Awesome vegans: 1; defensive omnivores: 0  »

If you’re vegan, you’ve heard it.  And if you’re an omnivore, (admit it) you’ve said it.  It’s usually one of the first “lines of defense” against a vegan diet: “If we weren’t meant to eat meat, why do I have these canine teeth?”

But do the meatheads have any ground to stand on? Lucky for us (and the animals), Milton R. Mills' comprehensive article "The Comparative Anatomy of Eating" breaks down, in no uncertain terms, the differences between mammalian carnivores, omnivores and herbivores once and for all. “Culture, custom and training are confounding variables when looking at human dietary practices. Thus, ‘observation’ is not the best technique to use when trying to identify the most ‘natural’ diet for humans,” says Mills. “While most humans are ‘behavioral’ omnivores, the question still remains as to whether humans are anatomically suited for a diet that includes animal as well as plant foods.”

He then goes on to compare in great detail the difference between the three classifications. Exhibiting anatomical and physiological features associated with each kind of diet, Mills covers oral cavities and dental structure, stomach and small intestine distinctions, and colon and digestive tracts.

Breaking the scientific mumbo-jumbo down in layman’s terms, we learn some pretty powerful facts:

  • Herbivores’ saliva contains carbohydrate-digesting enzymes which begin breaking down food molecules while the food is still in the mouth; carnivores’ saliva does not contain this enzyme as they do not chew their food.
  • In herbivores, the jaw joint is positioned above the plane of the teeth, allowing complex jaw motions needed to chew plant foods; carnivores have a simple hinge joint lying on the same plane of the teeth, almost eliminating side-to-side motion.
  • Carnivores have a single-chambered stomach and short small intestines; herbivores have significantly longer, more elaborate guts so as to properly digest fibrous diets.
  • Carnivores’ colons are simple and very short, as its only purposes are to absorb salt and water; in herbivores, it is a highly specialized organ involved in water and electrolyte absorption, vitamin production and absorption, and fermentation of fibrous plant materials.

Yeah yeah, all of this is well and good, I guess…but what’s the big conclusion? Are humans built to be vegans, or soulless, arrogant flesh-eaters?

SORRY, CARNIES! Here’s the key, my fellow veggies—memorize this for future ammunition needs:

In conclusion, we see that human beings have the gastrointestinal tract structure of a “committed” herbivore. Humankind does not show the mixed structural features one expects and finds in anatomical omnivores such as bears and raccoons. Thus, from comparing the gastrointestinal tract of humans to that of carnivores, herbivores and omnivores we must conclude that humankind’s GI tract is designed for a purely plant-food diet

Honestly, though—is anyone really surprised? Didn’t think so! Find Dr. Milton. R. Mills’ compare/contrast chart at the bottom of the page here for further info.

[Cow pic from via; kitty from skyanchor on flickr]

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