Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from part 3 of a four-hour interview conducted by Bruce Eisner with Owsley Stanley, where Owsley expounds upon his dietary philosophy. The PDF of this part is available here, and a larger edit of the full interview can be found here, although it does not contain this excerpt.
Bruce Eisner: Let’s go into your dietary thing. You’ve always made a big point of believing that people should subsist a lot more on meat and perhaps a lot less on vegetables.
Owsley “The Bear” Stanley: People eat what they’re raised to eat, you know, it’s a social thing. Whatever your mother feeds you, that becomes the food you like. You’re born with very little taste for anything, just an impulse to suck. Suck on your mother’s tits, you get a sweet fluid, milk. Milk is quite sweet, it has a high lactose content. Almost every food that you experience for the first time is put in your mouth by your mother. Now, you may spit it out, but if she’s persistent, eventually you give up and accept it, then you learn to like it. I mean, consider that some people love bitters! You can learn to like the taste of almost anything, I even know people who will eat turnips, and that is a real leap. So you can learn to like anything. Most children will accept milk, their mother’s milk, and they’ll accept meat, without much problem. There’s something about meat that just tastes good, meat is immediately acceptable.
Looking at what we are and what we’ve evolved from, we’re a carnivore. We have a very large brain. Our intestines are very short, in fact lab classes where the school cannot afford cadavers usually use housecats, because the feline intestinal structures are virtually identical to humans, and the relative length of the intestinal parts and the development in relative size of the organs is very similar. A cat is also an animal that’s mostly brain, muscle and bone, and very little internal organs. For the digestion of meat, you don’t need much gear. On the other hand, a man, who is about 75% muscle, bone and so forth and about 25% gut can be compared to a goat of a similar weight. You’ll find that the goat is something like 75% gut and 25% bone and muscle. On the other hand, a panther, a leopard, or an animal with about the same body weight as a man, has a similar relative proportion as a man does. We’re basically carnivores, in fact a 150 lb. panther’s intestines is only about 6 inches longer than a man’s. The length of your whole alimentary system from mouth to butthole is about as long as you are tall.
Yogis frequently tie a knot in each end of a string which is the same length as they are tall, hold one end in their teeth, swallow the other, and the first knot will appear at their butt. So that’s the functional length of your intestines, it’s not very long at all, 4-1/2 feet or so. A carnivorous cat with the same body weight, would have about 4 feet. On the other hand a goat’s functional length is about 25 or 30 feet, and the actual length is over 100. You can stretch a human intestine out too, that doesn’t really tell you its functional length, it only tells you something about its surface area. So in other words, with the short, functional gut, things pass through quickly. Food can go completely through you very quickly. It doesn’t go through so quickly, if its hard to digest, like vegetables. Meat turns into a liquid in your stomach and is absorbed in the first few inches of your intestine very quickly. About an hour, if you don’t have anything else in there.
I was on a boxing team when I was in junior high school, and we almost always won our matches. One of the things we had was an unorthodox coach and he insisted that we eat nothing the morning of a bout, and then an hour before the event, he gave us a steak, which we could not put salt on, and we were not allowed to drink any water with. The result was, of course, it was digested and all that energy was circulating around our system, all the fat and protein and everything else was all in our blood, there was nothing left in our gut, so we could take pounding on our gut, no worries and we had an enormous amount of power and endurance. It worked! That was very unconventional, that was back in the late 40s. Almost nobody thought much about that kind of stuff in those days. Nowadays, of course, they’d think you were an absolute heretic to suggest something like that. They want you to eat pizza!
B: Where do you think all of the vegetarianism and the low-fat thing
O: Follow the money. Same story. Agricultural business is one of the largest businesses in the world, and provides most of the food for people. If you want to raise cattle, you’ve got to have a mob of cowboys, a lot of land, a vet, and you have to follow the animals around, you have to round ’em up by hand, you have to take ’em to an abattoir where the work has to be done by hand. You have a lot of the expense because it’s a perishable item, and has to be refrigerated. It must be carefully inspected, kept clean, and the animals have to be healthy. It’s very costly and labour intensive to produce meat. A similar caveat applies to dairy products such as, shall we say, butter. It’s got to be handled properly and carefully and so forth.
Now look at wheat. You can plant it with a machine. You can cultivate it with a machine, harvest it with a machine, process it with a machine. You can move it from place to place with virtually no human labour being involved. You can even grind it into flour and you grade it with a machine. It’s exquisitely profitable. With oil seeds, you can do all the same things you can do with wheat or any of the other cereal grains, they’re just other seeds. They produce vegetable oil, which can be sold as a substitute for other fats like butter and animal fat. They are not as good, nor as tasty, but if you can convince people that there is something weird or intrinsically unhealthy about butter and animal fat, you can convince them to use the oils, and the product has a much lower cost, thus bigger profit because it’s more costly to produce any animal product. You will have to convince people that somehow this is a good idea. The lower price for the margarine is still hundreds of times the cost of production. This is a very, very profitable item.
You definitely don’t want to sell wheat at animal feed prices, if you can sell it at bread prices. So you create a shtick about it: Fat’s (animal fat) bad for you, it’ll make you fat, you’ve got to eat carbs, and you’ve got to eat vegetables… but mostly pasta. Veggies are good and meat is bad, especially red meat, etc. Because of course, it’s much cheaper to raise turkeys or chickens, compared to the cost of raising a pig or a cow. So you want to get them away from red meat if they’re going to eat meat at all. Fish, of course, is one of the most expensive meats you can buy nowadays, so you don’t even need to worry about that. It’s priced itself almost out of the market due to bad resource management. And your big agricultural business is funding lots of research, all to prove this is the best diet. You get articles in the press where the dietary “experts” are saying: “Gee whiz, you know, it’s very funny, all my patients are eating much less fat, almost no fat, and their complex carbs have gone way up, but I’m getting an increased incidence of diabetes and almost all my patients have gained a bunch in body weight, and are fatter.” Why am I not surprised? Because the only thing the body can make bodyfat from, is carbohydrates, dietary fat can only be burned, not stored. Basically they are telling a huge lie about the metabolism of fats and no-one is taking them to task (except me).
B: It seems like there’s a new dietary regime that comes along every 2 or 3 years….
O: There’s been a concerted effort against the eating of meat that goes back almost to the first World War, and it’s well documented by Stefansson in his book, “The Fat of the Land.” He tells about how even the military, around WW I, didn’t want to use the most concentrated, complete food ever developed (by the plains Indians), pemmican. Later on, when they sent people into space, they didn’t send them with pemmican, the most concentrated human food known, oh no, they sent them up there with canned peas! Now, would you want to be in a spacecraft with someone eating canned peas? Or beans? Give me a break! People explored the Arctic and Indians walked across the continent of North America eating jerky and pemmican But they send people into space with pea soup. I don’t know, man, it’s nonsense, this stuff. I doesn’t work. People have always eaten a mixture of things, the women are very good at gathering stuff and the female body becomes infertile if it doesn’t have a certain percentage of body fat. Men have always been hunters.
If you ask a tribal Aborigine what kind of food there is around, and he’ll name all the animals. He won’t name a single plant. If you ask him about plants, he says “oh yeah, they’re good too, you can eat some of those.” Even the women will hunt for animals if they can catch them, but the men make a concerted effort. The men won’t normally gather plants as bush tucker except when they’re on walkabout and they’re surviving off the bush. The same thing is true in North America, the great plains Indian nations all depended on the meat supply. Out of the 200 or 300 Indian tribes, there were only a handful that were basically agricultural. The whites had to kill off all the bison to defeat them and put them off the land. Most of the things that people grow as agricultural items, the vegetables now eaten, were domesticated by South and Central American Indians, not the Northern tribes. Another thing that’s not well understood, is that the cultivation of grains is the thing that broke down tribal culture, it created the hierarchical systems. It’s also the thing that enabled high densities of people to grow up. It also is one of the principal, if not the principal reason that we’re struggling with an extremely overpopulated planet today. Because as meat eaters, we belong at the pinnacle of the food pyramid, which means we should be eating the things/animals which are located directly below us, and our population would then be limited by the availability of the animals on which we feed. I like the concept of a lot of open fields of grass and cows much better than vast stretches of concrete and rice paddies.
All carnivore populations are strictly controlled by the availability of the prey animals on which they feed. And they’re normally in balance, you know. The prey animals eat the vegetation, and if there are too many of the prey animals they’ll eat everything in sight, and be hard on the environment, but when prey animals become numerous, the carnivores breed up to deal with them. If the prey animal populations crash, the carnivores would not continue to reproduce and some would starve. In our case we can manage the animals we eat through animal husbandry far better than by hunting wild populations. We’re part of a natural cycle, but when we stepped out of that cycle, and started to eat the food of the animals that we are designed to eat, which is what happened when we started eating the grass, the cereal grains, which is the principal vegetable food that people eat, we upset the balance. Thousands of us could subsequently exist on land that used to support only a few, and this is actually talked up as great by the vegetarians. They’re such fools that they can’t see that the very trouble we’ve got today on pour precious planet is because of too many people!