Thursday, May 23, 2013

Paleo Vegetarianism?

Much more endnoting is needed! -Cindy Hoffman, one of my high school English teachers

It's a shame that vegan activist Dr. Neal Barnard didn't learn English composition from Mrs. Hoffman: maybe we could see where he got the numerous pro-vegetarian quotes from paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey--enough to fill half a chapter in The Power of Your Plate. Leakey, according to Barnard, says that hunting in modern times isn't very important except as a macho male thing (page 175), that meat accounted for a small part of the diet on the African savannah (page 174), that the "excess of meat" from domesticated livestock is unusual (page 174), and that we wouldn't have had the teeth to deal with tearing flesh and hide (page 171).

These statements are attributed to the same Richard Leakey who said, just two years before The Power of Your Plate came out in 1995,

The expansion [of diet] involved making meat an important food source, not just an occasional items, as it was with earlier hominids and is still for baboons and chimpanzees. Although some anthropologists argue that regular meat eating was a late development in human history, I believe they are wrong. I see evidence for the expansion of the basic omnivorous hominid diet in the fossil record, in the archaeological record, and, incidentally, in theoretical biology.  (Origins Reconsidered, p. 165)
 In 1996, Leakey wrote in The Origin of Humankind,

Only by adding a significant proportion of meat to its diet could early Homo have "afforded" to build a brain beyond australopithecine size. For all these reasons, I suggest that the major adaptation in the evolutionary package of early Homo was significant meat eating...I have no doubt that meat played an important part in our ancestors' daily lives. (page 55)

The change in tooth structure in early Homo indicates meat eating, as does the elaboration of a stone-tool technology. (page 54)

Stone toolmaking would have been an important part of a meat eater's abilities; plant eaters could do without these tools. (page 41)


Every Leakey book I could find on the shelves of the main branch of the Denver Public Library, going back to the 1970s, had similar statements.  So where in the world did Leakey say that humans evolved as mostly vegetarian? Here's the list of citations for Barnard's chapter on "The Evolution of the Human Diet":


The three-page article is about a Homo erectus who appears to have died from eating too much liver from a carnivore. None of the quotes Barnard attributes to Leakey appear in the article. However, the article does say,

There was probably a major change in the diet of early humans, with a large increase in meat eating, at that period and it may have taken some time to learn which parts of carcasses were poisonous. (page 249).

I've sent an email to Dr. Barnard's assistant and a message through Dr. Leakey's web site asking for a source for these quotes. I'll post any response I get.

8 comments:

horfilmania said...

Good work Lori. Not that N.Barnard's work is based on science, we all know that, but I overheard my vegan boss quoting him when she thought I wasn't listening so they must think he's a real scientist.

tess said...

the way some people manage to rationalize their "religious" ideologies.... [shaking head] maybe it's the effect of too much sugar/starch on his brain?

Lori Miller said...

Thank you. My Plate, Your Plate--it's all bunkum.

Lori Miller said...

If people freely choose to be vegetarian for religious reasons, that's fine. But they shouldn't call is science.

Exceptionally Brash said...

It's not the carbs, it's a lack of DHA.

Lori Miller said...

I've read that some cults use low-protein diets to brainwash members. Oh, wait, he's in charge of one of those cults.

Francois said...

Comment from Francois (the same who comments on diet doctor).

Lori, I love your post. Going back to the source is so important. And certainly not believing someone just because of credentials. By the way, did you ever get a response? Strangely, I doubt it!

keep up your great work!

Lori Miller said...

Thanks, Francois! No, I never heard back.