Navigation bar--use text links at bottom of page.

(Humanity's Evolutionary Prehistoric Diet and Ape Diets--continued, Part E)

Correcting the vegetarian
myths about ape diets

You mentioned the "comparative anatomy" argument that Natural Hygienists look to for justification instead of evolution. Let's look at that a little more. Are you saying it is fundamentally wrong?

No, not as a general line of reasoning in saying that we are similar to apes so our diets should be similar. It's a good argument--as far as it goes. But for the logic to be valid in making inferences about the human diet based on ape diet, it must be based on accurate observations of the actual food intake of apes. Idealists such as we Hygienists don't often appreciate just how difficult it is to make these observations, and do it thoroughly enough to be able to claim you have really seen everything the apes are doing, or capable of doing. You have to go clear back to field observations in the 1960s and earlier to support the contention that apes are vegetarians. That doesn't wash nowadays with the far more detailed field observations and studies of the '70s, '80s, and '90s. Chimp and gorilla behavior is diverse, and it is difficult to observe and draw reliable conclusions without spending many months and/or years of observation. And as the studies of Jane Goodall and others since have repeatedly shown, the early studies were simply not extensive enough to be reliable.[73]

Citing of outdated science an earmark of idealism out of touch with reality. Science is a process of repeated observation and progressively better approximations of the "real world," whatever that is. It is critical then, that we look at recent evidence, which has elaborated on, refined, and extended earlier work. When you see anybody--such as apologists for "comparative anatomy" vegetarian idealism (or in fact anybody doing this on any topic)--harking back to outdated science that has since been eclipsed in order to bolster their views, you should immediately suspect something.

Accumulation of modern post-1960s research shows apes are not actually vegetarians. The main problem with the comparative anatomy argument, then--at least when used to support vegetarianism--is that scientists now know that apes are not vegetarians after all, as was once thought. The comparative anatomy argument actually argues for at least modest amounts of animal flesh in the diet, based on the now much-more-complete observations of chimpanzees, our closest animal relatives with whom we share somewhere around 98 to 98.6% of our genes.[74] (We'll also look briefly at the diets of other apes, but the chimpanzee data will be focused on here since it has the most relevance for humans.)

Diet of chimpanzees. Though the chimp research is rarely oriented to the specific types of percentage numerical figures we Hygienists would want to see classified, from what I have seen, it would probably be fair to estimate that most populations of chimpanzees are getting somewhere in the neighborhood of 5%* of their diet on average in most cases (as a baseline) to perhaps 8-10%* as a high depending on the season, as animal food--which in their case includes bird's eggs and insects in addition to flesh--particularly insects, which are much more heavily consumed than is flesh.[75]

Other ape diets. In order of how closely related the other great apes are to humans, the gorilla is next after the chimpanzee, then the orangutan, and gibbon in decreasing order.[91] I'll just briefly summarize a few basic facts about the other great apes here, concentrating primarily on the gorilla.


(UPDATES TO PART 1: Fat Consumption in Hunter-Gatherer Diets / Co-Evolution of Enlarged Human Brain with Decreased Size of Digestive System)

Return to beginning of interviews



GO TO PART 1 - Setting the Record Straight on Humanity's Prehistoric Diet and Ape Diets

GO TO PART 2 - Fire and Cooking in Human Evolution

GO TO PART 3 - The Psychology of Idealistic Diets / Successes & Failures of Vegetarian Diets

Back to Frank Talk by Long-Time Insiders

   Beyond Veg home   |   Feedback   |   Links