Chimp Hunting & Flesh-Eating
By: Laurie Forti
Meatarians, in their never-ending, but always irrational and fruitless, attempts to
justify human flesh-eating often use the claim that "chimps eat meat, so we
In doing so, they ignorantly or intentionally ignore the important quantitative
and qualitative issues. In stating, "chimps eat meat" it is implied that all chimps
eat meat all the time (as would be the case if flesh was eaten for legitimate
nutritional purposes) and that the quantity is significant.
Here, the 1.4% shows that flesh is a quantitatively insignificant portion of the
overall diet; especially so, as these data are for the time spent in "feeding on
different food types".
The time spent in catching and eating animal flesh per unit of food consumed
would be unrealistically high compared to that invested in obtaining
plant-foods, since these do not run away or fight back.
Also, that such 'feeding' on flesh is often accompanied by aggressive fighting
and squabbling of the chimpanzees themselves over the distribution of the
flesh, thus further increasing the time per unit of possible nutrition.
Meatarians also tend to make the claim that chimp insect-eating represents
additional and significant "meat" or animal protein input but does it?
Jane Goodall says that the nutritional contribution and importance of Insect
consumption in the diet of the Chimps has been significantly exaggerated.
"While insects of one sort or another were eaten in all but 6 of the 24 months,
the different types were markedly seasonal and only termites made significant
contributions to the diet in terms of feeding times. The main termite "fishing"
season is in November. This is the time when the reproductives leave their
nests and form new colonies.
When chimpanzees see these winged "princes" and "princesses" swarming,
they often run to catch them as they emerge. The chimpanzees also feed on the
soldiers and (much less often) the workers, using simple tools to extract them
from their underground tunnels. A passage yielding only a few termites may,
nevertheless, be worked for minutes on end, particularly by females during the
dry season, it is not uncommon for a female at this time of year [dry season] to
continue fishing for an hour or more even when she is getting only a few
termites every ten minutes." Jane Goodall
Termite consumption is highly seasonal, and it peaks in the month of
November when the hives split to form new colonies, it is clear that this
is opportunistic feeding, and not related to any real nutritional need which
would be indicated by daily consumption.
Thus, chimp insect-eating is remarkably similar to humans eating junk food
for social, or opportunistic, rather than legitimate nutritional, purposes.
Tool use, as with humans, indicates that the activity is purely social/cultural
in character and unrelated to any natural nutritional need.
The gross overestimate of any possible nutritional significance due to the
lack of efficiency of the 'fishing' on the time figures given is revealed, thus
drastically reducing the nutritional impact well below that suggested by
the 4.1% figure given by Goodall.
Similarly, for ant eating, "... the mean intake for an adult during a dipping session
is about 20 grams".
Since one could gather and eat 20 grams of fruit, leaves, or nuts in only a very
few seconds, as opposed to several minutes needed to collect 20 grams of
ants, the implied nutritional significance of Insects is highly exaggerated.
Goodall also emphasizes the cultural aspects of various feeding behaviors.
"There is also evidence that food items commonly eaten by one chimpanzee
community are ignored by another despite their availability -- or they are eaten
in a different manner."
She also refers to "the traditional food preferences of a community" and states:
"... youngsters, with their more flexible behavior and their predilection for
exploration, are the most likely age class to introduce a new feeding tradition"
thus, emphasizing the necessity of differentiating between the true natural
foods of the species and those eaten because of the local culture, just as it is
imperative to understand such differences in human diets.
Perhaps we should apply the irrational "logic" of meatarian propaganda to the
fact that in very rare occurrences, a chimp will kill and eat a baby chimp, and
therefore conclude that meatarians should kill and eat their own young. At
least, this would solve the global overpopulation crises.
But, when we examine the way flesh is captured, killed, distributed, and eaten,
it becomes readily apparent that chimp flesh-eating is merely a social
pathology, just as it is in the human.
Stanford, a biological anthropologist and co-director of the Jane Goodall
Research Center at the University of Southern California, muses:
"Of all the higher primates, only human beings and chimpanzees hunt and eat
meat on a regular basis. The similarities pose an intriguing prospect: Might the
close evolutionary relationship between chimpanzees and human beings
provide some clues to the evolution of our own behavior?"
It should be obvious that if flesh was a nutritional necessity, as is implied, then
all non-nursing members of the troop would eat it at all times, as they would
any other item, or class of items, required in their diet.
But the evidence proves that this is not the case. Chimp meat-eating, as with
insect-eating, tends to be sporadic and is distributed randomly over the year
with most months having no or minimal consumption; there is also no clear
seasonal pattern, so unlike Stanford's statement as to it being eaten on a
"regular basis", above, it is certainly not a "regular" item in the chimp diet, and
this indicates that this behavior is not related at all to true nutritional needs.
Chimpanzees also go on "hunting binges" in which they kill a large number of
monkeys and other animals over a period of several days or weeks. Such
binges have always been a little mysterious.
For chimpanzees, meat is a means to make political bonds and gain access
to sexually receptive females. As far back as the 1960s, the American
primatologist Geza Teleki proposed that the predatory behavior of the
Gombe chimpanzees had a strong social basis.
The Dutch primatologist Adrian Kortlandt suggested that hunting was a form of
social display, in which male chimpanzees revealed their prowess to other
members of the community.
Although Richard Wrangham, of Harvard University, suggested that meat
consumption was nutritionally based, he also noticed that certain aspects of
their hunting behavior could not be accounted for by nutritional needs alone.
We might look toward the social aspects of chimpanzee societies to
understand their hunting patterns.
One clue to the significance of meat in a chimpanzee society comes from the
observation that males do most of the hunting.
During the past decade, adult and adolescent males made over 90 percent of
the kills at Gombe. Although females occasionally hunt, they more often
receive a share of meat from the male who captured the prey.
This state of affairs sets up an interesting dynamic between males and females.
Sometimes a begging female does not receive any meat until after the male
copulates with her (even while clutching the freshly killed carcass). Such
observations suggest that male chimpanzees use meat as a tool to gain access
to sexually receptive females.
The distribution of the kill to other male chimpanzees also hints at another
social role for meat. The Japanese primatologist Toshisada Nishida and his
colleagues in the Mahale Mountains showed that the alpha male Ntilogi
distributes meat to his allies but consistently withholds it from his rivals. Such
behavior, they suggest, reveals that meat can be used as a political tool in
Goodall points out in her section, Eating Meat:
"Chimpanzees tear off chunks of meat with their teeth and hands, sometimes
using their feet too when strength is required for dividing up the carcass.
Almost always each morsel is chewed up together with a wadge of leaves,
sometimes dead ones. These wadges, although they may be swallowed, are
usually discarded along with any unwanted portion of the meat, such as pieces
of bone or skin."
Thus, it seems the chimps are not eating the meat, as is commonly assumed,
but extracting the juice, and thus very little protein or fat is actually swallowed
or available for nutritional purposes; far less than the amount implied from the
feeding times recorded.
Other individuals "also chew the leaf-meat wadges that have been discarded by
their luckier companions." Clearly a monkey-see-monkey-do process of pure
imitation and not related to any real nutritional needs.
"Begging is the way most chimps try to get some meat for themselves. Their
success depends on a variety of factors, such as the amount of meat involved,
the amount the possessor has already consumed, and the relative age, rank,
and relationship of the two individuals."
If meat was a necessary or meaningful source for nutritional input, it would be
consumed by all adults on a regular and consistent basis; it simply is not.
So, given the vanishingly small amount of flesh actually consumed in the
average chimp diet, the lack of significant nutritional input supplied by sucking
the juice and not swallowing the meat itself, the fact that abundant amounts of
proteins and fats are much more readily available in nuts/seeds, the presence
of undigested meat in feces, the overwhelming evidence is that chimp
flesh-eating is merely a social pathology, as it is in the human.
The argument that chimp flesh-eating implies that humans "should" or have a
"need" for flesh is seen to be totally absurd, and absolutely insupportable by
Further, the evidence of insect or meat remains in chimp feces indicates that
these items were not properly digested and assimilated; if they had been, they
would not appear in the feces, thus these facts undermine any implied
nutritional input from these sources even further.
Collagen, the most abundant protein in vertebrate bodies is "insoluble and
Thus, the argument that chimp flesh-eating or insect-eating is related to any
significant nutritional need is seen to be absolutely absurd.
In fact, the only items eaten every day throughout the year are fruit and leaves
which comprise 81% of the feeding time; these are the staples, and the other
"foods" are opportunistic and/or social in character, and thus not related to
true, ongoing nutritional needs.
So, eliminating nutritionally insignificant items from the average chimp diet,
above, we get:
Remarkably similar to diets those who do personal experimentation with
raw eating converge on.
If the human species had "evolved" or "adapted" to flesh-eating as falsely
claimed by most meatarian armchair anthropologists, then the physical tools
(claws, sharp teeth, ability to outrun animals), the digestive chemistry, and the
instinct to do so would have also co-evolved, but there is no evidence that
even suggests these "adaptations", that are absolutely necessary for any
species to be able to catch, eat, and properly digest raw animal flesh, exist in
Of course, the "civilized" human, having absolutely no instinct to catch, kill, tear
asunder, and eat raw animals, which would exist if we had "evolved" to do so,
always cooks his flesh; however, cooking animal protein and fats creates some
of the most potent carcinogens known: nitrosamines.
Finally, those armchair anthropologists who glibly claim we are/were
"scavengers" are welcome to actually test their theory by chowing down on
some fresh road-kill.
In human nutrition, personal experience, not popular delusions based on
insupportable academic assumptions, is the best teacher.
By: Laurie Forti
Article: Chimp Hunting & Flesh-Eating