Primates And Diet

Omnivorous feeding patterns among primates have been used to justify omnivorous eating by humans through evolutionary theories (if chimps eat animal foods and humans evolved from chimps, then humans should eat animal foods). These comparisons are specious, not only because the common ancestry idea is faulty, but because of the objectivity problem.

In his phenomenal book, L'Homme, Le Singe, Et Le Paradis (Humans, Primates, and Paradise), Frenchman Albert Mosseri cites professor Henry bailey Stevens' insightful observations:

(Translation): "In his study, Pyramid of Life, professor Henry Bailey Stevens writes: 'Short term effects appear in tropical monkeys, where humans deranged their natural habitat. Civilization, with its growing demand for monkeys for lab experiments, completely changed their behavior. We must keep that in mind during interpretations. For example, we never saw in the past a monkey kill for food. Now in 1960 Jane Goodall Lawick went on an expedition to live a year with the chimpanzees in Tanzania. The chimpanzees got used to her presence and lost all apprehension. During this period, they had also the occasion to observe her own behavior and diet. They are gifted imitators, so they were able to admire human ingenuity. When she announced that some young chimpanzees in a group killed 4monkeys, one antelope, and a pig, we saluted this as a scientific contribution. Alas, it was only a deviation due to what our civilization reflected on the chimpanzees."

The point here is instructive. Many chimpanzee groups - especially the bonobo chimps (the most genetically similar to humans) - do not engage in hunting behavior. It is extremely likely that the chimpanzees of Gombe (Jane Goodall's research group) and other chimp groups learned their much-publicized killing and meat-eating behavior from humans; probably originally deriving such practices from local human tribes whom they lived amongst for thousands of years. Among the more remote anthropoid apes, such as orangutans, we find no hunting behavior. Studies of orangutans have revealed they might rarely eat insects or bird's eggs, but do so initially to their youth out of curiosity and, as adults, occasionally due to hunger.

Amongst omnivorous eating patterns of some primates we find the folivorous gorilla. No one who looks into a gorilla's eyes - intelligent, gentle, vulnerable - can remain unchanged. Gorillas are a shining example of the raw-vegan diet amongst an anthropoid ape in Nature.

Dr. George Schaller, in his incredible book Year of the Gorilla describes: "I never saw gorillas eat animal matter in the wild - no birds, eggs, insects, mice, or other creatures - even though they had the opportunity to do so on occasion. Once a group passed over a dead duiker without handling the fresh remains, and another time a group nested beneath an olive pigeon nest without disturbing a single egg." Gorillas have been observed to remove insects from vegetation before eating it.

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