General Question

Nially_Bob's avatar

Is it an innate attribute of humans to wish to hunt and eat other animals?

Asked by Nially_Bob (3841points) July 28th, 2009

It would seem that since their earliest beginning humans have hunted other animals as a means of nutrition and sustenance but what I ponder is whether such has been performed as a consequence of instinct or through logical reasoning? (for most of our species history we have lacked the time, technology and resources to live without eating meat so it will have been logical to use hunting as the main means by which to acquire food). Is the plight of ‘extreme’ vegans an exercise in futility or is a lifestyle without meat, not biologically, but psychologically feasible? Why do children chase fellow animals? Why do many receive such an intense adrenaline rush from chasing creatures? Are these feelings an effect of our desire to hunt or mere curiosity and excitement?
I humbly request your thoughts on the subject my fellow homo sapiens, be you predator or otherwise.

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44 Answers

Grisaille's avatar

Yes, of course.

ralfe's avatar

Whilst others might give you answers about diet, nutrition or science, I’d like to pose this thought: christian scripture describes the first humans as being purely vegitarian, eating only fruit picked from trees. According to the Genesis account, it was only much later, after exiting the garden of Eden, that they started harvesting the ground and eating vegitables. And then later that they were then told that they could eat meat.

Just an interesting note.

mea05key's avatar

Every human has an instinct to survive. Everyone defends themselves when being treathen verbally or physically.

About kids chasing chicken. Yes i believe its part of the instinct to feel superior. I can imagine myself feeling excited as a kid , chasing the chickens around the barn. It is fun because to see them feeling afraid and run for their life. As an adult i do like to disturb my dog and make them run by chasing them away. It feels totally the opposite being chase by some wild dog.

But i wouldnt say that it is an instinct to kill or anything close to that.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

Of course many humans still have this instinct. But luckily some of us are more sophisticated and adapted than that.

barumonkey's avatar

Humans are omnivores (we eat both plant and animal). A vegetarian or vegan diet is perfectly sustainable, both physically and psychologically, but the instinct is there to eat meat.

Grisaille's avatar

@BBSDTfamily Thank goodness you’re here to paint over us with your brush of self-importance. I’ve since realized the error of my crude, uncivilized and sub-human ways.


I think I’ll go celebrate with a burger.

Jeruba's avatar

@Grisaille, was that necessary?

Grisaille's avatar

@Jeruba Was it necessary for him to assume that people who chooses to eat meat are unsophisticated or uncivilized?


That’s assuming and rude. I have absolutely no problem with someone voicing their opinions, but once you begin to claim that another’s way of life or choice is incorrect or less-than-yours, I lose patience and asshole voice switches on.

It borders on prejudice, really.

MrItty's avatar

‘hunt’, no. ‘Eat’, yes. It’s just that in primitive times, the only way to eat an animal was to hunt it first. Nowadays we (well, most of us) can satisfy the same urge by going to the supermarket or restaurant.

Sure there are still those who enjoy hunting. But they’re not driven to go into the woods with their shotguns out of some biological instinct. It’s just a “fun” activity for them.

lloydbird's avatar

Only for food, profit and fun.
Apart from that, no, not really.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] Flame off folks. I think we can answer this question without getting snippy.

Grisaille's avatar

* grumble * Yes ma’am

Nially_Bob's avatar

@MrItty Why is it fun though? If you analyse hunting from an objective standpoint what recreation can be achieved by performing it without there being an innate aspect of ourselves which desires to hunt fellow animals?
@BBSDTfamily Do you believe humans have adapted to no longer feel these urges? Do you believe they were there initially? If the former is such a form of evolutionary adaption or more of a social phenomena? Forgive the inquisition but i’m curious to learn more about your opinion on this.
@ralfe That is quite interesting and reasonably plausible dependant on your stance on the ancient human biology. It’s possible that in our earlier days we, as a species, were generally too weak or cautious to hunt animals regularly so favoured mainly fruits and vegetables initially. Welcome to Fluther my friend.
@mea05key Why would you say it is not an instinct to kill? Perhaps with your dog you deem him or her a friend/companion/useful component in your life and so do not feel the same way.
@Grisaille You appear fairly content with your certainty. Care to elaborate on your position?

nikipedia's avatar

Not at all. I have no desire to hunt animals, and I think most people share that. If you read Michael Pollan’s account of boar hunting he finds the experience of killing and gutting the boar nauseating. I think most people would feel the same way, with the obvious exception of people who do choose to hunt for sport (I will never understand this).

I think most people hate the idea of killing and eating animals so much that they divest the meat they eat from the idea of it as living, feeling animal. We don’t eat pig, we eat “bacon.” We don’t eat cow, we eat “steak.” It gets easier when we get down to animals that seem more different from us and less able to experience emotions—we call chicken and fish exactly what they are.

I would bet that if you took an average person, asked him or her to hunt and slaughter a cow or pig, and immediately after, to cook and eat it, s/he would be horrified and disgusted. I sure would.

Facade's avatar


The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Humans are omnivores. Our biology benefits from consumption of animals and plants. Therefore it is innate.

Nially_Bob's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic Is a desire to hunt also innate?

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@Nially_Bob In today’s society there is no need for hunting but the desire to hunt is still there in some. Not me.

tinyfaery's avatar

I would never hunt, and I never crave meat. That’s all.

Zendo's avatar

What do you guys think shopping is? It is modern day hunting!!! Get real here kids.

We need to eat. How do you get food. Grow it, hunt it and kill it, or eat something someone else hunted and killed (if you call mass production of cattle, chicken, pigs… etc…hunting…LOL)
Or eat out at a restaurant, where your food has been hunted, killed and cooked for you.

tinyfaery's avatar

I hate to shop. And the meat industry is not hunting.

dannyc's avatar

Meat is tasty and a good source of protein. If you choose another route to sustenance, all the more power to you. Much of the animal rights movement is futile, as the animals are busy hunting meat themselves. Not that we should not be very aware of the proper techniques to scientifically hunt to not damage any species.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t think it is innate. I think if I had to personally kill animals to eat I would be vegetarian, I think I am a hypocrite in some ways on this subject.

augustlan's avatar

Me three.

kenmc's avatar

Of course it’s innate. We are, after all, animals.

Those that don’t like the specific act of hunting for your next meal most likely enjoy some other form of the act. The kind where you’d have to put “hunting” in quotes.

kenmc's avatar

@JLeslie Well, shopping was mentioned above…

Bird watching, collecting, antiquing, ect.

JLeslie's avatar

@boots Oh, I see. I had not read the entire thread, just answered the question. I don’t think I am a hunter, I like things right out there easy to find if I need them. Maybe I am just lazy. :)

kenmc's avatar

@JLeslie It takes different strokes…

JLeslie's avatar

@boots True. But, I am also easily satisfied, I don’t feel jealous of what others have, or feel compelled to conquer. I think hunter types are more ambitious in general, which I think can be a great think, but frequently feel dissatisfied and wanting more. What do you think?

Aethelwine's avatar

Of course it’s innate. We are, after all, animals.

@boots I completely agree with this statement.

I know many hunters and not one of them wastes any meat from their kill. It is satisfying to know that you provided meat for your family and you know exactly where the meat came from. I plan on learning to hunt sometime in the near future. I fish. My 5 year old daughter and I were shown how to clean fish. It wasn’t nauseating at all.

@JLeslie I don’t think I am a hunter, I like things right out there easy to find if I need them. Maybe I am just lazy. :)

You hit the nail on the head! We live in a society that has a McDonald’s in every town, frozen dinners and any type of food you can imagine delivered to your door. If everyone had to supply food for their families without these shortcuts, you would have many more hunters in this world. I am not vegetarian, so I am curious how those of you that are would feed your family in the winter.

JLeslie's avatar

@jonsblond I did say my statement partly in jest, but I think the McD’s culture is a valid point. I really don’t consider myself lazy, because I work very hard and get great satisfaction from accomplishing tasks whether it be vacuuming my house or exceeding sales goals at work. It is not that I don’t want to lift a finger to do anything.

I think it has a lot to do with personality and interests. My husband is more of a “hunter.” He was raised with a lot more material things than me. He had everything he wanted handed to him, his family talks about how they never even looked at a price tag (things are different now, but that would be a different story) I can’t even imagine living like that. All of the kids had a new car every year when they were teenagers. My husband, is very ambitious, sets goals, does whatever is necessary to accomplish them, doesn’t expect things to drop in his lap. His siblings lean more towards wanting things to be easy. They consider my husband lucky, but the truth is he has worked much harder than they have towards his goals, it is not luck, but preparedness. They all were raised with the same opportunity, same parents. The difference seems to be that he knew from a fairly young age that he wanted to be independent from his parents, and his siblings didn’t come to this until much later in life more out of necessity than anything. My husband took the more difficult path, because culturally children were expected to live with their parents until married in his family. He was seen as being too American. But, interestingly, his father had done a similar thing, He was seen as an outsider to his family because he married outside of his religion, and eventually was completely separated from his family. My husband is not separated from his family, but he does not rely on them for advice or guidance.

My favorite state to live in is FL so if I were a vegetarian I could be growing food all year, and I guess you could can and pickle foods like they did back in the day. You would have grains that keep through the winter in the form of cereals, bread, pasta, etc. If you are Lacto-ova you would still have milk and eggs even in the cold states.

Aethelwine's avatar

@JLeslie Thank you for answering my question concerning vegetarians. I just think that it is ridiculous that some look down on hunting (not the Dick Cheney hunting which is a minority of hunters) but this is ok.

JLeslie's avatar

@jonsblond I cannot imagine ever hunting, but I do not look down on hunting. I don’t understand feeling great about killing another living animal, but I understand feeling good about an accomplishment. I think it is in the film, “The Gods Must Be Crazy” that when the guy who lives in a primitive culture killed an animal for food, he went to the animal, actually stroked it after it had fallen asleep/died (they use a poison on their arrows that induces sleep and death) and spoke to it, thanking it for its sacrifice in a gentle calm manner, not in a boasting manner of conquer. When I hear hunters talk about the animals like they are just a number, just a thing to be shot at it does bother me.

Hunting in our country gets caught up in the gun debate, and so I think some hunters feel people look down on them or want to take their guns away. Of all my liberal, want stricter gun frends (which by the way I have plenty of liberal gun carrying friends also), not one of them is talking or trying to take guns away from hunters. Or, maybe you had a different example of who might be looking down at hunters and I am guessing wrong here?

tinyfaery's avatar

I’d live just fine, as long as I could fish. Is that hunting? I only eat poultry and seafood as it is.

Aethelwine's avatar

@JLeslie Here are just two examples from this thread of some that I feel may look down on hunting:

“But luckily some of us are more sophisticated and adapted than that.”

“I would bet that if you took an average person, asked him or her to hunt and slaughter a cow or pig, and immediately after, to cook and eat it, s/he would be horrified and disgusted. I sure would.

Every hunter I know, and I know many (my husband works on a ranch), eat what they kill. They are not horrified by the act. I guess all of these people are not average.

JLeslie's avatar

@jonsblond Point taken. I think it is what you are accustomed to. If you grow up around hunting it is commonplace. I think most people I now would not be able to kill an animal cook it and eat right then and there, unless they were starving. Most of America does not even realize the piece of meat they buy in the grocery store was part of an animal (I say this with some sarcasm, but really when you buy everything already cut and packaged, I believe you think little of how it got there). This is why I myself admit to being a hypocrite, but would never judge a hunter hunting for food. If anything I probably respect hunters more than massive commercial slaughter houses. So, I would put out there that many of the people who say they would have difficulty doing it, but eat meat themselves, are not judging, but rather just making a statement of what they feel cpabale of themselves. But of course, there are those who do judge.

I think the “more sophisticated” comment came from a vegan, although I am not sure I remember his/her profile info correclty. My sister is vegan, and is appalled by the idea of killing or using animals for sustanance (although I cannot speak for bbstdfamily). It is so far to the end of the spectrum, it is like being from 2 different worlds being vegan and being someone who consumes animal products. I would guess there might be judgement there, but then I know people who judge vegans as being extreme, flighty, difficult to have to a dinner party, tree huggers, etc. They deal with being misunderstood and judged also. Not saying you did any of that, just saying there is enough judgement flying around that no one should feel especially picked on.

nikipedia's avatar

@jonsblond: I am only looking down on people who eat meat but wouldn’t be able to kill it. These people clearly recognize the ethical problem with what they’re doing but live in denial about it, and I think that is frankly despicable.

People who are able to kill their own food clearly don’t have an ethical problem with it. I disagree with them, but I respect them for doing something I’m not capable of.

tinyfaery's avatar

I’m despicable. I hate veggies and have a gluten issue (I can’t eat too much), what the he’ll would I eat. I recognize my hypocrisy. :(

nikipedia's avatar

@tinyfaery: We’re all hypocrites about something. I just get up on my morally superior horse with this one because I’m so incredibly sick of having to defend not eating meat that I’ve started to take the offensive, I guess.

You probably have done a lot more good for animals in your life than I ever will. So don’t take me too seriously.

tinyfaery's avatar

@nikipedia I don’t see why you have to defend yourself. Even if humans are biologically programmed to eat meat, we are also programmed to make judgments, and if someone so chooses to not eat meat then so be it. WTF do people take issue with?

Aethelwine's avatar

@tinyfaery That’s what I say. We can all agree to disagree and still enjoy a good pillow fight. Right?

Just don’t use WTF’s name in vain.

tinyfaery's avatar

Sorry about that. I will do 5 hail fluthers to atone.

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