Diet of the Apes


By Kurt Belzer

There seems a continual battle of agendas between the vegetarian-vegan community and the carnivorous-omnivorous community about the use of our wild relatives as a template for a natural diet and about what a natural ape diet really comprises. You see, many of us want to believe and prove that the nonhuman apes do not partake in the flesh of sentient animals to justify our bleeding-heart compassion for an ever-disappearing population of those animals. Yet, many want to believe and prove that our brethren of the jungles are as brutal hunters as ourselves to justify our abundant consumption of animal flesh.

Caught up in the ego-based agendas of one side versus the other, both arguments miss the point of survival and symbiosis. The research of the 1960’s, 1970’s, and even the 1980’s to a degree, pointed to vegetarian-vegan habits of all ape species, besides humans, of course. I have since seen studies that profess, at least some of our wild relatives eat animal products and that some of our closest relatives, the common chimpanzees, even have a hunting season.

Any other ape species is believed to consume no more than 5% – 8% animal protein. A number far less than consumed by the brutal, flesh hungry humans. Additionally, common chimps tend to eat animal products, such as eggs, honey, monkeys, and deer, only at times of the year when natural produce is not so available. Insects are consumed by most apes as a process of grooming or by incidental contact with their regular foods.

I can’t speak to the validity of any particular study. Modern science has become a process of presenting observations in such a way as to realize our own individual truths. I was unfortunately too young to be with the amazing Jane Goodall during her days of field research and I don’t have the background to be a part of a field research team today. I can’t state with impunity that I know one argument or the other to be true about the habits of apes until I’ve studied them myself.

Even then, my truth will always be different than another’s truth when bearing witness to the same events. Nature can unquestionably be an unforgiving matron, at times. The animal kingdom is a world of beauty and wonder but it can be violent and frightening when it needs to be. Killing can become a hard truth in order to survive but peaceful coexistence will almost always take precedence.

The issue becomes a moral dilemma for me. With a population of over 7 billion and growing, should humans really be preying upon other animals when we outnumber them ourselves? Should humans really be concerned over the population growth of other animals when we can’t even control our own population? It has already been proven, time and again, that humans can exhibit exemplary health and conditioning by engaging in a vegan diet plan (see Tim VanOrden, Brendan Brazier, Tim Shieff, etc.).

We engage in commerce and trade the world over. Is there any reason to believe that we don’t have produce available to us whenever we want it? Do we really need to worry that we will run out of food if we don’t hunt down and kill another animal? How much animal meat do we really hunt down and kill anyway? Are feed lots and factory farms really a viable and responsible alternative for us to satisfy our desires for animal protein?

Even in the hardened world of natural carnivorous and omnivorous hunters, killing is done only when necessary. The increasingly common stories of what we humans want to call “unlikely animal friendships,” which are probably only unlikely to humans, would suggest that love and compassion in the animal kingdom is preferable over death and aggression. Maybe the humans could learn though a little more observation and a little less consumption.

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