It is a commonplace to state that man is an animal. However, in the light of our present knowledge, it is not possible to find out whether man originally belongs to the group of vegetarians or to that of meat-eaters. In other words, whether man is a born vegetarian is not known for sure. Students of history, mythology or anthropology can cite examples in support of either group.
Further, the opinions of one expert can be refuted, with equal vehemence, by other experts of equal intellectual stature. So, one has to take recourse to another method of inquiry. Can we get results by following the proven doctrine of evolution – the doctrine that man and the anthropoid apes have descended from a common ancestral form? Can we come to the conclusion that this common ancestral form was a vegetarian?
Dr. Allan Walker of the Johns Hopkins University conducted research on the subject. His work centres on the dental profile of man and other animals – the shape and the order of teeth, the decay of teeth, the chewing System etc. In the light of his findings he came to the conclusion that man is a descendent of a vegetable and fruit eating animal. Man’s dental structure is suitable for vegetarian food, and not for animal food.
The findings of the experiments that have been conducted at the Harvard University are also more or less similar. The subjects for the experiments were children, from those at the crawling stage to the two year olds with teeth. They were divided into two groups. The first group comprised the children of purely vegetarian parents. The rest of the children formed the second group.
Both the groups were served vegetarian and non-vegetarian food items at their usual time of meals. They were familiar items fed eyeryday to the children of the group concerned, that is, vegetarian items for the first group and non- vegetarian items for the second group. But, surprisingly enough, most of the children preferred the vegetarian items. A few of them, at the outset, liked the non¬vegetarian items but soon turned to the vegetarian meals.
The same experiment was conducted at different times, on different days, with different food items. The result, however, remained unchanged. Similar experiments have been conducted with patients as subjects. During illness, a patient loses both taste and appetite for food. He turns away even from his favourite dish. However, it has been found that if, under these circumstances, he is offered both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food items, and he prefers the vegetarian ones.
The findings of these experiments – conducted on a large scale or otherwise – highlight an important question. Is there some basic anatomical difference between the vegetarian animal and a carnivorous animal?” The natural diet matches the anatomy that is suited to it. In other words, there has to be some natural connection between the food that an animal takes and the anatomy it is meant for. It is obvious the anatomy has to be natural.
Most of the animals are either vegetarian or carnivorous but not both, except a few birds and animals that are habituated to both. However, it is wrong to draw any conclusions based on the food habits of domestic pets. Your dog consumes bread and milk and the cat laps up milk and rice. This is irrelevant since both dogs and cats are naturally flesh eaters. But as domesticated animals, they get conditioned to eat, without complaining, whatever is offered to them.
They have no choice. On the contrary, it is significant that a domesticated sheep, though starved for days together, never touches meat. That is why it is more important to consider whether human anatomy is suited to vegetarian or non-vegetarian style of food. In this context, it is essential to examine several yardsticks scientifically, as follows:
All animals except man consume food with the help of the tools or weapons provided by nature, such as paws, claws and fangs. It does not matter whether the food is vegetable or animal. The natural weapons or tools are so perfect that the animal needs no outside help for catching and devouring the prey or for getting the necessary roots, fruit and leaves off the trees. A limbless snake or a python targets its prey with unfailing accuracy and can swallow it.
Similarly, a deer, however agile it may be, can sometimes easily get caught by a python. During the rainy season, a frog just has to put out its tongue to catch insects as its food. A lion or a tiger, with its fangs and claws, can easily tear to pieces a bison with the toughest hide and, “red in tooth and claw”, can feast on its meat. And the vultures swoop down on the carcases that lie in the open.
Besides the beak and the claws, a vulture needs no “arms” or “weapons” for finishing off its prey. Even the ants and insects have been blessed with knowledge of gathering food with the help of their natural weapons. So much for the carnivorous animals. By using its trunk only, an elephant – a vegetarian – can gulp vegetarian food exceeding five hundred kilos. Perhaps it has to spend the whole day over it.
But elephants require no weapon other than its own trunk for getting the food, no matter whether it is a tree or tall grass. A sheep nibbles at the stunted grass while the bulls and cows graze in the meadows. A giraffe sustains itself by eating the tender tops of trees. In other words, every animal has been apportioned his food as per its height and natural weapons. Monkeys subsist on tender leaves and fruit since they can dangle and swing effortlessly from tree to tree.
Considering these examples, one may ask a question. What kind of food can man eat by using his limbs, teeth and head only, since he is not equipped with any (natural) weapons or tools? The answer invariably will be that man can get vegetarian food only. Meat can be had only by killing an animal.
It is obvious that man cannot kill without a weapon, much less eat, the meat of a slaughtered animal. P.B. Shelley, the famous poet, said “… man has neither the fangs of a lion, nor the claws of a tiger…”). On the contrary, man can consume effortlessly varieties of fruit, vegetables and tender ears of com. The conclusion, therefore, is unmistakable: the human anatomy is naturally suitable for a vegetarian diet.
Technically speaking, only the animals with sharp nails or claws and pointed teeth can be carnivoroys. On the other hand, the vegetarian animals have the following peculiarities – broad claws that protrude from the paws and a thick, even and broad dental stmcture as they do not have to use their nails or claw, they use their teeth and grind the fruit, vegetables or grains to powder.
The jaws of the animal are suitably structured for crushing and masticating the food. The food has to be chewed in the left and right parts of the mouth by the molar teeth and also must be ground to powder by the upper and lower movements of the jaws. The jaws of all the vegetarian animals can easily make these rotating movements.
As against this, the jaws of carnivorous animals open up and down. The jaws of a small cat stretch considerably wide and the same are true of a snake. It is easy to imagine how a lion or a tiger can easily accommodate the head of an animal between its vastly stretched jaws. A carnivorous animal tears away chunks of flesh from its prey with its sharp teeth, and reducing them to balls, swallows them.
He does not have to grind, chew and powder the stuff. He just swallows the balls Of mutton. This is not possible for a human being who must patiently chew the food. For this, he must have strong molar teeth since we know that a person with good teeth but damaged molars cannot digest what he eats. For example, an elephant who has lost its molar teeth cannot survive.
Its molars are in the shape of large bricks and can easily grind any vegetarian food that is placed between them. It is, therefore, clear that the nature of human (finger) nails, the structure of teeth and of jaws clearly indicate that they are suited to the vegetarian style of food. Another small but important difference is concerned with the length and shape of the tongue.
A vegetarian animal has a soft tongue. Further, it cannot be considerably extended, anterior to the jaws. A vegetarian animal drinks water with its lips. It does not lap it up with its lips or with its tongue.
It is different with a carnivorous animal. A dog’s tongue hangs out of its jaws and a cat uses its tongue to clean its skin. A cat also laps up milk with its tongue. It is easy for a snake to lap up water with its forked and swiftly moving coarse tongue.
The conclusion is that the human tongue, with its characteristic shape and length, is rightly suited for vegetarian food. The ingredients in the saliva of the vegetarian and carnivorous animals are quite different. Human saliva contains alkali and ptyalin which help to digest carbohydrates. The quantity of carbohydrates in the non- vegetarian food stuffs is negligible.
But the presence of this ingredient in the human saliva supports the view that man is vegetarian. On the contrary, the saliva of the carnivorous animals contains acidity which is necessary for digesting non-vegetarian foods. The breath and the body of a carnivorous animal give out strong odour. Vegetarian animals too emit an unsavoury smell, which is, however, less offensive. Man, like other vegetarian animals, gives out unpleasant sweat.
On the other hand, a carnivorous animal throws out the body heat not through sweat but by the process of quick breathing, or by exhalation. Carnivorous animals drink water twice a day while the vegetarian animals observe no such limits, drinking as and when they want. Considering these minute anatomical details one comes to a conclusion that human anatomy is eminently suited only to vegetarian style of food.
In man and a vegetarian animal, both the structure of the alimentary canal and the juices that flow are similar. But a pure non-vegetarian has to take beer or wine to aid the digestion. Without the supplementary liquor, the Westerners believe, that digestion takes a much longer time. That accounts for the western convention of having a pre-dinner peg or a glass of wine.
An observation can be made in support of this, namely the acid in the stomach of a carnivorous animal is ten times stronger than that in the human stomach. It is reported that a python’s digestive powers are the strongest. It can swallow an animal intact. If, for example, it gulps down a deer, it excretes only the undigested hair of the animal.
The rest has been dissolved in the acid and digested. This seems to be the digestive pattern among the carnivorous animals. The liver and the kidneys play a very important role in anatomy.
The bile and other juices that ooze from the liver facilitate digestion. Besides, the liver processes all the poisonous and harmful substances returned to it. The kidneys function as a strainer or a filter for blood, getting rid of the harmful elements through urine and recycling the necessary ones before they are released in the blood.
The process goes on endlessly. The human liver weighs just between half a kilo and a kilo and it is small in size. On the contrary, the liver of a carnivorous animal has a larger shape and greater weight, since it is constantly engaged in the heavy task of disposing various unwanted non-vegetarian substances. The same holds good of its kidneys too. They are large because they have to do heavy duty work.
After the food is assimilated and digested, are formed the food juices which reach all the cells through blood. Of course, the whole process is very complicated but the end product is the supply of energy, mainly in the form of glucose and it is preserved, through libertines in the blood. They are also known as fat proteins.
The nature and form of these proteins found in the human body are very much similar to those that exist in the body of a vegetarian animal but they are vastly different from the ones residing in the body of a carnivorous animal. The chemical differences also indicate that the human anatomy favours vegetarian food.
Besides the digestive system, there are some other physical differences. A close look at them makes it clear that vegetarians and non-vegetarians are naturally distinct categories. Of course, there may be a few exceptions but they only prove the rule. A carnivorous animal is born with its eyes closed. In about five days after birth, the cubs, kittens and puppies open their eyes partially to have an indistinct glimpse of the world.
Even when fondled, they continue to be half blind. It is after a week that they begin to see clearly. Not so with a vegetarian animal. A calf, just half an hour old, starts stumbling and tottering before it manages, a little precariously, to stand up.
With eyes wide open, it lurches towards the mother for a suck. A human child too is bom with its eyes open and starts looking around. Within minutes of its birth it opens its eyes and starts frisking about its mother.
This is one of the major differentiating factors between the two categories. Obviously, man is close to the vegetarian category. Normally, a vegetarian animal is a “day creature”, that is, it roams about for food during day and rests at night.
A carnivorous animal follows a routine in the reverse. It is its nature to hunt for its prey during the night and take rest during the day, though, occasionally, some carnivorous animals move about in the sunlight too.
That is why there is a natural difference between their powers of vision or eyesight. A vegetarian animal cannot see clearly at night. It gropes in the dark. His flesh-eating cousin, on the other hand, has clear vision at night. William Blake, the famous poet, describes the tiger as “burning bright / in the forests of the night” Man, on the other hand, has the open vision of day and cannot see clearly at night.
How long should food remain in the body? There seems to be a time table based on the category of the food consumed. While making this time table, nature must have given thought to the length of the intestine of the animal. The undigested portions of the meat can rot in the body, producing poisonous substances that can be harmful.
Hence, the length of the intestine of a carnivorous animal is just equal to the length of the body of the animal concerned. Nature seems to have made this arrangement. So that the unwanted substances can be excreted rapidly in order to avoid harm. On the other hand, it takes longer for the vegetarian food to digest. Again, parts of the undigested stuff have to be reabsorbed.
The whole process is spread over twelve to eighteen hours. That is why the length of the intestine of a vegetarian animal is. at least four times that of its body. As we all know, the small intestine in the human body is generally twenty to twenty-two feet long.
Is a certain animal “A”’in fury? How does “A” look at the animal opposite him, “B”? How does “A” size up “B”? B would pay careful attention to the sound that A makes and to the glance A casts. Normally, no animal stare strikes terror in the beholder, though we often use the term, “a commanding look” or “an icy glint in the eyes”.
We do not find such an “awe-inspiring stare” in the way a deer, a cow, a horse or an elephant looks at others. Their eyes reflect an element of doubt; they often stare but do not strike fear, except perhaps a wild bull. This also holds true about the sound or the cry of these animals. A vegetarian animal does not give out a huge shout or cry.
On the other hand, the noises that a carnivorous animal makes, the thundering cries that they give out, are ferocious and harsh and send a chill down the spine of the listener. One has only to, compare (and contrast) the trumpeting of an elephant, the neighing of a horse with the rooting of a tiger, the barking of ,a dog or the yelping of a jackal. Before launching a fatal assault, a flesh-eating animal fixes its prey with a mesmerizing stare.
These peculiarities bring home to us the fact that human anatomy is so structured as to favour the vegetarian habit of eating. It is one thing to digest whatever is offered under some compelling circumstances, and quite another to choose the food – the dietary style – that finds favour with the anatomy. There should, therefore, be no difficulty in accepting the fact that we belong to the vegetarian category.
The account given so far is concerned with human anatomy as compared with the anatomy of vegetarian animals. It has been Substantiated that the carnivorous animals are different from their vegetarian cousins. Now the question that remains to be answered is this: how would a regular, exclusive meat diet affect man?
As we know, a meat-eater takes vegetarian supplements along with his meat, such as bread, chapatti, and rice. Further, he helps himself with a mix of vegetables and salads and ends his dinner with fruit for dessert.
carnivorous animals can hardly have such mixed fare. Certain groups of men or sections of society provide us with examples of the effects of an exclusive meat diet on human anatomy. Such is the race called the Eskimos. They live in the far north of North America. For centuries, they have had no vegetarian content in their food though things have changed a little in recent times. No crops can be raised on their land
which remains under the thick layers of ice almost the year round.
They, therefore, have to subsist on fish and venison only (i.e. the flesh of caribou, North American reindeer). Fishing is virtually suspended during the cold winter. They have to manage with stored or preserved venison only. As a cumulative result of this dietary habit, there is a growing incidence of diseases like heart trouble and intestinal cancer, and high levels of fat are found in their blood.
It is true that they lead a life of great hardships owing to the extreme climatic conditions. The average life expectancy is around fifty. In the vast regions of Siberia, on the other hand, despite the weather conditions, the citizens can take some vegetarian food supplements along with their staple meat diet because in that region some vegetables are grown for a quarter of the year.
The average life expectancy is above sixty five. The difference is due to the difference in the food and this should give us some food for thought.