A Little Bit of Everything

Posts tagged ‘biology’


Okay guys, a while ago I made a post about my thoughts on the misuse of the words ‘wild’ and ‘tame’.  I decided to redo that and here you go;


‘Domestic’, ‘Wild’, ‘Tame’? – What do these words mean?

Every time an animal rights activist makes a statement attacking exotic animal owners, you often hear the same words being mentioned over and over again; ‘Tame’, ‘Domestic’, ‘Wild’.  This is because the general public tends not to know the exact definition of these words and so AR groups capitalise on this and lead people to believe the simplistic meanings they have attached to the words.  They then use them as inflammatory words, evoking emotion, rather than logic, in their listeners.  As a biologist, I will start by explaining the word ‘Domestic’ as that is the one word that has a scientific basis.

The word ‘Domestic’ describes animals that have been domesticated.  The process of domestication is fairly simple and straightforward; it does not take thousands of years as some people would have you believe.  The process simply involves breeding several animals of the desired species, picking the offspring that are most friendly to humans, breeding them, and repeating this until you get the desired results.  It’s human-influenced selection as opposed to natural selection.  Granted, this process can last for a couple decades but the domestication of Russian foxes[i] shows us that the process need not take more than 50 years.

Now, what is often done in the media and by AR groups is that, the words ‘domestic’ and ‘tame’ are used interchangeably.  This is a problem due to the fact that, as I have just said, ‘domestic’ has a scientific, quantifiable meaning.  In comparison, ‘Tame’ does not have an exact meaning and therefore can be thrown around subjectively.  Generally, the term ‘Tame’ is used to mean ‘not wild’, which brings us to the last term, and the one that I think is the most grossly misused; ‘Wild’.  This term can be used as both a noun and an adjective and both uses are wielded as swords by the AR groups, media, and other misinformed individuals.  I will first tackle its use as a noun.

Probably the most common sentence spoken by people who oppose exotic animal ownership is “These animals belong in ‘the Wild’!!” Well, what is ‘the Wild’, anyways?  I will choose to interpret it as land untouched by humans.  Unfortunately, there is less and less of that available.  Of course, we should be acting to stop that but there’s only so much we can do.  Personally, I think ‘the Wild’ is becoming somewhat of a myth. In addition to that, It is strange how people are convinced that ‘the Wild’ is this magical, happy place.  It is most definitely not.  The average animal will spend its short life constantly looking over its shoulder for predators or rivals, constantly worrying about getting enough food and water, and finally dying a most likely, very painful death due to disease, starvation, or being ripped apart by a predator or rival.  There is no chance to enjoy the freedom that AR activists tout as being vital to an animal’s happiness.

Used as an adjective, ‘Wild’ is applied like a stamp, marking certain types of animals as being impossible for a human to have a relationship with.  Well, that would suggest that these same animals are also impossible to domesticate which is disproven by the aforementioned Russian fox breeding project.  The only difference between animals that are domesticated, and animals that are not, is the inherent friendliness towards humans that is shown by the domesticated animals.  This does not mean that it is impossible to form a good relationship with a non-domesticated animal, but simply that it is more challenging.

In conclusion, the three words that are the subject of this article are words that unfortunately, have been badly misused for a long time and are really at the root of the misconceptions about exotic animal ownership.  If the public’s knowledge of these words and their definitions can be corrected, then it should be fairly easy to convince them that exotic ownership is just as valid as ownership of domestic dogs and cats.

[i] In 1959, Dmitri Belyaev started a breeding project at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics at Novosibirsk.  It continues today.  The project was to selectively breed foxes in the hopes of getting a fur animal that was easier to handle.  Unfortunately, the objectives had to change as the domestication process caused the majority of the foxes to lose their solid colour and show spots, which is not desired in the fur industry.


Debunking Vegetarian Propaganda

Okay, these two points are points I’m seeing people who are promoting vegetarianism, bringing up regularly and it’s annoying me.  They’re not necessarily lying to you, they’re just conveniently not telling you things that would discourage you from doing what they want you to do.  It is important that you know these things though.

A lot of vegetarians like to sing the praises of soy, saying it has this nutrient  and that nutrient, is high in this vitamin and that mineral, and is very good for this.  What they’re telling you is absolutely correct.  What they’re failing to mention though is that in addition to its nutrients, soy also contains toxins which, when consumed more than every so often (once every two weeks or so) can act as carcinogens.  Hmmm, personally I think that little tidbit of information could be useful.  Also something to watch out for is, the same people will probably try to draw your attention to the Japanese, saying that they eat a lot of soy and their cuisine is one of the healthiest in the world.  Those two points are also absolutely correct.  What they fail to mention however, is that the majority of the soy consumed by the Japanese, is fermented.  The fermentation process pretty much kills the toxins in the soy and renders them harmless.

Some people are trying to convince us to go vegetarian by talking about how a cow’s metabolism of energy from vegetation is so inefficient that the same amount of vegetation that feeds one cow, could feed 20 vegetarians.  That is partly true and partly false.  It is true in that cows’ (and other herbivores’) metabolic processes ARE fairly inefficient and the amount of vegetation needed to give a cow a certain amount of energy does not reflect the amount of energy the vegetation is storing.  The part that is false is that, that vegetation could feed 20 vegetarians.

This is because the majority of energy in a plant is stored in a compound called cellulose (some energy in plants is stored as starch, all energy in animals is stored as glycogen or fat).  Cellulose is the most abundant form of carbohydrate and energy on the planet.  Unfortunately, it is a very complex structure that can ONLY be broken down by an enzyme called cellulase.  Herbivores have tons of this enzyme present in their stomach(s) and intestines but sadly, humans have barely a trace.  What does that mean for humans?  It means that they would probably get more energy from the cow than all the vegetation the cow ate.  An important thing to remember is that there may be a lot of vegetation but way more people would be able to get an adequate amount of energy by sharing a cow than the vegetation the cow would eat because the meat is such an energy dense substance and is also way easier to digest.

Of course, you can’t just live on energy.  You also need vitamins and minerals, of which vegetation is an excellent source.  All I’m saying is that energy to run your body is a necessity and due to not being very digestible, vegetation would not be a very good source.  That is due to the high amount of cellulose in most vegetation.  I did mention that some energy in plants is stored as starch.  Potatoes, bread, and pasta are good examples of this.  They are excellent sources of carbohydrates.  Even with those though, I don’t think a vegetarian diet would be able to totally fulfill someone’s energy needs.  Obviously, vegetarians survive, but I have to question their health and energy levels.

I guess the main thing to look at really is, we are omnivores people, not herbivores.  If you look at diagrams of both kinds of digestive systems, you’ll notice they do not look the same.  Herbivores often have multiple stomachs and their intestines are much longer than ours.

Anyways, I just wanted to confront those two misconceptions because they were really frustrating me.  By the way, I’m majoring in animal biology with a minor in nutritional and nutraceutical sciences so I DO have class material to draw from for this.  I’m not just spouting random stuff.


Why I have a problem with vegetarianism even while I don’t

Okay, I’ll explain the ‘don’t’ part first because it’s easier to explain.  I do not judge people based on any particular trait such as race, gender, sexual orientation.  Choosing to be a vegetarian falls under that umbrella.  I just don’t see how anything like that could have anything to do with their personality.  It’s trivial in light of actually talking to and getting to know them.

Now that that’s covered, I’ll explain the reasons why I don’t agree with vegetarianism.  In relation to what I mentioned above, I normally wouldn’t bring this up unless somebody was trying to guilt me into becoming a vegetarian, but hey this is a blog and blogs are for opinions, right?

I strongly believe that any and all possible arguments that a vegetarian can make can be refuted with three words.  We are omnivores.  However, since that’s not enough for most people, I will go on.  In the logical progression from that first idea, if we were able to survive on a diet of only vegetation, we would be herbivores.  That’s the way the world works.  Deal with it (sorry, a little bit of snark aimed at the vegetarians who piss me off by being all holier-than-thou).  Something we learn in high school biology is that nature does not waste time and energy creating something that is not necessary.  So basically, we don’t just have canine teeth and the capability to digest meat, just for the heck of it.  We have those things because meat is necessary for our survival. 

A few more detailed biology facts is that not only is an herbivore’s intestinal tract longer than ours but it usually has multiple stomachs that contain a lot of an enzyme called cellulase.  Cellulase is the enzyme that breaks down cellulose, the main form of carbohydrates found in plants and actually the most abundant form of carbohydrates on earth.  Too bad humans have very little cellulase in their stomachs.  Yep, you heard me, humans have a very hard time getting any energy from plants.  That doesn’t mean plants aren’t good for anything since we DO need nutrients which plants have a lot of but at the end of the day, it’s energy that keeps your body functioning.  Also note that the B12 and iron vitamins that are specifically tailored to plants, are of no use (or little use, in iron’s case) to humans.  I know, I know, we get told that plants like beets give us tons of iron but that’s because they’re absolutely PACKED with iron so that although it’s difficult for us to get iron out of plants, it raises our chances of getting some when there’s lots of iron in the plant.

I also believe strongly that we have a responsability.  As omnivores, we are predators and have an important place in maintaining the balance of a fragile ecosystem.  We keep herbivores in check and if the whole race of humans suddenly stopped eating meat, the balance would definitely be thrown out of whack.  Herbivores would reproduce like mad, there would be less predators because we have killed a lot of them off and eventually the herbivores would eat all the vegetation.  Have you seen how quickly horses can strip a couple acres of its vegetation?  It would not be long until there is no vegetation left.  Then we would all starve.  That’s not an exaggeration; you don’t want to play around with ecosystems.

I would also like to address supplements.  People trying to promote vegetarianism like to talk about how you can just take them to get any nutrients you would normally get from meat.  The thing is, science is advancing every day and it’s very likely that the supplements that are produced today will be proven to be inadequate in a couple months.  How do we know scientists have even discovered all the vitamins that we need?  Why rely on something that could change any moment when you could just eat the correct portion of meat and know that you’re getting the right nutrients in about the right amounts?

Last but not least, why should animals not be eaten and plants should?  They’re living creatures too.  Why don’t we just starve ourselves? After all, that seems to be the only logical progression of vegetarianism.