“But it’s Natural to Eat Meat!”

Via Kate Bartolotta
on Dec 6, 2011
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“Look at our canine teeth; we’re made to eat meat!”

Many omnivores love to make this argument. Vegetarianism and veganism must not be natural. Biologically, we are designed to eat meat. Right? Otherwise we wouldn’t need vitamin B12, wouldn’t have teeth designed to rip flesh, etc.

Here are a few other things we are biologically programmed to do:

1. Mate with everyone who looks appealing. If I was to just do what was natural, monogamy would be out. Every time I saw a man I found attractive, it would be time for some lovin’. Hmm…physically fit? Appear to be virile? My genes say it’s time to get you out of those jeans.

2. Punch people who make us angry. We all feel that visceral reaction at times when we believe we’ve been wronged. Perhaps I should start giving people who disagree with me a good old fashioned bitch slap? After all, it’s what comes naturally.

3. Pee in the yard. What’s natural about a bathroom? Sure sanitation is nice, but really, when you have to go you have to go. It’s biology. Privacy’s overrated too. Peeing is part of the biological process––why go behind closed doors?

4. Take whatever we want. I see something. I want it. I go get it. Survival of the fittest, right? If you have something, and I like the look of it, I should be able to come fight you for it. The hunter-gatherer in me says it’s so.

5. Hang out barefoot and nude. See, if I was going to do what came naturally, I’d probably just start putting clothes on now that it’s getting chilly. All summer, I would be naked. Got a problem with that? Clothes aren’t natural. (I am generally barefoot, by the way. It just feels right.)

We are more than our genetic programming. We make choices based on ethics, convention, morality, and social mores. For some of us, our ethics include abstaining from meat or other animal products. For other, they don’t. Either way, most of us make a rational choice about what to eat rather than just succumbing to our physical drives. Let’s stop beating each other up about our food choices. It may not come naturally, but the most ethical choice we can make is to be compassionate to each other. We all make choices that defy our biological drives. It’s part of what makes us human.


Bonus food for thought:



(Photo: Just Chaos)




About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is a wellness cheerleader, yogini storyteller, and self-care maven. She also writes for Huffington Post, Yoga International, Mantra Yoga+ Health, a beauty full mind, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. Kate's books are now available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com. She is passionate about helping people fall in love with their lives. You can connect with Kate on Facebook and Instagram.


41 Responses to ““But it’s Natural to Eat Meat!””

  1. Love it! While there is a problem with choices that people make, I think the bad choices are superceded by the douchebaggery of the people condemning those choices. Interesting stuff. Great article, Kate!

  2. Well said, Andrew, thanks! FYI – douchebaggery is becoming one of my favorite words. I'm hoping it gets the OED add this year!

  3. Truth says:

    Those are a lot of strawman arguments there. I'll just time to burn down one.

    4. Take whatever we want.

    Lots of research shows we are hard-wired to co-operate:

  4. Andréa Balt says:

    Oh, Kate, I laughed and laughed. You know how we usually quote parts of the article in our comments, I want to be ridiculous right now and just quote the entire article. I've used the mating argument before in my many vegan defenses. Note: I was the one being attacked.

    But instead of quoting you, I'm gonna go out naked right now ‘cause it's too sunny for December and I'm totally feeling the urge. And then maybe I can find someone to mate, right on the sidewalk and then finally punch my neighbor in the face with no reservations. Thank you so much for your kind advice, makes a lot of sense, I feel liberated. 🙂

    PS: Lovely video.

  5. That is an interesting study! I don't know that it negates the idea of being hardwired to want immediate gratification. The study also mentioned that they were unable to determine whether the response was biologically based or due to social reinforcement. If it feels good to cooperate (because it is socially reinforced) we might have a physically pleasant reaction.

    We are more that just our physical drives. The hyperbole of the arguments is to illustrate that in a (hopefully) entertaining way.

    Thanks for commenting!

  6. hahaha!! Get someone to make a video & I'll add it to the post!! Love it!

  7. Love it Kate! Thanx! And the girl in the video is hilarious! xoxox

  8. Lorin says:

    Yep. Regardless of which things we want to debate would really be "natural," we are now so far removed from that we have no idea what it would actually be like.

  9. I agree Lorin! Thanks for commenting!

  10. Valerie Carruthers says:

    Great post Kate! Unfortunately #4 just happened during the Black Friday pepper-spraying incident at Wal-Mart. When compassion 1) to ourselves and 2) to others becomes the norm then all the fang bearing over who eats what will finally end.

  11. You're right Valerie! Thanks!

  12. elephantjournal says:

    My pal Joshua Onysko of Pangea Organics loves to point out that some monkey has huge incisors I think…big teeth…but is vegetarian.

  13. True! Can't think of which one…I know some monkeys eat bugs, eggs, etc…but we eat wayyyy more animal products than other primates.

    Love Pangea! All their Lavender & Cardamom stuff smells amazing!

  14. moira says:

    more obnoxious vegetarian self righteousness….

  15. Karen Eliot says:

    I cannot make a vegetarian diet work for me. I starve no matter what I try and can’t eat many of the non-meat proteins due to dietary sensitivities.

    Vegetables do make me feel wonderful, my body needs and loves them. Unfortunately, this is also true of meat. (I just eat less of it and limit it to fish, eggs, and the occasional chicken… and rarely a delicious steak.

    This is likely due to my genetic heritage, which is N. European. We’re not all created biogenetically equal– different genes likely predispose us to need somewhat different foods in order to be healthy.

  16. Katherine says:

    I think it was meant to be humorous. If you read it as self-righteous, you may be looking in the mirror that is the internet. :o)

  17. ibika says:

    ha ha… I find the cleverness of the mind hilarious..and comments like karen above are gret examples of this mental trickery.. "oh i have to eat meet because im a Northern european.". sure dude..you are off the hook then and have no personal responsibility.. shall we also let you off the hook in other things due to this genetic fact?.. ie you can consume the earths respources at 10 fold rate more than anyone else because "hey..im a northern eurpoean and we need to to as its cold where we cpome from!! "
    seriously how are those HUGE inscisors going to help you eat meat ..take this argument logically to its end point.. if everything is down to biologicall design then you should grab a pig.. slaughter it with the inscisors you have and then consume.. If anyone is able to do this then the argument stands.. the key point is you cannot use anything other than those biological tools.. the intellect or any man mad tools are out.
    if you eat meat… the fact is you have killed a sentient being which is conscious to maintain yourself. sure vegatables are also life and we are killing to eat them but we are also looking at levels of consciosnesss and the ability of the life form to experience suffering and the desire to "not be killed". Anyone who has visited an abatoir ( or seen a video of what takes place) understands that suffering takes place and that also the animals do not wish to die..they in fact will; fight for life .. also if you have killed an animal yourself you understand this.
    in 2012, the fact is no human being on this planet has to eat meat to survive ..all the alternatives are available to live a healthy life. Subsequently eating meat is now a lifestyle choice, predominately based around self centred mental concepts of something being "delicious".. delicious being a sense perception and emotion generated by the mind. the feeling of "delicious" gives us temporary pleasure..hence we eat animals for our own short term pleasure.. any other argument is superficial.
    fine if you wish to kill animals and consume them for personal gratification… but please be honest and OWN the fact.

  18. Nope! Did you read all the way to the end? Just making the point that we all make choices that are "unnatural" or different than our biological drives dictate. Thanks for commenting!

  19. No one diet is right for everyone…and we all choose what we eat for different reasons. This is where compassion for other humans comes into play (even if it feels unnatural;)

  20. Nicely said! (A bit hard to read in one big block, though!)

  21. Geoff says:

    Is anyone else sick of these posts? Vegans are glorious. We get it. Could we have a few more articles about how by not exercising for at least an hour each day (not including yoga/pilates) that you are shortening your life? Or that us and them debates advance the cause of al, exactly, nowhere?

  22. Manda says:

    Sigh. Not a vegan but appreciated the humour, unlike SOME people who take life to seriously. I own my choices and therefore don't feel the need to get down on others, but whatever… it's 7:30am! 😉 Thanks Kate for the giggle this morning.

  23. Well, if you read all the way to the end, part of my point was that "us and them" debates are unhelpful & that we need to be compassionate to all. I was coming at it from the point of view of someone who sometimes gets flack for eating an "unnatural" diet.

  24. Anon says:

    I'm confused. How do any of those things correlate to increased "fitness"? Would have been funny if we were actually "biologically programmed" to do even one thing on that list.

  25. Anon says:

    Some types of male baboons have huge incisors and are mostly vegetarian. Unfortunately they use those long teeth as weapons for fighting. Males bite and fight for control of each others female troop/congress. So in the end, instead of eating meat they use the teeth for killing and subjugation of their harem of female baboons.

    …just saying…maybe not a well thought through counter to the incisor argument.

  26. Thanks for commenting Anon. None of the items were intended to increase fitness (except maybe #1 http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/08/in-defense… ).

    Just meant to be a fun way of looking at the other side of a popular argument people make against vegetarianism/veganism.

  27. mikey says:

    learn to spell!

  28. Louise Brooks says:

    Wow, you have some serious issues Ibika (not to mention a penchant for preaching). The poster, Karen, was simply stating her own personal experience, i.e. that a vegetarian diet doesn't suit her body. What business is it of yours? I also found that two years of vegetarianism left me in a sorry state (and yes, I was hyper conscious about getting the proper carb/protein/fat ratio, etc). I still remember the day I added fish back into my diet. It felt like my body suddenly "woke up". I compare it to being dehydrated and then have a big cool glass of water. My skin, muscles, bones, pores, brain all soaked up the nutrients and I was alive again. Currently, I eat chicken and fish about 4 times a week and once a month lamb.

    BTW: you are mistaken in your assumption that "no human being on this planet has to eat meat to survive". In the high arctic of my country of Canada, the Inuit must eat meat and fish. Or die. There are no stores, no planes 8 months of the year delivering veggies and fruits. It is whale meat, caribou (during hunting season), seal, etc. There is no vegetation to speak of and the ground consists of permafrost. A couple of months a year there is no snow/ice on the ground. Hunt or be hunted. Eat animals or die. That is the arctic. If you do some research you will uncover many tribes in various geographical areas that must fish to survive or hunt to survive.

  29. Jose says:

    I think the core of the problem is not eating meat…it´s the way in which we achieve it these days. The maga farms, and synthetic hormones to achieve a particular texture and flavor, these are what is killing us. Lack of respect for the beast that gave its life for us, that is what is killing us. this is what makes us less humane and ironically more human! All of which, we can transcend.

  30. Steve says:

    look into 80/10/10 and 30 bananas a day. Eat High calorie fruits. One banana is at least 100 calories. You cannot starve on 30 bananas a day. Bananas, dates, mangoes will all get the job done. Pineapple is also a personal favorite of mine.

  31. […] decades ago that a diet of grains and vegetables was the only sustainable diet for human beings. Eating meat not only contributes to the death of grain-fed animals raised for slaughter, but to the starvation […]

  32. Stig says:

    Our omnivorous lifestyle is more than just a learned or socially influenced behavior, which the other examples clearly are. Our metabolisms evolved as an adaptation to a diet consisting of both plant and animal protein. A purely vegan diet is not natural to our evolved biology. While it can be practiced with beneficial results, and may also be a wise and valid choice, it is not natural. That being said,we clearly consume too much animal protein, at least in this society.

  33. Well said – thanks!

  34. […] is some news: vegans are not the only kind, gentle people out there. Many who consume animal products simply run a “background program” of denial. That program can be turned off in a second of insight. It happened to me, anybody could be […]

  35. […] now I occasionally eat chicken, but I know they are among the most tortured of creatures in the food chain. I vow to drop chicken […]

  36. powpow says:

    +1 Stig!