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Do Humans Have Vegetarian or Omnivore Teeth?

I’ve gotten a bit fed up (get it?) of seeing vegetarian sites claim humans should be vegetarian based on physiology, and then compare human form and function to herbivore and carnivore, but ignore omnivores completely, or cherry-pick a few facts to make it look as if humans closely resemble a vegetarian’s form. One of the most common claims is that we have vegetarian teeth, so I’ll focus on that single argument here. Here are pictures, straight from the horse’s mouth (as it were), where it’s harder to hide evidence.

I don’t know about you, but the dentition on that chimp looks pretty close to a lot of humans I’ve seen. And yes, chimps and all primates are, in fact, omnivores (though like humans, some eat more plant food than others).

Almost all herbivorous mammals have a large gap, or diastema, between their incisors and molars. Almost universally they are missing the canine teeth entirely (a few stallions have vestigial canines). Many also are missing upper incisors – sheep merely have a rough pad against which their lower incisors cut grass.

I’ve known a few human folk who resemble that, but they fall generally into the failed-dental-hygiene group.

One claim is that carnivores can only open their jaws up and down, with no lateral motion, while herbivores can move their jaws side to side … and so can humans! Sure you can – when your mouth is open. When chewing, however, humans crush their food, with very minimal lateral motion of the jaw. The bumps in your molars that match up when your jaw is clenched won’t let you chew this way without great stress on your jaw. 

Let me tell you, if you have ever seen a human being chew food like a cow or horse, with a lateral movement of the jaw, get him to a dentist. Then a chiropractor.

Animals that eat grasses and grains use their teeth like grinding stones, rotating their jaws in a circular motion unlike any natural human action. Like THIS:

In a surprisingly candid piece, the Vegetarian Resource Group posted Humans Are Omnivores, detailing that both historically and physically, humans are clearly omnivores, and basically telling vegetarian proselytizers to focus on other issues and leave the physiology issue alone.

If you want to be a vegetarian, be a vegetarian. But don’t kid yourself that your physiology requires it of you.

More omnivore teeth: What Do Omnivore Teeth Look Like? (Pacu Pacu)
Good reading: The Vegetarian Myth.

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45 comments

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  1. Maggie Winters says:

    Thank you. My mother has become a bit… militant of late. This helps me point out some of the problems with her theories. I don’t have a problem her being a vegetarian. I just have a problem with she judges me for eating a chicken sandwich.

  2. Mike says:

    We were not created omnivores! Since you are a Christian, the following verses from the Bible may enlighten you. Gen 2:9 Trees(fruit, nuts)for food. Gen 3:17-19 Ground cursed after sin. Herbs of the field to eat(grains, roots etc) Man only given permission by God to eat (clean) animals after the flood destroyed everything.-Gen 9:3,4. God also instructed Noah to bring more clean animals on the ark than unclean in preparation for the lack of food after the flood.
    Dead flesh can never be as healthful or nourishing as fruits, vegetables, nuts etc. Especially with the condition of animals in wholesale slaughter houses. Visit one sometime. Imagine yourself waiting in line to be killed. Not pleasant. Think of the chemicals and fear hormones released into the blood stream of the animal and then eaten by us!! As a child I lived about a mile from a pig slaughter house/sausage plant and we could hear the horrible screams from that far away when it was a killing day. I’ve tried both types of diets-vegetarian and meat and I can tell a huge difference in my overall health,energy and emotional and spiritual condition when I DO NOT eat meat!! Meat is very addictive though, therefore I have had trouble giving it up completely. I do sympathize with Maggie Winters about judging others for eating meat. The Bible is specific in the New Testament about not doing that! Judge not lest ye be judged yourself. As far as your picture of the chimps teeth, you should find another one. The chimps canines are obviously ground down from age. Chimps have long canines. They also can be very vicious with them. Omnivores have long canines i.e.- fangs! Humans don’t have fangs.
    I of course do not believe in evolution and I do not believe we are animals ourselves. We were created by God in his image(likeness)to have dominion over all animals- hence we are the top of the food chain,because of our intelligence, not physical ability. We can reason. Animals cannot. Put us out in sub freezing weather without clothes and we’re dead in a very short time. Explain the evolution in that scenario. Our supposed close relatives-Neandertal man etc. are always shown to be hairy?? We’ve evolved in the wrong direction!! Funny. Oh well just had to comment on your blog pictures. Have a nice day.

    1. Carma says:

      I’m familiar with all your arguments and, well, they don’t impress me. :)

      Yup, I’m a Christian, and quite familiar with all the verses you cite. Biblically we are cleared to eat flesh; even “unclean” flesh was cleared by Paul (and I do love my bacon!). Noah could only eat and sacrifice clean flesh so of course he brought more clean animals onto the ark. What does that have to do with anything? Unless your point is that he was obviously eating meat. ;)

      I don’t eat animals raised on giant commercial farms or killed in slaughterhouses – you are correct that those are not healthful to eat. But just as organic fruits and vegetables are more healthful than commercially raised ones, free-range and grassfed animals are more healthful than commercially raised ones – so that argument fails with me too.

      Dead flesh is entirely as nourishing as fruits and vegetables. More so, in my opinion, as long as it is naturally raised. I’ve eaten both kinds of diets too, and I can tell a huge difference in my overall health too: lack of energy, decrease in mental acuity, increase in depression, and weight gain on vegetarian or near-vegetarian diets.

      Teeth are ground down by grinding; fangs are not used to grind anything! So how did the chimp’s teeth get ground down? Humans don’t have fangs, but they DO have canine teeth, which most herbivores don’t have at all (as shown above). I DO have canine teeth, I do NOT have flat molars, and my jaws do NOT move sideways to grind grain. I don’t have multiple stomachs or lengthy intestines to digest cellulose either.

      I’m unaware that I made any reference to evolution at all in this post, so I’m not sure what your point is there. Regardless, we all have the same daddy ;) and he used the same sort of mechanisms – eyes, ears, teeth, fingers – in making us all, so comparisons are valid whether the point is evolutionary or not.

      1. Mike says:

        Cool I was hoping I would get a response from you. Wow, where to begin. I wasn’t trying to impress you. It is not necessary in any argument to impress.
        1. Paul did not have the authority over God to “clear” anyone to eat meat, much less make it clean. Study Leviticus to discover what animals are clean or unclean. Next study the physiology of a hog’s flesh, fat(lard) and the parasites it carries. Yep, it tastes good, but that don’t mean it’s good for you.
        2.Noah could NOT only eat flesh before he was told to do so. The ark would have been large enough to store provisions for man and beast. He could easily have stored vegetable food for himself and family and animals which ate grain, grasses etc. There would of course have been a limited supply.
        3. The point of course as far as the command to bring more clean animals onto the ark than unclean was obviously so there would many more to populate the earth and be eaten after the waters subsided. As in cattle, sheep, goats, deer etc. Everything after the flood was dead. No animals, men anything. Plants don’t grow back instantaneously. They were the first thing to spring back to life of course. What were they going to eat after all the food is gone they brought with them on the ark…make any sense?
        4. I too enjoy eating organic meat. My argument does not fail, on the point that killing an animal to live from consuming it’s dead flesh in our modern age is not necessary whatsoever. Would you realistically raise an animal yourself from a calf, piglet or lamb to kill, butcher and consume it all by yourself simply because you enjoy meat.I doubt it. It’s alot of nasty work. I personally have never cut an animals throat and butchered it. I could, if necessary but find that prospect unappealing to simply satisfy my appetite.
        5. Dead flesh is almost certainly NOT entirely nourishing and is second hand food/protein derived from eating plant material. Eat an all meat diet and see what happens to you as in Dr. Atkin!! Dead! Flesh cannot deliver the vitamins, enzymes and overall living nutrition plant food can. Legumes provide B12. Something was there before the flood to provide B12 I’m sure. I don’t know what vegetarian diet you tried or for how long, but salad ain’t going to cut it. Fasting to get your body and palate cleansed is very important. Maybe it’s just not for you though?
        6. I don’t how the chimp in your pic lost it’s canine size, ground it down or what ever. Here is link to a pic of a chimp with normal teeth much different than your chimps pic http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=chimpanzee+fangs&id=6029E45CC54AC1F2B328DB5A8E7528E12B04257F&FORM=IQFRBA#view=detail&id=2A23C64A3651D2AF3D2E51A81158623E538070D6&selectedIndex=2. There are many more. Humans do not have fang/canine teeth used for puncturing and killing.
        Humans do have lengthy intestines-22ft. We are not herbivores. We are humans. Not animals.
        7. You didn’t make a reference to evolution. I simply stated I don’t believe in that man made theory. That theory states that we humans are animals and evolved from lower life forms. The Bible confirms otherwise.Yes we all have the same Daddy-GOD. Not some one celled organism that willed itself into existance. There is no comparison. We were either created or not. That was my point. As far as modern evolutionist scientific thought, yes we humans are omnivore animals. I emphatically disagree with that belief/theory! Take care.

      2. Carma says:

        Sorry, I misspoke – Peter, not Paul! Acts 10 clearly shows God declaring to Peter that previously unclean animals are “cleansed.” I realize it is a metaphor for saying that Gentiles are “clean” and he can associate with them, but it works on both levels. :)

        Would I realistically raise an animal and kill it myself? Sure I would! I was raised on a farm, baby! ;) I admit my dad and brother generally did the killing, but I have skinned and dismembered plenty of previously living critters. I always enjoyed watching my grandmother dehead chickens – she had a unique technique that involved spinning it over her head until the body popped off. It gives you a pretty good appreciation of the food.

        I’ve read lots of previously vegan/vegetarian bloggers who would disagree with you that “consuming dead flesh in our modern age is not necessary.” Check out Lierre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myths for a superlative examination of the subject (be warned that she is very much NOT Christian).

        Google “former vegan” and see how many people trashed their health on a vegan diet. Sure it is a good short-term cleansing diet (as is fasting which I have tried too, to good effect); it does not necessarily follow that it is good for long-term health. In fact, if the virtue of a vegetarian diet is that it flushes and cleanses, at some point it runs out of bad stuff to flush and begins draining the body of necessary nutrients.

        I’ve done Atkins, and I’ve done vegetarian, and I sure felt better eating Atkins than I ever felt in my life! You’re correct that “salad ain’t going to cut it” and I would never have tried a salad-only diet; nor was it a white-bread, sugar-laden vegetarian diet. I was trying to improve my health and was eating organic fruits and vegetables and lots of whole grains. Didn’t work.

        Are you seriously extending your dislike of evolutionary terms (I don’t believe in it either, by the way) to terms like herbivore and omnivore and carnivore? Those words describe diet, not an organism’s classification. Humans are indeed born with a physiology similar to most omnivores; some then choose to live as herbivores and others choose to live as mostly carnivores. Herbivores usually have multiple stomachs and are missing teeth, and yes, they have LONGER intestines than humans have. Human intestines are not as short as a carnivore, but they compare similarly to omnivores – longer than a chimp but shorter than an orangutan!

        I see pictures of chimps with lots of sizes of teeth … kind of like humans have! No, we don’t have fangs, but chimp fangs are not as long as a lions … AND a lion’s front teeth are pointed fangs too, but a chimp’s are not! Chimps are not carnivores, humans are not carnivores, but both chimps and humans have wide, flat, sharp incisors … omnivore teeth!

        1. Mike says:

          “It works on both levels” ridiculous! Peter having a dream did not make all animal flesh clean. Don’t use that excuse to justify eating unclean flesh. Isaiah 66:17 is very specific.
          You enjoyed watching your grandmother kill chickens. Weird.
          I don’t put much confidence in “former vegan bloggers” Everyone has a story and an opinion. Scientific(unless evolution skewed) and medical evidence is what matters to me. I’m not vegan to begin with. Never said I was. Medical science has proven that consuming certain flesh foods leads to disease, period.
          Lierre Keith “is very much NOT Christian” No thanks, won’t be taking any advice from whoever that is or reading their propaganda.
          I could go on and on. The main point I made at the very beginning of this argument is that we were not created omnivores/meat eaters.The Bible proves it. Your blog pictures of a chimp with very short canines beside a human are misleading. If you want to eat meat fine. I eat meat. Billions of people eat meat. So what. That don’t make it healthy.We weren’t designed to do so. And eating a rat, a snake, a nasty poop eating sea creature like an oyster or crab isn’t healthy or clean and God never said they were. Think Kosher. That’s clean. Animals weren’t killing and eating eat other in the garden of Eden. Adam and Eve didn’t kill and eat animals. And again primates as in monkeys, gorillas, chimps and orangutans canine teeth DO NOT LOOK LIKE OUR CANINE TEETH! http://wwwdelivery.superstock.com/WI/223/1647/PreviewComp/SuperStock_1647R-114395.jpg
          We were not designed to be omnivores! We have chosen to be omnivores out of necessity. Make sure and let me know when you have killed a cow or hog(something bigger than you) with your “omnivore” teeth and bare hands. I wanna see pics or a video. Anyway, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. Bye.

        2. Carma says:

          Oh, you should have seen my grandmother’s method of killing chickens. It was quite fascinating. ;)

          How did kosher get into this discussion? The fact remains that God told Peter in a dream that unclean foods were clean. The fact remains that as a Christian I am freed from the OT law. Eating clean and kosher may be a wise thing to do for health reasons; it is by no means a Biblical requirement upon me.

          And you can’t have it both ways. The heart of your argument is that humans were created to be vegetarians … but then you state that in the Garden of Eden animals didn’t kill and eat other animals. Would that include the carnivores? Then according to you, something about the carnivores changed at some point, because obligate carnivores such as cats MUST live on meat and CANNOT live without meat. Therefore how they were created and lived within the Garden can have no bearing on the diet their physiognomy requires today; therefore the fact that humans were originally forbidden from eating meat also may have little to no bearing on our physiognomy or on what our bodies require for sustenance today.

          As far as living without tools … you changed the standard! I have to kill something BIGGER than myself to prove I’m an omnivore? Most animals kill and eat things smaller than themselves; only the big carnivores tackle herbivores larger than themselves, and I never claimed we were carnivores. I stand by my statement that I’d live longer catching and killing – and yup eating raw – small animals and birds and fish than you would trying to eat raw grains and grasses … or even finding raw grains and grasses (and vegetables and fruits) to eat at certain times of the year.

          You also weaken your own argument by saying that a human should do anything without tools. Your claim is that we are in no way animals or related to animals; therefore by definition, whatever I do as a human can and SHOULD be with the use of tools and my inability to run down a deer the way a lion does doesn’t matter … because I am human and by definition a tool maker. (Which statement I happen to agree with.) And you can bet that most humans dropped down in the middle of a wilderness would quickly set about creating the best tools they could with bare hands to get immediate sustenance, and that would include a rock to throw, a vine to snare, or a club to beat an animal to death and eat it … NOT a mortar and stone to grind grain to flour.

    2. Jody says:

      You should check the part of the bible where Cain kills his brother Abel. Before the flood. He killed him because God favored the offering of fruits from Able over Cain’s slaughtered lamb. If people did not eat meat at that time, why slaughter a lamb?

  3. Mike says:

    I forgot to mention that I am very much a believer in homeschooling! Check out what Germany is trying to do to people who homeschool!!

    1. Carma says:

      Glad to hear it! Reading about Germany is depressing. Reading about what our government is saying about not giving asylum to German homeschoolers is even more depressing. :\

  4. Mike says:

    Just another thought about humans not being omnivores. What other “animal” omnivores cook and consume their meat/prey- none. Try eating a raw chicken or hog sometime and see if you feel your intestinal tract was designed to digest meat.

    1. Carma says:

      Actually, plenty of people eat raw meat and tout its health benefits. Here’s one article – you can google and find a lot more. One of my family’s favorite appetizer dishes is ceviche (raw fish). :)

    2. Carma says:

      Frankly the fact that we cook our meat and other omnivores don’t isn’t much of an argument for a Christian. After all we are the only mammal to drink milk from other species too … and the Bible DOES advocate that! ;)

      1. Mike says:

        The next time your feeling especially omnivorish? is that a word? Attack, catch and kill(without tools) the animal you see that you would really enjoy devouring, and see how well your human canines do the job on the neck of a cow, pig etc. You will lose the battle.

        1. Carma says:

          Sure, Mike, I’ll do that … and you go eat some grass, and grains straight off the stalk, without processing them through grinding, adding moisture, or cooking, and see how your digestion does with that. I’ll bet I do better with my poultry, which I know perfectly well how to kill with my hands, than you do on straight uncooked grain.

          Whether it is meat or grain, humans process it with tools. You’re the one who keeps pointing out that we are humans, not animals. Fruit is the only food we eat without processing it in some way.

      2. Mike says:

        Sorry, we are not the only “mammal” to drink milk from another species. Here is a link showing a dog nursing tiger cubs. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/25964356/site/todayshow/ns/today-today_pets_and_animals/t/dog-nursing-tiger-cubs-miracle-zoo-owner-says/#.USW5pKWcesY cubs. We choose to drink cow milk. It’s not required for life. In fact Japanese studies have linked caseine in cow’s milk to cancer in humans. Also, check out the film “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead”. Very eye opening!

        1. Carma says:

          That is a completely specious argument. Does it happen in nature? No, it happens under human influence. In seriously extreme cases, a mother who had just lost her babies and happened across a baby without a mother might, MIGHT, adopt them … and yet still, we are talking about adoption and mothering, NOT about farming animals for their resources, which is what humans do to get milk.

          1. Mike says:

            I enjoyed our banter. It was fun.

  5. Briana says:

    Mind you it says “newborn cubs”.. they are nursing on a dog, because the mother basically turned them away. NOT the same thing. Show me a grown tiger sucking on another species tit.. then maybe MAYBE I’d be impressed… I just have to say.. this whole thread has really gotten under my skin.. your sarcasm, your little winky faces.. You want to make it known that you are WELL AWARE of everything that’s going on… you just don’t give a fuck.. WHY? because you are a cold desensitized human. Yea, so you grew up on a farm? you could totallt raise an animal as a pet & then murder it yourself? wow.. that’s impressive.. I know I couldn’t for some reason I care about animals.. odd right? Like my dog.. I raised her from a puppy, gave her a home, love, attention.. and fed her.. she knows I’m mama.. I couldn’t imagine killing her, imagine the fear & betrayal she would feel.. cows & pigs.. they aren’t any different. You have been brainwashed.. you believe what you grew up with, because that’s all you’ve ever known.. and You were a Vegetarian you say? I can’t imagine why you would even bother to give up meat with your lack of giving a shit.. I’m Vegan though, that means no dairy, no honey, no eggs, no fish… and I feel amazing! people like you just amaze me.. animals ARE NOT products. They ARE NOT put here for us to enslave & abuse & murder & steal their babies & the milk that was meant for those babies…They ARE NOT mindless numb stupid beings who can’t feel pain, who don’t have a will to live, who don’t love.. so seriously? Why don’t you go stuff your face with some more puss and shit and dead flesh. BTW monkeys also don’t cook their meat & season it with herbs & vegetables to make it taste to their liking, so they cant eat it… haha too funny. This is for you :)

    also, cute pic of the monkey… you picked one to prove your point huh? Well THESE babies are monkey teeth & fangs, wayyy larger than ours.

    http://williamcalvin.com/portraits/Chimp/Arnhem%20283sml.jpg
    http://fc06.deviantart.net/fs70/i/2009/347/7/d/Monkey_teeth_1_by_UnboundArt.jpg
    http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/708/060de.jpg/sr=1
    http://www.visualphotos.com/photo/1×9152124/white-faced_capuchin_monkey_carate_costa_rica_central_america_MX15A0051.jpg

    and even this little guy…

    http://www.chinahearsay.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/angry-monkey.jpg

    So try again :)

    These are OUR “canine fangs”
    http://renovegans.com/media/images/ex/animal_rights/why_vegan/canine-v.-human.png

    haha we got pretty gypped then dontcha think?

    BTW check out this deer’s “canines” haha
    http://www.michigan.gov/images/deer_teeth_1yroldpartrepl_26644_7.jpg << look at those pointy buggers huh?

    "It is a common misconception that only carnivores possess canine teeth, nor are they restricted to descendants of ancestral carnivores, or animals that have a mainly (or exclusive) herbivorous diet. Horses are a prime example of this with most males and some females having them. Many deer and antelope species, hippos, wild boar, warthogs (and other pig species), giant panda, red panda, many primates such as gorillas, lemurs……" :) I found this so interesting… hmm

    and keep in mind.. this little baby is an herbivore
    http://cdn.uproxx.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Dwarf-Musk-Deer.jpg

    , so Frankly your little “teeth” argument… is irrelevant. We don’t digest meat well, like bears, lions, etc. AND we DO grind food.

    1. Carma says:

      ** this whole thread has really gotten under my skin.. your sarcasm, your little winky faces **

      I just love when commenters descend to personal insults and foul language in a debate about facts. It really helps me understand the level of intelligence and character I’m dealing with. The winky faces, hon, were to assure Mike that I was not trying to insult him. Don’t worry, I won’t put any winky faces in my reply to you.

      ** Yea, so you grew up on a farm? you could totallt raise an animal as a pet & then murder it yourself? wow.. that’s impressive.. I know I couldn’t for some reason I care about animals.. odd right? Like my dog.. **

      You don’t know much about farms, do you? Farm animals raised for meat are not pets. Pets are not killed for food. Even farmers know that!

      ** You have been brainwashed.. you believe what you grew up with, because that’s all you’ve ever known.. and You were a Vegetarian you say? I can’t imagine why you would even bother to give up meat**

      In case you didn’t notice, let me point out your rather egregious contradiction there … how is it that eating meat is “all I’ve ever known” if I’ve tried vegetarianism? I’m sure that’s some higher logic that I might better understand if only I had a vegan brain.

      Contradiction aside, if you’d bother to actually think about it critically, you might see that my exploration of vegetarianism was precisely to test what I grew up with and to make an actual comparison in order to make a more informed decision. See “informed decision” … that’s when you actually look at the facts and weigh the evidence, rather than relying on knee-jerk emotional responses as if from, um, brainwashing.

      ** [Animals] ARE NOT put here for us to enslave & abuse & murder & steal their babies & the milk that was meant for those babies…They ARE NOT mindless numb stupid beings who can’t feel pain, **

      Yeah, I’m pretty sure they’re put here to be killed and eaten by other animals. Baby animals are especially prized as food sources for other animals … did you know? Your emotionalism doesn’t alter the food chain one bit, or make animals into kindly, pure-minded, altruistic beings who wouldn’t hurt, torture, kill, and eat one another.

      ** BTW monkeys also don’t cook their meat & season it with herbs & vegetables to make it taste to their liking, so they cant eat it… haha too funny. **

      I watched the video you linked. I must say, I am IMPRESSED! I didn’t realize that vegans eat their food with the original dirt and bird poop on it! They must, though, since Banana Girl clearly states that if humans were meant to eat meat they would eat it, entrails and dirt and filth and all, just as animals do. The correlation is that if humans are meant to eat only vegetation, they must eat it the same way animals do, unwashed and unaltered and straight out of the ground … RIGHT?

      And WOW, I didn’t realize vegans don’t ever use any vegan sauces or vegan recipes to change the flavor of their food, either! I guess all those vegan recipe websites are just for people playing at veganism, huh? Because REAL herbivores only want to eat their food JUST LIKE IT COMES OFF OF THE GROUND with no change in the taste, so they can enjoy it just the way all nonhuman herbivores do. Truly, I am impressed. Biting right through the skin of that orange with dirt and bird poop on it rather than washing the skin and peeling it off the way “non real” vegetarians would do … that’s hard-core veganism, that is.

      Just in case my sarcasm was too gentle there, let me google “raw food recipes” for you … raw hummus, raw carob pudding, raw food burrito, raw food cookies … I’m pretty sure those are all processed and flavored to make that raw food taste palatable. Now shall we talk about vegan restaurants?

      Gee, you’re right, that IS funny!

      ** also, cute pic of the monkey… you picked one to prove your point huh? **

      Actually, I picked the first one I found that fully showed all the teeth I wanted to see. It wasn’t hard to find.

      ** These are OUR “canine fangs” haha we got pretty gypped then dontcha think? **

      You kind of missed the point of my post, didn’t you? I’m not comparing humans to obligate carnivores but to omnivores. It’s vegans who want to forget about omnivores and only compare carnivores and herbivores. I agree that human teeth are more like herbivore teeth than they are like carnivore teeth … but they are more like omnivore teeth than either.

      ** BTW check out this deer’s “canines” haha look at those pointy buggers huh? **

      They sure are nice and pointy! I love the way the grooves line up, in a sawtooth pattern, so that the deer can chew side to side to grind his teeth without them locking together the way mine do when I try to grind my jaw in a side to side motion.

      However, as I’m sure you know, “canine” does not just mean “pointy tooth.” Canine refers very specifically to the third lateral tooth in a mouth, one that naturally comes to a singular point like a dagger. A tooth with more than one point is a molar. The deer in your picture, like most deer, appears to be completely missing his canines, if we go by the gap at the front of the jaw (though it is hard to tell from a closeup photo where we can’t see all the teeth).

      ** It is a common misconception that only carnivores possess canine teeth, **

      Interesting, but hardly relevant since my argument is that carnivores AND omnivores possess canines, and only some herbivores do – as I stated above. (By the way, pandas and hippos eat mostly vegetation but are classed as omnivores because they do eat some meat.)

      ** We don’t digest meat well, like bears, lions, etc **

      We don’t digest grass well, the way sheep, horses, and cows do, either. Did you have a point?

      ** I feel amazing! people like you just amaze me. **

      You feel amazing, and people like me amaze you? Wow, I’m flattered. (See? Still no winky face.)

      Here’s a quick recap to help your amazement: All carnivores have oversized scary canines. All omnivores have canines, some oversized and scary, some moderate, some minimal. Many herbivores have no canines at all, though some have vestigial ones and a very few have large ones. I believe my point is made, which was also made by the Vegetarian Resource Group: by biology humans are clearly omnivores. Be vegetarian or vegan by choice if you want, but don’t claim that humans must be vegetarian due to our biology.

  6. OR says:

    Good to see how you picked the only picture where the chimp teeth are small. That is probably a young one or a female. The real chimp canines are actually very similar to carnivores canines, and they do the job.
    Try convincing yourself in other ways…

    1. Carma says:

      I love how people keep picking on the chimp’s teeth … or rather single TOOTH, as they ignore everything but the canine! This is actually a perfectly typical photo, I didn’t have to dig for it at all. Yes, there are chimps with much more impressive canines and those with less, just as there are humans with more or less pointy canines.

      And, as usual, as a dissenter you pick out a single thing that lends credence to your theory and skip over all the things that point away from your theory, to wit: there are more teeth in the mouth than simply canines. (Tell me, did you read ANY of the text, or just look at the pretty picture?) While the chimp’s canines are halfway between the lion’s and human’s canines, all of them are MOST different from the horse’s (nonexistent) canines. The chimp’s and human’s incisors are the same: a straight cutting edge, as opposed to the lion’s dagger-like incisors and the horse’s flat incisors. Again, the human and chimp molars are both moderately bumpy for chewing and some grinding, while the lion’s are pointed to facilitate moving the meat straight down his gullet with minimal chewing; and the horse’s are completely ground flat from the side-to-side grinding motion required to ingest raw grain.

      As to it possibly being a female chimp in the photo … are you saying female chimps don’t use their canines the same way the males do? Because I’m pretty sure that even the smaller female canines are used to eat flesh, and are therefore a perfectly good point of comparison with a female human’s teeth. Just sayin’.

  7. Alisha says:

    Hi, as a vegetarian I always wondered about the canine tooth when it came to the argument that humans are naturally vegetarians and not omnivores. Although I agree that we may be built to ingest meat, we don’t need it to survive. I read a theory once that made sense to me, that humans have those canine teeth because evolution during colder months we wouldn’t have access to all the fruit and vegetables our bodies really needed so we would hunt for food during that time until we could properly grow necessary crops for survival. Now we live in a world where most people have easy access to any fruit or vegetable they want just by going to their local grocery store, so IF you’re still choosing to eat meat….why the need to eat meat so often? The demand for meat is unnecessarily high. The fact that animals are tortured and abused throughout their life just for our pleasure disgusts me. I totally support smaller farms that actually treat their animals right….. I can accept that. Unfortunately most of the dairy and meat that people buy is right out of the big scary corporations that have no sympathy towards any living being. Also, I haven’t found one positive health benefits of milk except it contains calcium which you can find in numerous other foods that aren’t dairy. and if you search health benefits of milk in any search engine, you’ll find more articles about why you shouldn’t be consuming it. Plus, almost half of the country is lactose intolerant, that should tell you already that our body’s aren’t designed to drink cow’s milk.

    1. Carma says:

      I’m lactose intolerant … when I drink dead pasteurized milk from commercial dairy farms. But my body loves fresh raw milk from my local grass-fed dairy cows! It really reduces the aches and pains I get in my joints. If you’re looking for health benefits of milk, be sure to search “raw milk” because you are correct that pasteurized milk is often a slow poison to the body. RealMilk is a good place to start.

      I personally don’t buy meat from big scary corporations, and I personally cannot subsist on a mostly vegetarian diet. As I said above, I’ve tried it, and I get fat and fuzzy-headed and generally frazzled. When I eat a meat-based diet, I lose weight easily and also think and feel better.

      Your “properly grow necessary crops for survival” theory has one problem: what did humans do before agriculture? And what did humans do who never developed an agricultural civilization? There are still ancient people groups who live nomadic lifestyles and never cultivate crops “necessary for survival” … so how do they survive? Must be that agricultural crops are not, in fact, necessary for survival.

      Weston A. Price went around the world in the early 1900s, hoping to find a healthy aboriginal vegan people group. He couldn’t find one; instead he found the opposite: the more animal-based the traditional diet was, the healthier the tribe members were. Remember this is traditional tribal diets, not “civilized” diets with refined foods. Read about the foundation carrying on the work of Weston Price here.

      1. Carma says:

        By the way, the joint aches and pains I mentioned? They go away 100% when I go sugar-free and grain-free. I never eat soy and rarely eat wheat because of the bellyaches they give me, but when I eliminate other grains too, everything clears up. Grains are addictive, though, and sugar even more so; so it’s hard and I’m working on it gradually. I feel better the closer I get to my goal!

  8. angel says:

    3eally interesting discussion. I have made some research about this and I believe, like you do that we are natural omnivores. What I find really interesting though, is the fact that humans process food differently, like for example carma can’t eat grains or sugar while other people can. This seldom happens among other mammals. I think the issue here is that we have evolved to be comparatively more complex and “individual oriented” than other creatures (notice I’m not getting into religion here). I also think that a true omnivore should restrict its diet to those animals he could easily hunt as opposed to the usual carnivore”s prey.

    1. Carma says:

      Personally, I think it has more to do with the fact that we are adulterating our food sources (chemicals required for monocropping, GMOs, etc), and the increasingly refined and hybridized and otherwise altered foods are increasingly disagreeing with more and more people. I ate sugar and wheat just fine for 40 years of my life, so it’s obviously not an evolutionary thing, unless you’re talking about my own body evolving to the point where it rejects the frankenfood.

      I’m not at all clear what you mean by “animals he could easily hunt as opposed to the usual carnivore’s prey.” The carnivore’s dietary staple is the herbivore; cows and chickens are pretty easy to hunt down and kill, and deer and pigs aren’t a whole lot harder.

      How about, as a different thought experiment, we say that everyone should eat what can be obtained locally. Any vegetarian living north of a certain latitude had better have a darn big root cellar, or they won’t be eating much in the way of vegetarian food until summertime. There are plenty of places on earth that don’t grow any vegetation fit for human consumption and cannot be farmed, but that sustain cattle and other animal life just fine. A locavore can eat the animals that eat the vegetation and live in a wholesome and healthful circle of life.

  9. Jana says:

    Wonderful post Carma! I am an omnivore and I have a close friend who bombards me with the raw vegan messages all the time. The argument is often accompanied by comments along the lines of “I have extensively researched this.” I am studying nursing and human anatomy and physiology is my favorite subject. The teeth are just the tip of the iceberg. The lack of knowledge and the misconception around how the ten organ systems of the human body work together is an endless source of entertaining discussions. I really enjoyed reading this :)

    1. Carma says:

      Thank you Jana! Always good to hear agreement from someone actually in the field. :)

  10. Cally says:

    I think one of the biggest pieces of evidence that humans are omnivores is that humans, in their most primitive state, have always hunted. Any isolated tribe of humans, with no knowledge of the outside world, or even of the concept vegetarianism, will hunt. Humans, raised apart from modern civilization, will always look at animals as a food source. It’s just how we are made; as omnivores.

  11. Lisa says:

    Hey, just came across your website when I was doing some research on veganism and wanted to say that I enjoyed the article and the discussion! I flirted with veganism a little bit after watching a few documentaries and after two weeks I felt amazing…but I allowed myself a ‘cheat day’ (which, in my case, consists of way too much Dr. Pepper and chocolate) and then I convinced myself that veganism wasn’t for me.

    After a lot of research I’ve decided to get back into it but I’ve read a lot about people feeling ill while vegan/vegetarian and I wanted to make sure I could avoid some of the pitfalls. Do you think you were getting a full range of nutrients (enough protein, calcium, etc) or do you think that may have contributed to your issues? My husband, sweet guy that he is, actually made a database for me to track all of my foods so I can make sure I’m getting everything I need so I’m hoping that will help.

    I also just had a quick question about the teeth thing…you mentioned to Mike that we have problems digesting some unprocessed plant foods but I think that has more to do with preference than necessity. I grew up on deer meat and fresh veggies from the garden, but I could never hunt a deer, kill it, eat it, and digest it properly without tools or cooking of some kind. I did however frequently pull carrots, peas, potatoes, and lots of fruit out of the garden, brush of the dirt, and eat it just fine. Maybe God created us to be herbivores but knew there was a time when we would need to eat meat and gave us that ability as well. :)

    1. Carma says:

      Yes, Lisa, I was getting a full range of nutrients when I tried vegetarianism. I was well-read on how to get complete proteins, vitamin supplementation, and the whole deal. I also quit sodas completely several years before that. I still gained weight and brain fog the longer I left off eating animal protein.

      If humans have difficulty digesting some plant foods, that cannot be described as a preference. One may have a preference for cooked meat or raw meat, but one can digest it regardless of preference. Many plant foods can be eaten raw or cooked and also digested with ease; I didn’t imply otherwise. But that is the fruits and vegetables, which are in season only a short time of the year. The rest of the year you would need to subsist on grasses and hay and other plants that are easily digested … if you were a ruminant with four or seven stomachs. Otherwise your body would receive zero sustenance, regardless of your preferences.

    2. Jana says:

      Lisa, it would be unwise to eat potatoes raw as they contain glycoalkaloids which can be toxic to humans. The glycoalkaloids are mostly destroyed during cooking thus making potatoes safe to eat …

      Apart from that, I understand the fogginess, Carma described. I am unable to live vegetarian or vegan as I don’t absorb plant-derived vitamins and minerals as well as I should. Iron and B vitamins are a particular issue and I would need to eat way more than I need in energy (from carbs, fats and proteins). I have gone almost vegetarian some years ago and I got severely ill within a few weeks. And you cannot say my diet has ever been unbalanced. I love seeds and nuts, legumes and grains besides the entire rainbow of fruit and vegetable. I also had a small intake of milk products (mostly yoghurt and cheeses) and eggs. From my doctor’s point I was supposed to be very well, yet my mineral depots were all non-existent. I was put on supplements (which are often plant-derived too) and that didn’t help. But going back to a complete diet (I changed jobs and had a canteen there), put everything back into order.

  12. chag sri says:

    The pictures look really convincing besides the fact that that is not the only basis for the theory. We will need to check the body chemistry and also more than 80% of the chimps and primates are vegetarian.
    It is the correct path of evolution that matured humans are designed to be vegetarian, off course it’s always your choice on how you want to live closer the human scale or towards the primitives or if you prefer there are cannibals who live close to carnivores.
    check these links for more details:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathy-freston/shattering-the-meat-myth_b_214390.html

    http://www.ocoy.org/2008/04/humans-are-we-carnivores-or-vegetarians-by-nature/

    1. Jana says:

      Hi chag sri,

      It is incorrect that the great apes are vegetarians. All the great ape species are omnivores, chimpanzees even hunt small vertebrates such as rabbits. I strongly recommend you go to the scientific work of Dian Fossey and Jane Goddall. For purposes of academic research, the Huffington Post is not considered scientific or peer-reviewed. It’s what we call black sources and would not use.

      As nurse and trained in genetics, microbiology and biochemistry, I can only say that our body is designed to deal with animal matter very well. But unlike ruminants, we are unable to digest cellulose.

      To suggest that evolution has made us herbivores because we’re genetically closest to a herbivore (if the great apes were herbivores in the first place) is also a bit of a farce considering the Grasshopper mouse (carnivorous) or the Giant Panda from the order Carnivorous (herbivore) don’t quite follow this logic.

      Regards
      Jana

    2. Carma says:

      Chag Sri, I am aware this is not the only argument that vegetarians make for physiology; I wasn’t attempting to be comprehensive but to look closely at a single and frequently cited point.

      You need to read your own vegetarian authors who concur that vegetarianism is a choice and not a requirement: http://www.vrg.org/nutshell/omni.htm#evidence is by your own John McArdle, Ph.D., in which he says vegetarians need to drop the argument that humans are physiologically or evolutionarily vegetarian.

      >> off course it’s always your choice on how you want to live closer the human scale or towards the primitives or if you prefer there are cannibals who live close to carnivores. <<

      I’m sorry, I have to guess at your meaning here: this seems to be an insult saying that carnivores are closer to being like cannibals and civilized vegetarians are further from cannibals? Okay, cannibals and carnivores both eat meat: you’ve got us. All cannibals are carnivores, therefore vegetarianism is more moral. Got it. Brilliant. You’ve just knocked me off my feet with that incisive destruction of my argument. Do I get to reverse your argument and say that by your logic, vegetarians are closer to sheep on the scale, and since sheep are the stupidest animals on God’s planet, that means vegetarians are … well, if you’re not smart enough to make that leap yourself, I won’t insult you by finishing the statement.

      Please try to stick with actual logical points and avoid the idiotically insulting non-arguments next time.

  13. nirmal says:

    Hah, oh god??

  14. Srikanth V says:

    This is as misleading information as you claim vegetarians put out. It seems like you started with the premise of wanting to prove your mother and other vegetarians wrong rather than an honest inquiry into the facts and truth.

    First of all, any evolutionary biologist would tell you that ALL herbivores do have canines (it would be impossible to crush hard fruit like apples without them).
    The human is an evolved creature and show special characteristics which can be puzzling even to scientists. We only have rudimentary canines and we clearly moved away from meat-eating habits when our jaws became grinding type, when our vision spectrum broadened (to be able to identify coloured food for consumption, like carrots, berries, oranges etc; most carnivores have very basic vision that only helps them detect movement, depth and focus), our alimentary canals lengthened, our salivary & digestive enzymes are oriented towards carbohydrates rather than cholesterol and meat digestion (no wonder a true carnivore will never have clogged arteries, a BP or cholesterol problem). There are various other traits (like alkaline saliva) all of which clearly indicate that we are 100% herbivore.

    So when you single out just dentition, you’re not seeing the entire picture. And anyway, like i said, our dentition is actually herbivore dentition. It’s wrong to think that herbivores do not have ANY canines at all. The chimpanzees are 98-99% veg (except for eating bugs and termites occasionally), and they have canines too. Some bats are frugivores (eating only fruits) and they show canines as well.

    1. Carma says:

      My mother? When was my mother – not a vegetarian, by the way – ever mentioned here?

      Crush hard fruit like apples with canines. Gosh, here I’ve been doing it wrong my whole life! I tend to bite the apple with my sharp incisors, then move it back to grind it with my molars.

      All herbivores have canines? Really? You’ll have to point them out on this image of a sheep’s mouth. Sheep have only a rough pad on the upper gums, no teeth at all.

      I’m aware that dentition is not the only piece of evidence to examine, but since I was focusing solely on dentition in this article – as I believe my title clearly pointed out – I didn’t address the other issues. And the whole point of my article is that vegetarian activists want to compare humans only to herbivores and carnivores and leave omnivores out of the comparison … as you are guilty of doing. I never said humans were carnivores, I said that we are omnivores, and I compared us to omnivores, which we are clearly most like.

      Check your facts again, this time with your own organization, the Vegetarian Resource Group – pro vegetarian, and yet they realize that biologically speaking humans are omnivores.

      1. Carma says:

        By the way, “chimpanzees are 98-99% vegetarian” is another tidy myth vegetarians repeat, but it has no truth in it. They are omnivores, plain and simple, who hunt and kill even monkeys nearly their own size. Start this National Geographic video at around 2:00 to see the coordinated chase, kill, and shared meal.

    2. Jana says:

      It seems you are not an evolutionary biologist, Srikanth.

      Humans have very limited visual capabilities to some other “less evolved” species. And being able to pick up colour in the way we do has nothing to do with identifying a rainbow of fruit and vegetable. Cats for example are more active at dusk and dawn and during the night. They are able to see when we are seemingly standing in the pitch dark. Certain insects can see a much broader spectrum of wavelengths than we do – and yes, that means they see colour. Cones haven’t first appeared in the human eye … There are tons of documentaries and books on the subject out there. You should do some research. It’s fascinating!

      Most animals, whether herbivore, carnivore or omnivore, have the ability to produce amylase, protease and lipase. These are the digestive enzymes used to break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats respectively. Otherwise herbivorous species such as (most) mice and squirrels would have a severe problem – they couldn’t digest the protein in the nuts and seeds they eat. With a bit of research, you will find that the mammalian digestive system is extremely sophisticated. It is capable of adjusting enzyme levels based on the food.

      And let’s not go anywhere near the GI tract. This is the biggest bull$%^$ example ever! The herbivorous elephant has a comparatively short GI tract (19m compared to 3.3m body length) while the carnivorous sea otter has a long one (12m compared to 1.2m body length). The carnivorous whales (yes, all of them only eat “meat”) have a stomach very similar to cows. Pigs have a huge duodenum, much bigger than you would expect from an omnivorous animal based on some so-called scientific evidence.

      Last, but not least. If you would listen to your GP, he’d tell you that clogged arteries, high cholesterol and high BP come from too much saturated fat, not carbohydrates … Saturated fat is mostly found in animal sources. Ergo, the common health opinion is that meat eating causes these health issues and surprisingly, the carnivores don’t have that issue. Yet, this is frequently used by vegans to convince us to go vegan instead of sticking to a diversified omnivorous diet.
      (Note: Even tho I am going to be a health professional, my opinion differs slightly from the public health opinion. But that’s not the subject here)

  15. Andrew says:

    ???? but almost all monkeys and apes are vegan and do not eat any animal byproducts ???? they just eat fruit all day ???? you dont see moneys ripping apart animals do you? your entire argument is based off of biased and untrue information.

    1. Carma says:

      Andrew, since you’re clearly too cool to watch the video that is posted a mere two comments above yours, I’ll repost it here for you. Start watching this video from National Geographic at about 2:00 and then come back and tell me how simians are vegan. ‘K?

  16. GS says:

    I see a lot of vegetarians and non-vegetarians talking about things like teeth, health benefits, feeling sick from one diet or the other, etc… I rarely see people mention that there are different blood types, and depending on your blood type, different types of diets are better (or worse) for you. Some people get really sick from being vegetarian (ie, me) no matter what they eat or how many supplements they take. I was a vegetarian for nearly 10 years, and I had never been to the doctor or hospital so much in my life. And it wasn’t because I was “doing it wrong,” as my healthy vegetarian friends would tell me. It was because my body was not made to be vegetarian. What you want to eat is your own personal choice and decision, but to bring any type of wrongful scientific or medical “proof” into your argument just boils my blood.

    1. Jana says:

      Hi GS,

      Mentioning blood type and dietary requirements in the same sentence is the exact same pseudo-scientific crap you are complaining about. The “blood-type” diet is basing its recommendations on the not very scientific argument that the blood types developed at different stages when humans were adding different things to their diet. A friend of mine has taken up this diet in order to lose weight and feel healthier – but when I looked at how and why it’s supposed to work it made me laugh. For her it was a particular amino acid she wasn’t supposed to have; but half the food she was allowed contained said amino acid!!! Guess what, my friend hasn’t lost any weight, nor is she healthier …

      I stick with what I always said – don’t cut anything out except if you are clearly allergic to it and if you want to lose weight look at your energy balance. If you take more energy in than you need, you will gain weight; if you take in less, you will lose it.

      Cheers
      Jana

  1. Herbivores Roald Smeets Plant Life « Glower Plant says:

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