Are Primates Vegan?

I often hear this argument from my fellow vegans, often using it to prove that humans are herbivores (we are no such thing). But in order to answer this question, some terms need to be defined.

Which primates? For the purpose of this article, I am going to stick mainly to our closest living evolutionary ancestor: the Chimpanzee. While Gorillas and a few other species eat far more vegetables than anything else, Chimps do not. Chimpanzee’s are known to eat animal flesh, fish, insects, honey, and eggs. According to one estimate:

“some years, the 45 chimpanzees of the main study community at Gombe kill and consume more than 1500 pounds of prey animals of all species. This is far more than most previous estimates of the weight of live animals eaten by chimpanzees. A large proportion of this amount is eaten in the dry season months of August and September. In fact, during the peak dry season months, the estimated per capita meat intake is about 65 grams of meat per day for each adult chimpanzee. This approaches the meat intake by the members of some human foraging societies in the lean months of the year.”

Although meat alone is estimated to only account for 3% of the chimps total dietary intake. The biggest percentage of chimpanzee diet consists of fruit, seeds, leaves, etc. But Chimps are mainly considered frugavores due to their dietary staple of fruit, mainly figs. But about 8-10% of their diet at any given time may consist of meat, eggs, honey, fish, or insects.

So are Chimps vegan? Not even close. But are chimp diets healthier? Of course… kinda.

Chimpanzee’s eat a ton of fruit, but they also actively burn off those dense sugar calories throughout the day through hunting and foraging. So people like Freelee the Banana Girl, who vigorously bikes, or highly active Ben from NoMeatAthelete, would have no issue with a high fruit diet, because like Chmpanzee’s, they burn off the calories and excess sugar before it becomes stored as fat.

But what about humans? While it should be obvious to anyone that eating unlimited fruit everyday will result in weight gain, eating a diet up to 75% fruit has more than just a weight gain issue. As long as you stay within your BMR+Activity Level you’re not likely to gain much in weight, but a few other issues pop up:

Tooth Decay

Depending on the type of fruit you eat, and your dental hygene, high fruit diets can be linked to tooth decay. A study done in 2014 actually concluded with fruit smoothies causing significant erosion of tooth enamel. Does this mean not to eat fruit? Of course not! Certainly eat fruit! But for tooth health, it is probably better to reduce fruit intake and focus mainly on other vegetables.

Deficiency

A high fruit diet needs to be heavily supplemented or fortified in order to get the right amount of various vitamins and minerals, especially if the fruit diet is as high as 75% of the diet. Fruit is usually low in Calcium, Iron, Zinc, Selenium, protein, and fat, among others, which have to be made up through supplementation and high bean and legume intake. It’s hard enough to get adequate nutrition on a vegan diet simply by eating a ton of healthy vegetables, beans, and even fortified foods, it’s best not to put that health at risk for a fad diet with no backing.

But I do agree that eating more vegetables and fruit and less meat and processed foods would make for a much better diet. But we can agree with that WITHOUT stomping on zoology and lying about animal diets to do so.

Can Raccoons Give Humans Rabies? Is Rabies A Threat?

I have actually tried to research this for years since raccoons are known to be on the forefront of just about anything referring to rabies. Which, of course, it should be near the top, raccoons are definitely known to be a huge carrier of rabies, in fact, they are on the top of the list, according to a 2015 Rabies Surveillance Report.

But is rabies that much of a threat from raccoons? Well, not really. While Rabies is definitely a deadly viral infection to have, only 2 cases in the last 15 years of human-induced rabies have come from raccoons, the most common giver of rabies according to the CDC, are… Bats.

And you thought raccoon's were scary
And you thought raccoon’s were scary

Of the 34 cases of rabies occurring in humans that have occurred from 2003 to 2013, 22 of those arose from bites from bats, many from a particular bat, the Tadarida Brasiliensis. Of the rest, 9 more came from dogs, and one was unknown. So out of all the wild animals that humans get rabies from, you should be more afraid of bats, then you should be of raccoons, depending on species.

That is not to say that you should just run out and snuggle with a wild raccoon, hell no. Raccoons are known to be vicious after the onset of puberty, and can cause severe lacerations when provoked. Raccoons can also be a vector of a myriad of diseases, including Roundworm and Leptospirosis, which can be in their feces or even on their fur. But raccoons should not be a figurehead of fear due to their susceptibility to rabies, as most raccoons don’t have the disease.

Rabies, as well as being contagious rarely, can also cause an animal to lash out, resulting in a myriad of news articles about rabies infected animals attacking people. But despite what the news may have you believe, this also occures very rarely.

It would also behoove us to find more humane ways of detecting rabies in an animal, as the only known method to date is by shooting the animal dead, and then decapitating the dead body to test the brain tissue. This has been the bane of the few people who’s pets were suspected of having rabies.

My advice, would be not to unnecessarily fear wild animals for the more fact that they are wild animals, but at the same time, don’t be stupid. Petting a wild raccoon should obviously be a No-go, but raccoon kits can make decent domesticated pets before puberty, and you can watch them or even hand them food safely without fear of assault, and this is true for most small mammals.

Then again, I really enjoy wildlife, so maybe I am just biased on this issue.

Do Wild Animals Suffer From Nutrient Deficiencies? And Intuitive Eating

I have heard it said that humans are the only animals that worry about their nutrient intake, this is not true. While intuitive eating might be accurate for wild animals who grew up for tens of thousands of years to hundreds of thousands of years and have thus adapted their diets to the food that was available, such as Pandas eating almost exclusively Bamboo, but human’s are much more complex than that.

And so are animals.

Animals are often only used to intuitive eating if it is in the wild, but once an animal goes Urban, or are relocated, nutritional issues often soon result. Due to the high abundance of calorie laden foods and nutritionally defunct foods in urban environments. This can not only cause issues with vitamins and minerals, but can cause something even more severe: Obesity.

fatFree-Living baboons for instance, who are wild by live near civilization and have tons of food sources, were more likely to be less active, and have a body fat percentage 21% more than their forest dwelling counterparts. Also, in another study, captive Rhesus Monkeys and Macaques were found to be more prone to Obesity than their wild-dwelling counterparts. And if that is not enough, a single case study done on a pet Raccoon in 2008 showed it to have Type 2 Diabetes, which is caused by genetics and poor dietary choices.

Captivity and relocation may cause an animal severe harm through malnutrition as well, as mentioned by Tufts University:

Changes in diet through captivity or relocation may result in severe health problems. For example, some animals like the giraffe have a natural physiological requirement for browsing, while others require particular grasses. It has also been shown that dried hays and grasses commonly fed to our domestic livestock may not contain sufficient Vitamin E for some wild ungulates. Vitamin E related health problems will occur in these animals if supplementation or fresh grasses are not given.

Due to relocation of raccoons, for instance, up to 75% of raccoons die within the first year due to inability to find food, poor nutrition, stress, and many other factors.

So yes, animals that are born and raised in a single unchanging environment are able to focus on intuitive eating to get the proper nutrition, but animals in captivity, as puts, or situated around urban environments can’t focus that way. Probably due to “human” food tasting good overpowering the desire to seek out fresh fruits and veggies, and simply relying on scraps, which is also easier to do.

So no, humans are not the only animals who have to diet to get all of our nutritional needs.