Home > Random Stuff > One man’s meat

One man’s meat

Every once in a while I come across one piece or the other with people endorsing vegetarianism as a way of life. Movie stars tend to be the chief proponents of the Vegan way of life, singing paeans about the virtues of this lifestyle. I simply put this one down to personal choice. While a lot of religions prescribe consumption/non-consumption of certain or all types of meat, it primarily is a choice which an individual should be free to make. No point in someone trying to convince a “non-believer” to change his ways. Being an avid non-vegetarian fan myself I personally feel that the non-vegetarian dish is to a meal what Shah Rukh Khan is to a movie. You want SRK to act well, the rest of the movie can be horrible for all you care. If SRK acts well the movie is a runaway success but if he acts poorly, no matter how great the rest of the cast might be, the movie doesn’t cut muster. But then SRK rarely acts poorly. After all that’s what he’s good at. So it is for the meat dish too. Have a good Butter Chicken or a Chicken Biryani and you will never hear a conversation on the lines of “The paneer was too hard!” or “The peas were over cooked!” at your next dinner party. That’s just how it is.

However, idiosyncratic babas and anorexic starlets around us continue to endorse the vegetarian diet leaving no stone unturned to make life miserable for the simple unassuming meat-eater. In the pursuit of such endeavors they often stoop to ever-falling levels of stupidity a sample of which I am about to show you. This is from an article titled How Humans are not physically created to eat meat. Lets just do it in a myth-fact style for convenience sake.

Myth 1:

Meat eaters have claws.

Herbivores and humans don’t have claws.

Fact:

Human beings have nails that are made of keratin, a tough protein and the same matter that makes hooves and claws in animals. By extension of this rule, we don’t have hooves so we aren’t herbivores either. Still, if we were to be strict about the rule, please show me the next rabbit you find eating a lion/tiger. After all you said carnivores have claws!

Myth 2:

Meat eaters have no skin pores and perspire through their tongues.

Herbivores and humans perspire through their skin pores.

Fact:

All mammals have sweat glands. While human beings and horses sweat quite profusely to aid in thermoregulation (control of body temperature through sweating) all other animals have to adopt different mechanisms. Cats sweat through their paw pads, dogs pant. Animals like rhinoceros, elephants and buffaloes wallow in the mud to cool off since their skin is too thick for sweat to evaporate and cool down the body.

Myth 3:

Meat eaters have sharp front teeth for tearing and no flat molar teeth for grinding.

Herbivores and humans have no sharp front teeth but flat molar teeth for grinding.

Fact:

Human beings have four markedly sharp teeth called canines. These teeth are remnants from our evolution from apes to human beings. The other Great Apes viz. chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans all have pronounced canine teeth. The canines in human beings actually shrunk when we started cultivating fruits and vegetables to serve as food. In the early days of human beings, hunting animals provided more food than foraging bushes and trees for wild fruit. Moreover, in trees there was always the risk of picking up a fruit that was poisonous.

As for the other great apes, all of them have canines but the non-vegetarianism in their diet extends only upto ants and small insects accidentally ingested during foraging. You won’t catch one of them trying to slay a rabbit or something.

Coming to the herbivores, the teeth of the herbivores keep growing throughout their lives since the chewing surface is ground off. On the other hand, a lot of carnivores, especially bears, die in old age due to inability to hunt and chew what they have hunted since the teeth are ground off. Even in human beings, with age the teeth surfaces get worn out and often dentists must work on them to return the chewing edges.

Myth 4:

Meat eaters have intestinal tracts which are only 3 times their body length so that rapidly decaying meat can pass through quickly.

Herbivores and humans have intestinal tracts which are 10-12 times their body length.

Fact:

Herbivores consume large amounts of cellulose through vegetation that they consume. As such, they need significantly longer time to digest the matter to extract all nutrition. Carnivores on the other hand digest food faster so there is no need to have a larger intestinal tract. After all, pushing food through the digestive system consumes valuable energy. Humans run the middle path. While carnivores have intestines 3-6 times their body length and herbivores can have intestines upto 20 times their body length, humans have intestines about 8-10 metres in length. Given the average human height of 1.7 metres this is not even 7 times that length – closer to 6 than 20! The reason being the same: we cannot digest cellulose. When your doctor tells you to consume more roughage it is because we cannot digest the cellulose and so the added bulk works to clean up the internal plumbing.

Myth 5:

Meat eaters have strong hydrochloric acid in stomach to digest meat.

Herbivores and humans have stomach acid that is 20 times weaker than that of a meat eater

Fact:

Meat eaters have a stomach pH of between 1-2. The human digestive system releases an acidic solution of potassium chloride, sodium chloride and hydrochloric acid that has a pH level of between 1 and 3. Ruminants (grazing animals) have pH around 4-6.

Myth 6:

Meat eaters have salivary glands in mouth that are not needed to pre-digest food grains and fruits

Herbivores and humans have well developed salivary glands which are necessary to pre-digest food grains and fruits

Fact:

Truly this point makes me laugh my guts out. Its like saying “Let’s eat fruits since we have the salivary glands to pre-digest them!”. You need the salivary glands IF you eat food grains and fruits. Carnivores don’t so there is no need for the salivary glands. Humans developed salivary glands because they began eating food grains and fruits.

Myth 7:

Meat eaters have acid saliva with no enzyme ptyalin to pre-digest grains

Herbivores and humans have alkaline saliva with enzyme ptyalin to digest grains

Fact:

Refer Myth 6 above.

The page has a lot more justifications for the vegan way of life but the para form deters me from going through it with a fine-toothed comb. However the above points may have given you a decent demonstration of what to expect from the rest of the article.

A post of this nature is bound to raise the question “Why do we eat plant matter then?”

Early humans hunted for food. I talk of the time when animals were not domesticated, a time before fire was controlled. They hunted down small animals like deer and rabbits in groups herding a lone animal together and then pummeling it with stones. The hunt provided food as well as animal skin for the humans. Even the bones were used for rudimentary tools. But there was the question of protection. As humans evolved into the social life style they lost their claws and were weak against larger animals. This led to the invention of stone tools and weapons and consequently the Stone Age. With improved tools and the advantage of opposable thumbs the humans could now capture larger prey like wild buffaloes. They could also protect themselves from other wild animals. When fire was controlled, human beings used it primarily for light at night and protection against other animals. Cooking was probably an accident, a happy accident nonetheless, when someone tossed a piece of meat into a fire by mistake and liked the taste. Slowly humans developed taste for cooked food and the fire became a centre point of the early settlements. Wild animals would form a circle around the fire and wait for it to go out to attack the soft human targets. Slowly, animals like wild dogs and wolves realised that if they got near enough to the fire they could actually get hold of some meat. This led to domestication of the first animal – the dog. In exchange for food and shelter, the dogs would guard the settlement – notably not as their master’s property but as their own territory. They would treat the entire settlement as a pack. It was only later that the master-animal equation came into the picture and the dog started protecting his master’s property.

With domestication and settlement came the need to have a more permanent food source. Early humans realised that plants could be consumed for food and best of all – they did not fight back when harvested! I see the point of our ancestors preferring to grow wheat instead of fighting an irate bull or deer to the ground. Vegetarian food was only a substitute for animal food sources in a settlement so that there was more variety to eat.

A singular point that caught my eye in the previously mentioned article is the mention of the carnivore’s eating habits. It mentions that the carnivore consumes the gut matter first when it makes a kill and then eats the rest of the meat. Now it is unfortunate that the poor lion doesn’t have refrigeration facilities else I’m sure it would also keep the best bits for later. The reason why the carnivore eats the innards first is that it is the wettest part. And as we all know, moisture hastens the rotting process. So the excess blood in the animal corpse would result in a faster decay rate thus a kill which would otherwise last for many meals would rot considerably quickly. The article also mentions how it is not natural for humans to eat raw flesh. They forget that it was that way to start with. And clearly they have not heard of steak done rare or sushi!

I rest my case here. This is another one of those debates which will probably never end. I just say “To each his own”. I eat meat because I choose to. You may well eat veggies because you choose that way. It is probably in everyone’s best interests to just let things be that way rather than trying to convince each other of the folly of their ways.

Advertisements
Categories: Random Stuff
  1. 31 March 2010 at 11:24 IST

    An interesting read, But are you referring to hereditary meat eaters? Cause we are traditionally vegetarians. Started non-beg only with my generation. Maybe some will be true with my kids

    • Siddharth
      31 March 2010 at 11:28 IST

      Traditionally you may be a vegetarian but all humanity started with meat eating… You could kill small animals and birds without running the risk of poisoning yourself from the fruits of some unknown plant… In fact even to this day many tribals consume ants and other small insects which are a superb protein source as well as a heritage of our great ape days!

  2. 31 March 2010 at 21:22 IST

    Nice post. Both sides have their pros and cons. My hubby is a non veggie and i am a veggie..I completely agree with the funda of each to his own since it really cuts down on a whole lot of debates and life is so much simpler!

    • Siddharth
      31 March 2010 at 23:01 IST

      My mum says that before I get married, I should confirm that my bride-to-be is also a pakka non-vegetarian like me to avoid marital discord 😉
      Anyway, there is no such thing as pros and cons according to me…. it is perfectly possible to have a well-balanced diet while sticking to either diets…. I believe its more of just a lifestyle choice.

  3. 1 April 2010 at 19:35 IST

    I agree on the belief “to each his own”.
    Make choices that suit your personal lifestyle and stick to them. Let others enjoy their right to choose by not being judgmental in any way.

    Wonderful read Siddharth 🙂

    Cheers!!

    • Siddharth
      1 April 2010 at 19:41 IST

      Thanks a lot for visiting, reading and commenting 🙂

  4. 2 September 2010 at 17:51 IST

    A good analysis Siddharth. To each his own is exactly correct. But people should have the facts and then make up their own minds.

    Another point about fire is that is breaks down the cellular structure of the meat making it more easy to digest – maybe that’s why it tastes so good 🙂

    • 2 September 2010 at 17:59 IST

      Thanks for visiting, reading and commenting Bhagwad.
      And yeah meat does taste good but raw (in sushi form) doesn’t taste that bad. And definitely nutritionally, meat is better for survival than veggies because the energy released per weight is much higher for animal proteins than vegetables/grass.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: