[back] Human as Frugivore
Omnivorous or Vegetarian? What famous naturalists think about it
by Professor Luis Vallejo Rodríguez
from EVU News, Issue 2 / 1996
Nowadays it is extensively claimed that man must eat meat to have a balanced diet containing proteins of good quality. Furthermore this is what is said by outstanding doctors like Dr. Francisco Grande Govian who has recently died, considered as the greatest authority on nutrition in Spain. To this we have to add that the Ministry of Health recommend eating meat and that most people eat it and consider to be good food. However, considering all this it is surprising that the most famous naturalists in humanity were vegetarians or, at least, they declared one after the other that man is vegetarian by nature.
We have to consider that the words 'vegetarian' and 'vegetarianism' first appeared about 1838 so before that date they do not appear in any writing and for this reason they speak about vegetable food or vegetable diet. The inexistance of these words makes investigation difficult.
Furthermore we have to add that to know whether or not a famous naturalist was a vegetarian we must read the biographies of each of them. Biographies difficult or impossible to obtain as not all of them have been written. If biographies have been written about famous artists, very little has been written about scientists. To this difficulty we have to add another one: the scarce or no importance which biographers pay to the eating habits of the people they write about. So for example Colin Spencer complains in his book The Heretics Feast that among 60 biographies about Leonardo Da Vinci only two of his biographers mention that he was a vegetarian. Even with all these difficulties the declarations of the most famous naturalists of humanity have had one very clear message and as proof you can read what they have said: John Ray (1628-1704) was called the father of English Natural History and in his honour a society was founded which carries his name: The Ray Society. According to John Ray: "There is no doubt, that man is not built to be a carnivorous animal". And furthermore he declares:
"Man could live on vegetables alone. However the whole of nature is not enough to satisfy his intemperance and the inconsistent variety of his appetite. Man by himself consumes and devours more meat than all the other animals together and not out of necessity but as a form of abuse."A collaborator of Buffon was Dr. Luis Maria D'Aubenton, more commonly known as Daubenton (1716-1799). He was a professor of Minerology at the Garden of the King and of Natural History at the School of Medicine. D'aubenton said, that:
"It is to be presumed that man, while he lives in a natural state and a graded climate, where the earth spontaneously produces every type of fruit, he feeds himself with these and does not eat animals."George Cuvier (1769-1832) was a French naturalist, anatomist and geologist. He was a professor at the School and Museum of France, Secretary of the Academy of Sciences and Chancellor of the University. He created the theory of Compared Anatomy and Palaeontology. Thanks to his studies we have been able to reconstruct species which have disappeared. Cuvier received the distinctions and titles of Baron and grand official of the Legion of Honour and was honoured by Napoleon I, Louis XVIII and Louis Philip. Cuvier stated in his work: Lessons of Compared Anatomy, that:
"The compared anatomy shows us that man in every way is like the frugivorous animals and no way like the carnivorous animals... Disguising the dead meat by culinary preparations, the outward appearance is changed and tenderised because the sight of raw and bloody meat only exited horror and disgust in man."Lets look at some statements made by Cuvier:
"Eating animals as food is not far away from athropophagy and cannibalism. The same amount of land used to graze and feed cattle could feed ten people, if however we cultivated it with lentils, kidney beans or peas it could feed a hundred people....The Orinoco basin can produce sufficient bananas to feed the whole of mankind comfortably."Richard Owen (1804-1892) was an English naturalist who studied with Cuvier, catalogued the Hunter Collection of the British Museum and organized the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. He studied anatomy and compared Physiology and Palaeontology. He wrote A Course in Compared Anatomy and Palaeontology and Physiology in Vertebrae. Owen stated:
"The grading of forms, organic functions, customs and diets showed in an evident way that the normal food of man is vegetable like the anthropoids and apes and that our canine teeth are less developed than theirs and that we are not destined to compete with wild beasts or carnivorous animals."In his book The Origin of Man he tells us:
"Although we know nothing for certain about the time or place that man shed the thick hair that covered him, with much probability of being right we could say that he must have lived in a warm country where conditions were favourable to the frugivorous way of life which, to judge from analogies, must have been the way man lived."Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895) was an English doctor and anthropologist who supported Darwin's theories and became the president of the Royal Society. Among other books he wrote Zoological Evidences as to Man's Place in Nature and Compared Anatomy. Let's look at some of Huxleys' statements:
"Chimpanzees and gorillas have the same digestive mechanisms as man does. That is the proof of compared anatomy in favour of a diet of crude vegetables which permits the fermentation to produce several disposals daily, soft and free from putrefaction."
These are the researches by the most famous naturalists that mankind has had. We have to observe that their studies were frequently supported and made reference by comparing the anatomy of man to that of other mammals, especially the ape family, and speak to us about the formation of teeth and digestive tubes of these animals. In this way all these famous naturalists arrived at the same impressive conclusion: man is vegetarian by nature, and if the word vegetarian does not appear in their writings, it is because the word did not exist before or until 1838 and the studies of all the famous naturalists were written before that date.
We could argue against vegetarianism that the pictures of pre-historic man on the rocks the cavern show him as a hunter. However this does not necessarily mean, that meat is the ideal form of food for man. Furthermore, we have to take into account, that the anthropologist Alan Walker of John Hopkins University, when studying the grooves of fossilized teeth, found a diverse assortment of different foods. He claimed that our first human ancestors did not live predominantly on meat, nor seeds, buds, leaves or grass, neither were they omnivorous. It seems that they subsisted principally on a diet of fruit. Exceptions have not been found. Each tooth was examined and those coming from hominids of the period twelve million years ago, which are in direct line to Homo Erectus, proved to be fruit eaters.
In conclusion I want to ask the reader the following question: Is man by nature a vegetarian? Nowadays most doctors tell us, that he is not, but the most famous naturalists have all deduced, that he is.
If this is really so, only a small minority of the population of developed countries, the people we call vegetarians would be eating correctly, whilst the great majority of the population would be eating incorrectly.
Dr. Luis Vallejo Rodríguez
Professor Rodriguez has published three books in Spanish: