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Meat Eating and the Development of Human Empathy

© Lori Lappin, the Witch of WITCHCRAFTS ARTISAN ALCHEMY®

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TRANSFORMATION "Artisan Alchemist"™ Ritual Oil by WITCHCRAFTS ARTISAN ALCHEMY®.

We know that many of the great apes are primarily vegetarian, excluding our closest chimp cousins who are omnivores like us, eating both plants and meats. Likely then, the common ancestor humans share with all great apes was most likely vegetarian. During the time when the common ancestor of humans and chimps lived (after our pre-human human lineage split from most other great apes, but before we split from our chimpanzee cousins) is the likely era of time when our human ancestral lineage began eating meat.

When most animals hunt for meat, they don't necessarily wait until the prey they have caught is dead before beginning to eat it. Similarly, there is no reason to think that, in the beginning of our ancestral meat eating, the common ancestor we share with chimps didn't also begin eating its prey while it was still alive - not because of any evil inclination but simply because there was no time to waste waiting to eat when you were likely also being hunted by other predators. "Eat and get out of the area" (which was likely attracting other predators and dangerous scavengers to it via the smell of blood and fresh meat) was the "thinking" which drove this behavior. Remember, we didn't have the natural biologic defenses other predators had, which is why we eventually had to make tools and weapons to defend and feed ourselves. So, like other animals, we ate as soon as we caught our prey, whether the prey was still living or not.

That this was indeed the case is evidenced by the Noahide law as recorded in the folk tradition of the Hebrews which forbids the eating of a limb off a living animal. There would be no need for such a law proscribing the behavior of a people if human ancestors did not actually do this just as did the other meat-eating animals. When this prohibition of human behavior came into being, we had weapons and fire, lessening our fear of becoming easy prey ourselves while we were eating our meat. We could now afford the luxury of indulging a newly developed empathetic inclination.

We know that early hominins were at times cannibals. Yet, as we continued to eat meat throughout the ages, our brains increasingly developed, enabling us to become consciously aware of social dynamics, and in parallel, also enabling us to begin to consciously value others in the social group as living creatures. With increasing brain development, humans acquired the ability to cognitively empathize with other living creatures. This new kind of conscious awareness gave rise to the revulsion to eating the meat of a still-living animal - we were aware of it as a living creature able to experience pain similar to ourselves.

I believe this new type of human consciousness contributed to the migration of my ancestors from the east to the west side of the Great Rift Valley. On the east side of the valley, the hominin population was dense, with increasing territorial disputes and episodes of intergroup cannibalism in consequence to territorial wars between multiple hominin groups packed into a limited area of land. The cannibalism practiced as an outcome to gaining the territory of a rival group possibly included the eating of members from the rival group before they were dead.

My ancestors left this social dynamic on the east side of the rift to create a new, more peaceful social dynamic on the west side of the rift, where the eating of meat from a still-living animal was forbidden. This is my interpretation of the "peaceful and safe" feeling I had (in my dream) on the west side of the rift, coupled together with what is known of hominin evolution during early human prehistory through both science and human folklore.