The internet is rife with vegan propaganda on the theme that if a plant-based diet is good for certain animals then it is good for humans. Here’s one.
Let’s forget for one moment that gorillas often eat insects and grubs and snails, making a mess of that ‘exclusively’ in the strapline, and move on to that word ‘vegetarian’ A gorilla is a herbivore. This is the word for an animal that only eats plants. A ‘vegetarian’ is a human who eats only fruit, vegetables and grains. BY CHOICE. (And cheese. And maybe a nice egg or two. But let’s skate over that inconsistency, they’re only human after all). A gorilla is a monogastric herbivore: a herbivore with a single-chambered stomach.
Calling a gorilla a vegetarian is cynically anthropomorphic. Representing an animal as a human in order to manipulate emotions. Implying that gorillas dither about whether to eat leaves or to have some bacon, and decide to go for the plant-based option, with a soy latte. But worse, equating gorilla strength with its ‘vegetarianism’ (which, remember, it didn’t choose, but let’s ignore that) is misinformation of the highest order, implying that human vegetarians can be, what, as strong as gorillas?
What does a gorilla eat? Plants and plants only, this is true of any herbivore. How much? Around 20kg a day. Hmm, that gorilla-human comparison is not looking so good already. Even the staunchest, most obsessed, maddest vegan can’t get through 20kg of leaves a day. Every day, every week and every year of their lives before they give up being a vegan. Plus, they’d have no time to go to the gym to get that superhuman gorilla strength that such a diet would enable.
Gorillas have a hindgut, a gigantic colon (see the size of that gorilla belly?) with an equally gigantic microbiome that ferments the cellulose of the plant matter it eats and converts it from a carbohydrate to a short-chain fatty acid. (Humans don’t have a hind gut, and we can’t do this to cellulose, so it just sits there for a while, blowing up a storm). Short-chain fatty acids? Hang on, isn’t that…fat?
Yes. Fat. And by the time a gorilla’s metabolic process has run its course, with all that cellulose being converted to SCFA, its nutrient profile looks like this: protein, c20%, fat, c66%, carbohydrate, c13%. And guess what, those SCFAs are 100% saturated.
So, yes, the vast bulk of a gorilla’s energy comes from saturated fat. So that gorilla strength comes from…saturated fat. Sorry, writer of inaccurate memes.
Let’s move on to cows.
The vegan who put this picture and strapline together maybe wasn’t having their best day, because it makes very little sense on any level. But let’s be charitable and engage with this madness. Why don’t I get protein from grass? This cow can, and we’re just the same as cows. Aren’t we?
Well, humans are monogastric carnivores, and cows are ruminant herbivores, with foreguts, and a stomach that has four, count ’em, four compartments that allow them to derive essential nutrients from their grass-based diet. They are of the species Bos taurus, and we are of the species Homo sapiens. They are quadrupeds, we are bipeds. But apart from that we’re exactly the same, yes.* (*Smiles kindly at vegan).
Lacking the cow’s four-stomach system, the only way we can get protein from grass is by letting the cow convert grass to protein and eating the cow – which pretty much sums up hundreds of thousands of years of human existence.
Not only does the cow’s four-stomach system cause it to ferment cellulose into SCFA, as with the gorilla, it also ferments starches and sugars, ie directly available carbohydrates, into SCFA – it foregoes fast sugars for longer-term energy. So this means that the energy from nutrient profile of a ruminant such as a cow is 70-80% fat and 20-30% protein – and 0% carbohydrate. Yes! A cow’s energy needs are met with a zero-carb diet.
Carnivores – lions for example – co-evolved alongside herbivores. Carnivores, too, require no carbohydrate in their diets, and nor will they get any by eating herbivores who subsist on zero-carb. What’s more, it’s evident that carnivores automatically go for the fattiest parts of their prey, and leave the lean muscle for the scavengers. Carnivores and herbivores alike appear to subsist on high-fat, moderate protein and typically zero-carb nutrition.
So, to strike back against the propaganda, mammals that have evolved to eat plants, such as cows, and even primates such as gorillas, still run on fat for fuel. Animals that have evolved to eat other animals also run on fat for fuel simply because their diet includes no other fuel. Humans have evolved to eat other animals, and so we also need to run on fat for fuel. Simple.
Shame about agriculture, then, isn’t it?