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Author Topic: Why do we carnivores only eat vegetarians?  (Read 5053 times)

Offline P-Kasso2

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Why do we carnivores only eat vegetarians?
« on: 29 December, 2010, 07:26:01 PM »
.
I know, I know. There are some trendy lunatics out there who insist on eating crocodile meat.

And some daft souls eat shark.

But mostly us carnivores only eat vegetarians. Cows, sheep, lambs, chickens etc.



So...here are two questions in one...just why DO we omnivores mainly eat vegetarians?

And...what is the percentage of animals that are vegetarians on this benevolent planet compared
to those that are carnivores?

« Last Edit: 29 December, 2010, 07:36:24 PM by P-Kasso »

Offline AtMyWitzEnd

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Re: Why do we carnivores only eat vegetarians?
« Reply #1 on: 29 December, 2010, 08:44:44 PM »
because it makes no real sense to farm carnivores~

(1) To farm sheep or suchlike you just need to grow suitable food. For carnivores, you would still need to supply food so would need to raise some sort of meat, such as chickens or rabbits. Much simpler just to eat that food yourself

(2) Such animals are normally benign animals so there are so big security requirements. Most carnivores are a danger to men so you need security, not just to keep your stock from roaming but to stop any humans entering the farm. (Good way to keep those annoying ramblers off your fields though!

Also, in a country like ours, there are few, if any, natural carnivores that could be farmed
« Last Edit: 29 December, 2010, 08:46:50 PM by AtMyWitzEnd »

Offline siasl

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Re: Why do we carnivores only eat vegetarians?
« Reply #2 on: 29 December, 2010, 10:05:29 PM »
Just to add, dog and cat are on the menu in some areas of the world. Also, i wonder how many fish could be counted as carnivorous?

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Re: Why do we carnivores only eat vegetarians?
« Reply #3 on: 29 December, 2010, 10:51:06 PM »
Pigs are usually considered omnivores, I eat them regularly.  Not all in one go though.

I've never tried carnivore (apart from fishy types) but have been told that it actually tastes pretty rank.

Offline P-Kasso2

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Re: Why do we carnivores only eat vegetarians?
« Reply #4 on: 30 December, 2010, 12:10:44 AM »
.
I mentioned this Q in the Black Horse Inn just now. Nice lttle lock in.

And Jo, the erudite landlady, said it was probably to avoid flukes or similar
parasites passing down the food chain. From pigs to us etc.

Must admit I had not thought of that connexion but it does strike me as a
bliddy good reason.

Squeamishness is another reason but not half so logical
.
« Last Edit: 02 January, 2011, 08:01:56 PM by P-Kasso »

Offline seacommander

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Re: Why do we carnivores only eat vegetarians?
« Reply #5 on: 30 December, 2010, 09:24:52 AM »
Hello PK. I think that all animals, whether carnivores, herbivores or omnivores will be capable of hosting parasites ranging from large organisms such as flukes and tapeworms down to micro-organisms such as bacteria. I suppose a not too uncommon example is salmonella contracted from chicken flesh and eggs. Liver fluke can be contracted by eating inadequately cooked meat - often fish:
http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/Liver-Flukes.htm

Offline KentPDG

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Re: Why do we carnivores only eat vegetarians?
« Reply #6 on: 31 December, 2010, 03:58:42 AM »
I agree with and admire all of the foregoing reasoning.  But there is yet another significant reason.

The most abundant renewable resource, virtually everywhere, is plant life -- grass, shrubs, trees, flowers, and so on.  With limited exceptions, humans can not convert plant material into food.  Yes, all of us eat fruits and vegetables, but in terms of available volumes the totality of edible (by humans) fruits and vegetables are vastly outweighed by plant material we cannot digest or convert into energy.

In fact, the digestion of such plant material as we can convert into energy takes far more energy than the process of converting meat or other flesh.  In other words, the bodies of vegetarians/vegans work much harder to keep the person alive, that the bodies of we who consume animal carcasses.  So from an efficiency point of view, it makes much more sense for us to eat animal protein than to try to survive on vegetables and fruits.

More importantly, we humans cannot convert most plant material (grasses, leaves, stalks, sticks, etc.) into usable protein.  Herbivores can.  The types of animals raised for human food depend on the nature of the plant material which is available and abundant in an area.  Cattle, for example, thrive on grasses and flowers; it is much more difficult for them to survive on broad-leafed plants, and virtually impossible for them to survive on shrubs and sticks.  Where the local flora are mainly broad-leaved plants, sheep are raised.  When the local flora are shrubs and sticks, goats are raised.

By the way, during winters cattle are fed on hay (preserved grasses) and chopped cornstalks (ensilage).  But cornstalks are woody, corn leaves are broad and not grassy, and ears of corn are mainly woody cobs and leafy shucks.  To make that material digestible to cattle, it is chopped into small pieces and stored in a sealed silo.  There, natural fermentation takes place, which converts the plant material to alcohol and starches, both of which the cattle can readily digest.

Sheep can also do well on grasses, but sheep chew the grasses off down to ground level, which generally means the plant will not regrow.  A herd of sheep can quickly denude a pasture area, and it may take years for it to become lush again.  Cattle, however, eat only the top portions of the grass, then  move on; so the pasture remains verdant. Hence, cattlemen and sheepherders were mortal enemies in the Old West, especially when Open Range was allowed (meaning, anyone could graze any herd, on territory not privately owned and fenced).

Thus, we eat herbivores because herbivores convert material which nature provides in abundance, but which is indigestible to us, and they convert it into their flesh, which is digestible by us.


Offline P-Kasso2

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Re: Why do we carnivores only eat vegetarians?
« Reply #7 on: 31 December, 2010, 07:30:13 AM »
.
Thanks Kent. I think that very neatly answers it for me.

I was interested in your comment that vegetarians/vegan's bodies work harder than
carnivores at keeping the body alive.

Everytime I have been to a vegan restaurant I haven't been able to avoid thinking that
the waiters and waitresses all look particularly ill and grey.

Obviously some might say that this is how humans are supposed look. But having been for
many years in my twenties and thirties a vegetarian, I think I can see both sides.

The other new thing I learnt from your answer is that corn (i.e. what we call in Britain insist on
calling corn on the cob or maize) is chopped up and put in silos to ferment.

Is that what those silos are for? Having driven about twenty times across the Plains over the years I have
always been impressed by the sheer size of the silos.

But, apart from silos being about the only bit of scenery on the Plains to break up the monotony, I thought
the silos were just for storing corn until it could be collected and shipped.

Why does the corn need to ferment?




« Last Edit: 02 January, 2011, 08:00:19 PM by P-Kasso »

Offline AtMyWitzEnd

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Re: Why do we carnivores only eat vegetarians?
« Reply #8 on: 31 December, 2010, 11:34:34 AM »
There are grain silos, used to store grain. This is treated as a fluid and pumped into the silos and drained out. These are obviously kept dry. The other silos are silage silos. Corn grown for animal feed is not the same corn that we get from the Jolly Green Giant. It is hard and inedible by humans ... also pretty inedible by cattle too. It is grown extensively in some parts of the USA. When you see the corn fields in PA, for example, these are cattle feed and not for human consumption. Corn is one of the fastest, cheapest way to grow protein for cattle feed but is so hard that the cattle cannot digest it easily.

It is chopped into small pieces and fermentation is almost unavoidable as the corn has a high moisture content. Fortunately, this not only allows the feed to be stored longer, it also begins the digestion process. The whole corn stalk is harvested and fed into the choppers. The picture below shows Amish feeding harvested corn into the chopper before storing in the silo shown.

This Wikipedia article explains the silage process quite well
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silage
« Last Edit: 31 December, 2010, 11:49:52 AM by AtMyWitzEnd »

Offline KentPDG

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Re: Why do we carnivores only eat vegetarians?
« Reply #9 on: 31 December, 2010, 05:17:21 PM »
As always, WitzEnd aka Aiming4777, has provided a thorough and insightful response.  I can add but a few tidbits.

What we call field corn (as opposed to sweet corn) does produce very hard and dry kernels.  They can be eaten by cattle, but that is wasteful; the starches and sugars in the corn are vital to the fermentation of silage, so if you feed the corn (cobs and all) to the cattle then the stalks are wasted (except for adding tilth to the soil).  The dryness of the grainis due to harvesting the corn late, so that the ears dry out in the field.

Field corn can be eaten by humans, after it is parched.  That is done by putting the grains into a black iron frying pan, with just a little cooking oil, and heating them to a very high temperature.  The grains -- originally resembling gravel, but yellow -- dry to virtually zero moisture content and become quite friable (i.e., crumbly).  The American Indians and pioneer settlers (and trappers, traders, etc.) did this, providing a highly nourishing food which they carried on the hunt, in little leather pouches.  Tastes pretty good, too; we used to parch corn, for fun, when I was a kid (back in the pioneer days).

Parched corn is readily ground into powder, and that was sometimes mixed with dried, ground, powdered meat to create a special form of pemmican -- very high in protein and carbohydrates, and very long-lasting in storage so long as it was kept dry.

WitzEnd is right (always), there is a difference between grain silos and fermentation silos.  Fermentation silos are totally sealed after filling, because air would sour the silage, just as exposing apple juice to air will turn it into vinegar (unless it has been pasteurized).  That kind of silo looks like a big metal canister.  Grain silos are often made of wood or corregated metal.

Field corn being grown for grain (either as animal feed or conversion to alcohol) is always harvested late.  It may take until November or even December for the grain to dry out enough to harvest, and not rot in storage.  By  that time, the stalks and leaves are all dried out, suitable only for plowing under.  Farmers who grow row-crop field corn can often be seen harvesting their fields with snow on the ground.  However, if the corn is to be used for silage, it is harvested early, to maximize the moisture content.  Sweet corn, for human consumption, is harvested when the ears are fully mature, but before they begin to dry.

You can readily tell the difference between corn (maize) being grown for human consumption (or for conversion into ethanol as a fuel additive, a rapidly expanding application), and that which is being grown for silage, when you look at a cornfield.

Corn being grown to eat or make into alcohol is planted in straight rows, with space in between each row (called a row crop).  That is to provide lots of sunlight and air circulation, and for tilling between the rows to suppress weeds, to allow the ears to grow large.  Corn which is to be used for silage is grown by broadcasting the seed, as is done for wheat, barley, rye, and other grains.  The fields are not tilled after planting.  That leads to smaller ears and less total grain per acre, but it produces the maximum amount of plant material per acre -- hence, a greater volume of silage.

Cattle being fed with a large amount of silage are always slightly drunk, due to the alcohol content.  Not falling-down drunk or fighting drunk, but mellow and companionable drunk.  That's probably why they are content to stand around in barns and feedlots all winter long.  It also contributes to the quality and flavor of the beef, just as the Japanese feed eight bottles of beer each day, per animal, to cattle tethered to a fence, to produce the highly flavorful (though very fatty) Kobe Beef.
« Last Edit: 31 December, 2010, 05:48:30 PM by KentPDG »

Offline AtMyWitzEnd

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Re: Why do we carnivores only eat vegetarians?
« Reply #10 on: 31 December, 2010, 08:01:22 PM »
I can add but a few tidbits.
I knew I should have left the response to a local. I just wanted to include the photo I took on holiday (vacation to you Kent!). We were lucky to see the Amish harvesting their crops during our visit to the East Coast area this year (last year by the time most people read this). Really amazing to see them cutting the corn with a horse drawn harvester and then feeding it by hand into the silo.

Of course, in Britain we wouldn't know much about this Kent. We don't grow a lot of corn here (either type) and we add protein to our cattle feed by using ground up cattle ... and then wonder why the cows go mad, clearly anxiety wondering if they're eating their own mother  :'( 

Offline P-Kasso2

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Re: Why do we carnivores only eat vegetarians?
« Reply #11 on: 02 January, 2011, 08:17:57 PM »
.
Mad cows in the UK. Pie-eyed tipsy cows staggering around in the USA.

Little did I know where my innocent little question would end up!

Try this link folks to see if your cow has mad cow disease...

http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?imgurl=http://www.eskimo.com/~nickz/bse/madcow1.gif&imgrefurl=http://www.eskimo.com/~nickz/bse/madcow.html&usg=__c7PmP8Mx9b4isq2RvRLYsFbJ3FM=&h=354&w=325&sz=18&hl=en&start=27&zoom=1&um=1&itbs=1&tbnid=mE7Aa9tjKsqojM:&tbnh=121&tbnw=111&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dmad%2Bcow%26start%3D18%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26safe%3Doff%26sa%3DN%26rls%3Dcom.microsoft:en-gb:IE-SearchBox%26rlz%3D1I7GGLL_en-GB%26ndsp%3D18%26tbs%3Disch:1

Fascinating stuff and an eye-opener. Many thanks, one and all.

Now, for my original secondary question (if any one still has functioning brain cells
left after the long Christmas and still continuing never-ending New Year break)...

What is the proportion of carnivores in the world compared to vegetarians
(or herbivores)?
« Last Edit: 02 January, 2011, 08:23:27 PM by P-Kasso »

Offline KentPDG

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Re: Why do we carnivores only eat vegetarians?
« Reply #12 on: 03 January, 2011, 10:09:29 PM »
WitzEnd, thanks for the excellent photo.  The background reinforces one of my points.  Note that the scene occurred during the height of summer, shown by the green grass and abundant green foliage on the trees.  The corn being harvested for silage was cut early, even before being mature, to maximize the moisture content.  If the Amish had been harvesting field corn for the grain, there would be no leaves on the trees and perhaps snow on the ground.

P-Kasso, the answer to your question may be in part geographical.  On land, herbivores hold a large edge, at least among the larger land creatures.  Everywhere, either in cultivated areas or wild regions, there are herds of grazing animals, of all sorts.  There are few herds or packs of predators or scavangers -- some wolves, some lions, some hyenas, and so on; but in numbers, clearly far fewer than the herbivores.

Man is a carnivore, or more exactly an omnivore, which shifts the balance back toward carnivores because there are so many humans around.  In the far north there are polar bears, mainly carnivores because there are vast areas where no herbaceous plants grow, hence no herds of herbivores (though near the Arctic Circle are herds of reindeer and caribou); but there are not very many polar bears any more, so they are not a significant factor in the count.  Other bears, further south, are all omnivores, from black bears up to grizzly bears (virtually the same as polar bears, but brown).  The bear's closest relative in the animal world is the pig, which is an omnivore and which will eat anything.  There are lots of pigs around, so bears, pigs, and humans shomewhat shift the balance back toward carnivores.

In the oceans, the balance shifts even more toward carnivores.  Many, and I daresay most, fish species are either carnivores or omnivores.  The larger the fish species, the more likely it is to be carnivorous.  (Whales, which live on krill, are of course not fish but mammals -- but carnivorous, as krill are creatures something like shrimp.)

But the balance between carnivores/omnivores and herbivores is probably determined by a family you may not have considered: ants.  There are perhaps 22,000 different species of ants, and ants exist almost everywhere.  Ants, in total, make up from 15% to 25% of the terrestrial animal biomass, far outweighing anything else, including vertebrates.  Some ants are exclusively herbivores, including those which live on fungus; but most ants are omnivores.  The majority of ant species are predators, far outnumbering the species that are strict herbivores.  Army ants, as you probably know, march in huge masses which overwhelm, kill, and totally strip any animal in their path.

Therefore, even though herds of herbivores abound in certain land areas, I think the vast abundance of carnivorous marine families and species, and the preponderance of ants in the terrestrial animal biomass,  indicates that carnivores/omnivores substantially exceed herbivores on this planet.

An interesting sidelight of this is to recognize what happens to the prey of most carnivores.  Humans in the main eat dead and often preserved flesh of other creatures.  But elsewhere, the prey of carnivores is generally eaten alive, or dies while being eaten.  Certainly nothing in the ocean stops to cook its prey.  On land, while some carnivores are scavangers, most are predators and swallow their prey alive or kill it during the process of eating it.  Some, such as certain wasps, spiders, and snakes, paralyze (but do not kill) their prey in preparation for a leisurely meal.

The other group I have not mentioned is birds, which altogether constitute a significant fraction of the global biomass.  Some species survive on seeds, berries, fruit, and the like.  But most birds are predators (some are scavangers), which live on anytihhng from worms to small animals such as mice and rabbits.  If there was any doubt remaining, after the preceding explanation, I think that considering the birds demonstrates with finality that carnivores/omnivores predominate -- wheether we are counting numbers of species, or numbers of creatures, or total living biomass.

Offline P-Kasso2

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Re: Why do we carnivores only eat vegetarians?
« Reply #13 on: 04 January, 2011, 07:35:43 AM »
.
And many thanks to you Kent for such a lucid reply.

I had actually considered ants because, a couple of years ago, as you also point out, I read that the total body weight tonnage
of the ant kingdom exceeded the toal global body weight of humans by many times. And we thought we were the top dogs!

And it is quite astounding to realise that there are ant colonies (super-colonies) even in Europe that stretch for hundreds of miles -
rather like having gigantic but hiddden parallel civilisations invisibly in one's midst.

And further to your quote "Ants, in total, make up from 15% to 25% of the terrestrial animal biomass, far outweighing
anything else, including vertebrates."
ants in the Amazon rainforests outweigh all other combined biomass by
a staggering factor of four.

There is one point I felt might be debatable and that is where you state "There are perhaps 22,000 different species of ants"
- I had always understood from some research I read in 2006 or 2007 that there were at that time 11,800 species. I could be wrong but
even 11,800 species made an indelible impression on me.

For more on these intensely fascinating social creatures, the following website has many interesting things to say on the epigenetic mechanisms
possibly shaping the social development and role structures in ants...the sidebar linked articles on the site will take you deep into
ever more riveting aspects of the secret universe of ants.

I did not know, for example, the fact that the first totally new subfamily of living ants discovered since 1923 was only found about five years
ago in the Amazon.

It is genetically a descendant of one of the first ant lineages to evolve over 120 million years ago. It is a blind, subterranean, predatory ant,
Martialis heureka, and was discovered in the Amazon by Christian Rabeling at the University of Texas at Austin.  See pic of this handsome beast below.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100826141221.htm

« Last Edit: 04 January, 2011, 07:37:27 AM by P-Kasso »

Offline KentPDG

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Re: Why do we carnivores only eat vegetarians?
« Reply #14 on: 04 January, 2011, 07:41:29 PM »
11,800 probably refers to the number of identified and cataloged species.  Currently that figure stands at 12,500 more or less.  The 22,000 is the upper end of informed estimates of all the existing species, many of which have not yet been fully identified and cataloged.

Numbers aside, you're right; ants rule the world.  It appears that they are mainly leaving humans alone (except for damaging our buildings, trees, and crops) to allow the human population to build up to the point where it will be large enough to provide the ant world with a substantial but renewable and self-sustainable food supply.

Oh yes, the ants are smart engouh to do that.  One species, for example, farms large caterpillars.  They herd them inside at night, and worker ants stroke the caterpillars, which makes them content and causes them to secrete honeydew, which provides that colony with food.  No dummies, these ants.

In fact, research shows that ants can communicate with one another and apparently also with some other creatures, can organize for wars, can learn and teach their young, and can do research -- for example, finding shorter routes to a food supply, then closing off the previous longer or more difficult routes, and telling other ants how to use the new route.

A bit depressing to realize that the entire human race is being maintained just to provide a large, long-term food supply for the ants; but that seems to be our destiny.

Maybe space travel, and colonization of new planets, sans ants, is not such a bad idea after all.