European Vegetarian Union

Omnivorous or Vegetarian?
What famous naturalists think about it

by Professor Luis Vallejo Rodríguez

Deutsch - Español - from EVU News, Issue 2 / 1996 - Français


[image: Dr.Rodriguez]
Professor. Luis Vallejo Rodríguez, Secretary of the Canarian Vegetarian Association

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:

  1. "What a sweet, pleasing and innocent sight is the spectacle of a table served that way and what a difference to a make up of fuming animal meat, slaughtered and dead! Man in no way has the constitution of a carnivorous being. Hunt and voracity are unnatural to him. Man has neither the sharp pointed teeth or claws to slaughter his prey. On the contrary his hands are made to pick fruits, berries and vegetables and teeth appropriate to chew them."
  2. "Everything we need to feed ourselves and to restore and please us is abundantly provided in the inexhaustible store of Nature. What a sweet, pleasing and innocent sight is a table frugally provided and what a difference from a meal composed of fuming and slaughtered animal meat. In short our orchards offer all the delights imaginable while the slaughter houses and butchers are full of congealed blood and abominable stench."
Another famous naturalist was Carl Linnée (1707-1778), a doctor of the Swedish Navy, president of the Academy of Science and professor of Botany at Stockholm and the University of Upsala. Linnée created the method of natural classification of plants and animals that is still used today although more than two centuries have passed. Linnée wrote:
  1. "Edible fruits and plants constitute the most appropriate food for man."
  2. "According to his anatomy, man has not been physiologically prepared to eat meat."
  3. "Fruits are the most adequate food for man according to that demonstrated by the analogy of quadrupeds in the structure in his teeth and digestive apparatus.
The French naturalist George Louis Leclerc, more commonly known as Count Buffon (1707-1788) was member of the Academy of Science, administrator of the Garden of the King and with several collaborators wrote 'Natural History' in 36 volumes. Buffon stated that:
"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:
  1. "According to the constitution of mans principle organs, it has been demonstrated that his nourishment should not consist of any other thing than vegetables."
  2. "Mans natural food, judging from his structure, should consist of fruits, roots and vegetables."
  3. "The whole of the human body even down to the slightest detail is destined by nature for an exclusively vegetable diet."
  4. "Man appears to be organized to feed on fruits, roots and the succulent parts of vegetables. His short mandibles of medium force, his canines of the same length as his other teeth, and his tuberous molars do not permit him to chew grass or devour meat without preparing these foods through cooking. His digestive organs are formed in accordance with the disposition of his teeth. His stomach is simple and his intestine canal is of medium length and very well fixed to his large intestine."
Alexander von Humbold (1769-1859) was a German naturalist, explorer and geographer. He carried out studies on magnetism and supported the theory of the igneous origin of rocks. He is considered to be the founder of Climathology, Terrestrial Morphology, Physical Geogrophy of the Oceans and the Geography of the Planets. He wrote a book in 30 volumes entitled Cosmos and Trips to Equimoctial Regions of the New World. Humbold stated that:
"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:
  1. "The anthropoids and all quadumanous derive their nourishment from fruits, grains and other succulent vegetable substances and the strict analogy between the structure of those animals and man clearly demonstrates their natural frugivorousness."
  2. "The apes, whose dentition is almost equal to that of man, lives principally on fruit, seeds, nuts and other similar kinds of savoury textures of nutritious value which are elaborated by the vegetable kingdom. The profound similarity between the dentition of quadrupeds and that of humans demonstrates that man was from his origins adapted to eat fruit from the trees in Paradise."
Of course, the most famous of all British naturalists also agreed with the other naturalists. I am referring to Charles Darwin (1800-1882) who at the age of 22 years started on a journey around the world which lasted 5 years. On this journey Darwin collected material which served to publish his most famous book in 1859: The Origin of Species by Natural Selection: Darwin was a member of the Royal Society of London and after his death he was buried in Westminster Abbey with great funeral honours and diplomatic representatives from many great nations were present at his funeral. Darwin wrote:
"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:
  1. "Man came before the axe and fire so he couldn't be carnivorous."
  2. "The length of mans digestive tube is 5-8 meters and the distance between the mouth and the coccyx is 50 to 80 centimetres, which gives us a result of 10 as in other frugivorous animals and not 3 as in the carnivorous or 20 as in the herbivorous animals."
  3. "The only animal with probable omnivorous morphology that exists, is the bear, which has some pointed teeth and others that are flat."
Sir Arthur Keith (1866-1955) was a famous English anatomist and anthropologist. Together with Martin Flack he discovered the sinoauricular nodule which is where cardiac contractions originate. He was Rector of Aberdeen University and wrote: Instruction to the Study of Anthropoid Apes Ancient Types of Man and Essays about Evolution of Humans. This anthropologist tells us that:
"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
Secretary of the Canarian Vegetarian Association
Apartado 3557, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain

Professor Rodriguez has published three books in Spanish:



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