinctly:

            ” There are no magical slaughterhouses where animals are fed their favorite meal, make a last phone call to a loved one and voluntarily hold their breath until they die. The act of slaughter is violent, vicious, bloody and hellish. The animals do not sacrifice themselves for your pleasure, tradition or greed. They are dragged in, kicking and screaming until their last breath. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can eat meat, dairy and eggs and remain disconnected from this violence.
            The only way out is VEGAN.”

            “Animal agriculturalists, chefs, and consumers desperately want to believe the myth that animal products labeled organic, humane, and sustainable are morally and ecologically defensible. They promote the washings as cover for their beliefs. They choose not to see the abusive and unsustainable nature of meat, dairy, and eggs. They pledge allegiance to an adjustment to factory farming, nothing more.”

            “Passively accepting these beliefs, carnists take pride in eating “cage- free” eggs, hams from “free” pigs, cheese from the milk belonging to “humanely raised” cow’s calves, and legs from “free” dead chickens. These consumers have become washed into believing that a little improvement in egg, meat, and dairy production has stopped the harm. They settle for the slight inconvenience of choosing and paying for a different box of eggs or a non-factory-farmed slab of meat. They believe in happy death, happy meat fantasies, and thus find escape from doing what is really needed. They avoid true and effective personal change.”-Wil Anderson

        • I will go through your points later after I review your materials, however let me clarify one thing now that you wrote that is grossly wrong.

          You wrote, “… Finally, you make the claim that chronic diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease is attributed to a vegan or vegetarian diet….”

          I didn’t write this at all. I wrote that ketogenic diets which include animal fats have been beneficial for people with neurological disorders including, in my case Parkison’s disease. I didn’t write that vegan diets are the cause of such disorders, I did note though that when I was vegan, my symptoms were more severe than now when I again eat animal products that include saturated fat. So ketogenic diets help to ameliorate symptoms of people with these neurological conditions.

          Here’s an article, that isn’t simply an (not fully informed) opinion piece like the links you provided, for your edification on this topic:

          The Ketogenic Diet as a Treatment Paradigm for Diverse Neurological Disorders
          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3321471/

          Oh, one other quick comment regarding heritage animals on small farms, since you’ve never obviously ever operated a small farm and have no clue how much it costs to raise livestock or run a farm…or understand what integrated farming is….Moreover I don’t see PETA rushing to set up sanctuaries or contributing to small farmers who have very small margins. The linked opinion piece you wrote is a bit disconnected from reality….a large part of which is economic reality.

          Your linked OPINION piece though seems to entail two precepts, first heritage breeds really aren’t endangered because they were domesticated, therefore it’s fine if they go extinct and the loss of genetic diversity isn’t a concern, so genocide for these species is an okay option. And second, the only inherent solution to population control would have to be sterilization of all the females, even though this really undermines the quality of life for any animal especially those animals that are very prolific with offspring like pigs and rabbits. Fyi, pigs do four things well: eat, crap, sleep and procreate.

          You also didn’t address what I wrote regarding synthetic fertilizers. How plants are grown makes a huge difference too. Agricultural impacts the environment often in harmful ways hurting other living creatures. I rarely if ever buy any produce from grocery stores especially since the term organic has been largely reduced to a marketing term

          As an aside, can you refer me to another opinion piece on this site that addresses invasive species like Burmese Pythons, Asian Carp, ferral pigs, and Lionfish.

          Is it your or this site’s opinion that people should do “no harm” to any of these creatures even though all of these invasive species do immense harm to the respective environments that they’ve invaded especially in regards to harming other animals? Should man have no role? If man does intervene to restore ecological balance, if any of these species are edible (the ones I mentioned are), should man just eradicate these species and let the food aspect of these animals goes to waste? I know this is a tangent, but from a philosophical perspective I’m interested in this site’s opinion on these issue.

          • There is a lot to address here, and I don’t have a lot of time right now. I’d like to at least let you know that your assumption that we have no experience with heritage breeds is inaccurate from the get go. We run a sanctuary and have adopted and rehomed many heritage breed animals from horrific conditions and circumstances on so-called “humane” farms. When you mentioned the word “economics,” I think you hit the nail on the head. Farms can’t teach us what sanctuaries can about animals. Visiting a sanctuary is a vastly different experience than visiting a farm. Farms value animals to the extent that they produce a profitable product via their flesh, mammary gland secretions or ovulation. Visiting animals on farms does not produce any “breakthrough” in our understanding of animals. On the contrary, most people simply walk away from a farm reaffirming what they have been taught: animals don’t object to being used as “resources.” It’s natural and sanctified by ancient traditions. Somehow, we rationalize, animals have passively accepted their lot in life. On farms, we view meek or fearful animals from a distance or on the other side of an electrical fence, typically in herds or flocks with ear tags (numbers instead of names), and under conditions which generally repress their ability to express themselves as individuals.

            Yet, each animal is a self-aware individual with a unique personality — a complex of experiences, interests, emotions, thoughts, memories, likes, dislikes, desires, joys, fears, loves, families, friends, losses and pains. How do we know this? From sanctuaries and from science.

            On a sanctuary, animals are individuals who, like human beings, have intrinsic value and who have no expectations placed on them. The owners are replaced by guardians who provide a caring environment that empowers them with the confidence to more authentically express their true selves. People can walk away from sanctuaries often with a “breakthrough” understanding. They recognize that these individuals are vastly more expressive, more sophisticated than their repressed counterparts on farms. They see much of themselves in these animals. They realize that the stereotypes they’ve come to believe all of their lives are based on prejudice.

            As for your question about whether we should exploit or consume “invasive” species, I would first point out the fact that these problems are manmade. Through international trade and other activities, we’ve created the problem of destroying ecosystem and throwing off their fragile balance by introducing species that are non native. You characterize humans as the victims here but it is actually the animals that have had their habitats altered to the extent that they became disproportionately overpopulous and damaging to their new environments. My second point is that there is a fundamental moral difference between exploiting animals for food, breeding them artificially into this world by the billions only to slaughter them at weeks or moths old for a food source we have no biological need for AND the other scenario you ask about, that is Should we not take advantage of Asian carp and other species who are invasive” and use them for food? This is comparable to asking the question, If I hit the deer on the road with my car, is it then ethical to eat it? It becomes rather Orwellian to have these kinds of discussions with people that think that somehow good can come to the animal victim through the harm we exact on them. MAN’S ROLE NEED NOT BE THAT OF EXPLOITER, BUT OF STEWARD OF THE EARTH AND THE ANIMALS. That is indeed an important role with an enormous responsibility which does not include breeding, enslaving and slaughtering billions of animals for profit and palate pleasure when other options are widely available.

            Our focus is farmed animals since they represent at least 99% of all animals UNNECESSARILY harmed at human hands.

          • We do not advocate the “genocide” of heritage or other breed animals. We believe that we have a responsibility to all domesticated animals that we have brought into this world as well as an obligation to stop breeding more. The problem is breeding. If we continue to breed animals for economic gain, regardless of their breed, we will force them into a perpetual cycle of suffering and premature and violent death at a fraction of their natural lifespan. This is not conservation. Quite the contrary, conservation helps an animal or plant species thrive so that it can naturally develop over time and return to its natural habitat. A farm is not a natural habitat for any animal. We’ve rescued chickens and have known other sanctuaries that have rescued battery hens who have known nothing but the life of a tiny cage return to tree branches to roost as their ancestral cousins in the wild have done. They are not stupid animals until they are placed in an environment where they are bored and have little of interest to them. Then we blame them for being stupid because we made them that way. On the contrary, domesticated chickens show many sigs that they would prefer to return to their natural rain forest habitat with all of the varied and rich sensory experiences that entails. Sanctuaries can provide these animals with some semblance of a normal life, at least enough to allow them to exhibit who they really are. They don’t get this opportunity on farms that regard them as mere commodities. So farming can’t be a form of conservation. Heritage farm animal breeds can be preserved by the same methods that wildlife species are preserved and helped. And sanctuaries can play a key role in this process.

        • Do you realize the mortality rate for chickens that aren’t protected from predators? From your response, I’d have to assume that you don’t. Everything eats chickens including squirrels, ravens, hawks, coyote, bobcats, weesels, pigs and sometimes other chickens. In nature chickens and rabbits, rarely live their life expectancies. Sorry to dissappoint you, but nature isn’t a Disney cartoons. Death is a part of life, and natue can be very cruel. On sustainable farms where chickens are allowed to roam outside and foraged, they still do so within the confines of electrified fences often with guard dogs or other protective measures. When chickens forage in planted areas they also eat insects which reduces the need for insecticides on integrated farms. When chickens are rotated through pastures after ruminants like cows and sheep, they eat the insects (especially maggots) in cow and sheep pies which both controls insects and helps animal compost breakdown faster into fertilzer which quickly renourishes soil with nitrogen and other minerals. Factory farms are completely different, as Joel Salatin notes “CAFO’s take animals, plants & manure that are suppose to be in a symbiotic dance and separate the partners into toxic antagonists.”

          Cows, pigs, sheep and goats on pastured sustainable farms live in environments very similar to their natural environments that they’ve been in for thousands of years. Chickens for reason noted above are more removed from, but need to be protected like rabbits from predators. Cattle when transfered to confinement lots don’t live in anything close to the natural environments. They don’t eat their natural diets. They eat corn and soy becuase it’s cheap since these crops are heavily subsidize by the Fedral government. Pig conditions are even worse in CAFO’s. Pigs go from artificial insemination to celephane without ever being outdoors, having their tails docked, being birthed in gestation crates and living on concrete where they can’t root. AGain all your responses don’t make any distinction and dismiss pastured animals as just the newest marketing language.

          Here are some of the pigs on one of our farms http://youtu.be/p6u9rPB9axE in their pen wallowing in mud. We don’t use gestication crates, we don’t tail dock, we don’t castrate them either. These pigs aren’t “pets’, we care for them, and raise them, but we don’t “bond” with them. They aren’t solitary so they spend their days with their own species not for the amusement of their owners liek dogs. They have one bad day in their lives unlike CAFO animals that are tortured every day of their lives. So again in terms of animal welfare, there is a HUGE difference.

          Pigs though are very prolific. When you don’t castrate, males have to be separated at six months from the sows, because they can reproduce that young. Females are in heat two to three times a years and produce broods of anywhere from 6 to 14 piglets. So left to nature, breeding is still an issue. The only way to control natural breeding is through sterilization of sows. But sterilization also deprives animals of their ability to fulfill their nature and have meaningful lives. Pet owners on the other hand bond with their pets for their own selfish reasons. Look at people who own exotic birds, for example. Most exotic birds live in flocks, but pet owners often own solitary birds so pet owners deprive these creatures from being natural for the greater sake of the pet owners. Is this humane?

          Regardless, we agree that breeding is an issue for population, though so is predation without sterilization.Being against CAFO’s I’m against that over-breeding especially artificial insemination. Such insemination further limits the gene pool thus further makes animals more susceptible to disease. Though again in nature without predators at the top of the food chain, over population for wild species is a problem too. Humans have killed many of the other predators, so look at deer and feral pigs both are very prolific w/o human assistance. There are over 6 million feral pigs throughout Texas and the Southwest with no natural predators to cull them. What happens with deer when they over populate is that they eat all the natural resources and often starve to death instead. That’s how nature keeps balance….Culling any species that is prolific w/o natural predators is another way to control populations though this thought obviously horrifies you. Like people who obliviously eat factory meat without any concern for how animals were treated, vegans too are also often very disconnected and divorced from nature and the food chain….this seems to be a by product of modernity.

          With your do no harm philosophy, I’d have to assume you don’t talk on cell phones considering how many birds are killed by cell towers or cook with gas that has been obtained via fracking that’s polluted ground waters. The problem is any and every activity has consequence, and despite one’s ivory tower views, it’s practically impossible to live a life that does no harm.

          Now how about a response to my questions about invasive species. Still waiting for an answer or a link to an opinion piece on your site about that topic.

          • Hello Small Farmer,

            I think you are again misrepresenting my words and the mission of FFH as I presented it to you in previous messages which makes me question whether continuing this discussion is really worthwhile. The perfect “no harm” standard you are looking to hold us up to does not exist. I don’t pretend to have a no harm life or advocate this as a realistic goal for others. I think it is in very bad faith in fact for you to distort and subvert my explanations about this in such a manner. As I have stated before, there is a very important difference between harming animals unintentionally, as is the case when we drive on roads, use cell phones, grow plant crops etc, from harming animals with the clear intention of some profiting from their suffering and slaughtered bodies and others simply satisfying a food fetish.

            We must eat plant foods or we will starve. We don’t need animal foods. If we stop eating them we will just become vegans. I still drive on roads that generations of African slaves help build, but I still oppose human or non human slavery. I still frequent building that were built by sexist architects and builders, but I am not a sexist. I may be drinking filtered or bottled water from somewhere or some facility that employs child slave labor, but I knowingly oppose child slave labor. Moreover there is much we can’t reasonably control in the daily decisions we make, but making food choices that does not gratuitously necessitate that an animal be sent to a slaughterhouse to die violently and prematurely so some farmer or corporation can make a living IS one of the major decisions we make daily that we certainly CAN control. As state earlier, we can reduce 99% of our harm to animals, that harm that is gratuitous and unnecessary, simply by going vegan. That’s a huge impact right there. And it’s cheap. And it’s green. And it’s healthy. And it is consistent with our values of reciprocity and kindness and compassion and mercy toward others. I do not believe that vegans need to be held accountable or explain why they choose this lifestyle. Rather it is the non vegan person, who is aware of the unnecessary harm they cause, who I believe has the burden of explaining why they choose violence over compassion when they have a choice.

            I also explained to you in my last email that Free from Harm does not attempt to offer solutions to all of the issues and conflicts between humans and non human animals, such as the invasive species question you have or wildlife management or animal testing. We choose to focus on the big picture, where the exploitation of animals is most systematic and exacts the greatest casualties and that of course is animal agriculture, both large scale and small scale aggregately. If you really want a powerful vegan perspective on the proper role of humankind in the restoration of ecosystems and relationships with animals, I highly recommend the book by Will Anderson, This Is Hope: Green Vegans and the New Human Ecology. He provides very informed and realistic solutions to our most complex environmental problems.

Comments are now closed.