Chimp hunting and flesh-eating.

     As apes and humans have strong similarities in physiology and chromosomes, and chimps, in particular, have only a 1.6% "genetic distance" from humans, it may be instructive to approximate the natural diet for our species by examining the chimp's natural diet.

     Goodall gives a two-year-average chimp diet based on time invested in various items.
     Conklin gives similar results summarized from 24 studies at 11 sites.
     Primate diets by animal weight demonstrates that the larger the animal, the less flesh and more fruit/leaves are consumed.

% time feeding

     Compared to the average human cultural diet, no doubt, this chimp diet would be far, far healthier.

     Meatarians, in their never-ending, but always irrational and fruitless, attempts to justify human flesh-eating often use the claim that "chimps eat meat, so we should also".  In doing so, they ignorantly or intentionally ignore the important quantitative and qualitative issues.  In stating "chimps eat meat" it is implied that ALL chimps eat meat ALL the time (as would be the case IF flesh was eaten for legitimate nutritional purposes) and that the quantity is significant.  Here, the 1.4% shows that flesh is a quantitatively-insignificant portion of the overall diet; especially so, as these data are for the time spent in "feeding on different food types".  The time spent in catching and eating animal flesh per unit of food consumed would be unrealistically high compared to that invested in obtaining plant-foods, since these do not run away or fight back.  Also, that such 'feeding' on flesh is often accompanied by aggressive fighting and squabbling of the chimpanzees themselves over the distribution of the flesh, thus further increasing the time per unit of possible nutrition.

     Meatarians also tend to make the claim that chimp insect-eating represents additional and significant "meat" or animal protein input, but does it?

     Goodall also gives additional information that indicates that the time spent on catching/eating insects, especially termites and ants, is disproportionately large compared to any possible nutritional payoff; thus, the time figure for Insects, above, significantly exaggerates their nutritional significance.  "While insects of one sort or another were eaten in all but 6 of the 24 months, the different types were markedly seasonal and only termites made significant contributions to the diet in terms of feeding times. ... The main termite "fishing" season ... is in November.  This is the time when the reproductives leave their nests and form new colonies.  When chimpanzees see these winged "princes" and "princesses" swarming, they often run to the next and catch them as they emerge. ... The chimpanzees also feed on the soldiers and (much less often) the workers, using simple tools to extract them from their underground tunnels. ... A passage yielding only a few termites may, nevertheless, be worked for minutes on end, particularly by females during the dry season."  "... it is not uncommon for a female at this time of year [dry season ljf] to continue fishing for an hour or more even when she is getting only a few termites every ten minutes."  

     Termites, Macrotermes bellicosus, are the most significant insect consumed in Gombe, representing "87.4% ... and ... 86.3%" of the total time spent on eating insects in the two years documented, and since this feeding is sporadic, highly seasonal, and it peaks in the month of November when the hives split to form new colonies, it is clear that this is opportunistic feeding, and not related to any real nutritional need which would be indicated by daily consumption.  Thus, chimp insect-eating is remarkably similar to humans eating junk-food for social, or opportunistic, rather than legitimate nutritional, purposes.

     Tool use, as with humans, indicates that the activity is purely social/cultural in character and unrelated to any natural nutritional need.  The gross overestimate of any possible nutritional significance due to the lack of efficiency of the 'fishing' on the time figures given is revealed, thus drastically reducing the nutritional impact well below that suggested by the 4.1% figure given above.  Similarly, for ant eating, "... the mean intake for an adult during a dipping session in about 20 grams".   Since one could gather and eat 20 grams of fruit, leaves, or nuts in only a very few seconds, as opposed to several minutes needed to collect 20 grams of ants, the implied nutritional significance of Insects in the chart, above, is highly exaggerated.

     Goodall also emphasizes the cultural aspects of various feeding behaviors.  "There is also evidence that food items commonly eaten by one chimpanzee community are ignored by another despite their availability -- or they are eaten in a different manner."  She also refers to "the traditional food preferences of a community" and states "... youngsters, with their more flexible behavior and their predilection for exploration, are the most likely age class to introduce a new feeding tradition"; thus, emphasizing the necessity of differentiating between the true natural foods of the species and those eaten because of the local culture, just as it is imperative to understand such differences in human diets.

     Perhaps we should apply the irrational "logic" of meatarian propaganda to the fact that in very rare occurrences, a chimp will kill and eat a baby chimp, and therefore conclude that meatarians should kill and eat their own young.  At least, this would solve the global overpopulation crises.

     But, when we examine the way flesh is captured, killed, distributed, and eaten, it becomes readily apparent that chimp flesh-eating is merely a social pathology, just as it is in the human.

     Stanford, a biological anthropologist and codirector of the Jane Goodall Research Center at the University of Southern California, muses: "Of all the higher primates, only human beings and chimpanzees hunt and eat meat on a regular basis. The similarities pose an intriguing prospect: Might the close evolutionary relationship between chimpanzees and human beings provide some clues to the evolution of our own behavior?"

     It should be obvious that IF flesh was a nutritional necessity, as is implied, then ALL non-nursing members of the troop would eat it at ALL times, as they would any other item, or class of items, required in their diet. But the evidence proves that this is NOT the case.  Chimp meat-eating, as with insect-eating, tends to be sporadic and is distributed randomly over the year with most months having no or minimal consumption; there is also no clear seasonal pattern, so unlike Stanford's statement as to it being eaten of a "regular basis", above, it is certainly not a "regular" item in the chimp diet, and this indicates that this behavior is not related at all to true nutritional needs.

     "Chimpanzees also go on "hunting binges" in which they kill a large number of monkeys and other animals over a period of several days or weeks. Such binges have always been a little mysterious."[Ibid.]

     "For chimpanzees, meat is ... a means to make political bonds and gain access to sexually receptive females. ... As far back as the 1960s, the American primatologist Geza Teleki proposed that the predatory behavior of the Gombe chimpanzees had a strong social basis. The Dutch primatologist Adrian Kortlandt suggested that hunting was a form of social display, in which male chimpanzees revealed their prowess to other members of the community. ... Although Richard Wrangham, of Harvard University, suggested that meat consumption was nutritionally based, he also noticed that certain aspects of their hunting behavior could not be accounted for by nutritional needs alone. ... We might look toward the social aspects of chimpanzee societies to understand their hunting patterns. One clue to the significance of meat in a chimpanzee society comes from the observation that males do most of the hunting. During the past decade, adult and adolescent males made over 90 percent of the kills at Gombe. Although females occasionally hunt, they more often receive a share of meat from the male who captured the prey.  This state of affairs sets up an interesting dynamic between males and females. Sometimes a begging female does not receive any meat until after the male copulates with her (even while clutching the freshly killed carcass). ... Such observations suggest that male chimpanzees use meat as a tool to gain access to sexually receptive females.  The distribution of the kill to other male chimpanzees also hints at another social role for meat.  The Japanese primatologist Toshisada Nishida and his colleagues in the Mahale Mountains showed that the alpha male Ntilogi distributes meat to his allies but consistently withholds it from his rivals.  Such behavior, they suggest, reveals that meat can be used as a political tool in chimpanzee society."[Ibid.]

     Goodall points out in her section, Eating Meat, "Chimpanzees tear off chunks of meat with their teeth and hands, sometimes using their feet too when strength is required for dividing up the carcass.  Almost always each morsel is chewed up together with a wadge of leaves, sometimes dead ones.  These wadges, although they may be swallowed, are usually discarded along with any unwanted portion of the meat, such as pieces of bone or skin."  Thus, it seems the chimps are not eating the meat, as is commonly assumed, but extracting the juice, and thus very little protein or fat is actually swallowed or available for nutritional purposes; far less that the amount implied from the feeding times in the above table!!  Other individuals "also chew the leaf-meat wadges that have been discarded by their luckier companions.", clearly a monkey-see-monkey-do process of pure imitation and not related to any real nutritional needs.  "Begging ... is the way most chimps try to get some meat for themselves.  Their success depends on a variety of factors, such as the amount of meat involved, the amount the possessor has already consumed, and the relative age, rank, and relationship of the two individuals."  If meat was a necessary or meaningful source for nutritional input, it would be consumed by all adults on a regular and consistent basis; it simply is not.

     So, given the vanishingly small amount of flesh actually consumed in the average chimp diet, the lack of significant nutritional input supplied by sucking the juice and not swallowing the meat itself, the fact that abundant amounts of proteins and fats are much more readily available in nuts/seeds, the presence of undigested meat in feces, the overwhelming evidence is that chimp flesh-eating is merely a SOCIAL pathology, as it is in the human.  The argument that chimp flesh-eating implies that humans "should" or have a "need" for flesh is seen to be totally absurd, and absolutely insupportable by the facts.

     Further, the evidence of insect or meat remains in chimp feces indicates that these items were not properly digested and assimilated; if they had been, they would not appear in the feces, thus these facts undermine any implied nutritional input from these sources even further.  Collagen, the most abundant protein in vertebrate bodies is "insoluble and indigestible".[2]

     Thus, the argument that chimp flesh-eating or insect-eating is related to any significant nutritional need is seen to be absolutely absurd.  In fact, the only items eaten every day throughout the year are fruit and leaves which comprise 81% of the feeding time; these are the staples, and the other "foods" are opportunistic and/or social in character, and thus not related to true, ongoing nutritional needs.

     So, eliminating nutritionally-insignificant items from the average chimp diet, above, we get:


remarkably similar to diets those who do personal experimentation with raw eating converge on.

     IF the human species had "evolved" or "adapted" to flesh-eating as falsely claimed by most meatarian armchair anthropologists, then the physical tools (claws, sharp teeth, ability to outrun animals,...), the digestive chemistry, and the INSTINCT to do so would have also co-evolved, but there is no evidence that even suggests that these "adaptations", that are absolutely necessary for any species to be able to catch, eat, and properly digest raw animal flesh, exist in the human.  Of course, the "civilized" human, having absolutely NO instinct to catch, kill, tear asunder, and eat RAW animals, which would exist IF we had "evolved" to do so, always cooks his flesh; however, cooking animal protein and fats creates some of the most potent carcinogens known: nitrosamines.

     Finally, those armchair anthropologists who glibly claim we are/were "scavengers" are welcome to actually test their theory by chowing down on some fresh road-kill.  

     In human nutrition, personal experience, not popular delusions based on insupportable academic assumptions, is the best teacher!



[1]  Goodall, Jane, The Chimpanzees of Gombe, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA (1986), p. 233

[2]  Lehninger, Principles of Biochemistry, Worth Pub., (1982), p. 158.


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