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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 10 Aug 2008 Issue

Does molecule Neu5Gc prove humans are biologically vegan?

Vegans know it, animal rightists know it, some Jewish and Christian theologians know it, and some outstanding authors have known it over the years, yet it hasn't been proven to the general public. Humans are biologically vegan although, similar to canines, we can be omnivores but with its detriments. Now something is stirring in the world of science. Perhaps it will be a notable occasion when science is a friend to nonhuman life and a truthful source for humanity. Science has been looking at a molecule named Neu5Gc. headlined Mark Hawthorne's July 11 article "Attack of the Vegan Molecule!" His article refers to the Daily Telegraph Science Editor's (Highfield) article "Mystery of the Meat-Eaters' Molecule."

In his Daily Telegraph article Roger Highfield claims it's been discovered that humans "unlike all other mammals*" do not produce the molecule Neu5Gc. frames Highfield's position as "when we ingest certain meat (especially beef) and dairy foods, our bodies believe that molecule to be a foreign invader, generating an immune response to attack it."

Highfield wrote "This raised the fascinating possibility that anti-Neu5Gc anti- bodies are involved in auto-immunity. Auto-immune diseases, such as type-1 or juvenile diabetes and some types of arthritis, occur when the body mistakenly attacks healthy tissue." Highfield, who is now the editor of New Scientist, noted that consuming the flesh of animals could trigger heart disease and certain cancers.

Well, well, well. Tell us something new Roger Highfield. We know this already. We've been reading it for years from several sources, the only difference being that those sources didn't cause a stir about Neu5Gc.

Applause for's Mark Hawthorne who wrote "While I'm sure my fellow animal activists will be touting this fairly recent finding as further evidence that humans are not meant to consume meat, eggs and dairy products, I think it's doubtful that many two-legged omnivores will care. After all there's plenty of evidence that meat is bad for us...yet most people blithely stuff their faces with animal corpses, never letting our world's increased rates of cancer, heart disease and obesity get in the way of their appetite for steak, cheese and other cholesterol-laden pleasures."

Close to the end of his quite lengthy article Hawthorne notes "But no indictment of meat-eating can compare with the unimaginable cruelty we inflict upon billions of animals every year..."

Although Neu5Gc seems superfluous to vegans who are not at all surprised to learn humans are biologically vegan, it is nonetheless a good thing that it has been noted. Let's hope it gets a lot of coverage. Add this tidbit of information to your own readiness for well-informed defense of veganism when needed in addition to the ethical position against cruelty to any creature.

*I wonder how well Highfield has done his "homework" when he claims humans are the only mammal who do not produce Neu5Gc. There are many vegan mammals, and some too may have the same auto-immune response as humans to flesh 'foods' and dairy and eggs. Let's hope science doesn't do its homework on this, we don't want another excuse for research upon nonhuman animals.

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