TOWARDS INSTINCTIVE EATING
Copyright 1997 by Thomas E. Billings, all
rights reserved. Contact author
for permission to republish.
I will label this article as opinion, in case some readers
certain of the people discussed herein.
I have noticed that some vegans have negative attitudes
the topic of instinctive eating, and those who practice instinctive
eating (instinctos). The problem is that such attitudes conflict
with the (often self-conscious) compassion that so many vegans claim as
part of their dietary philosophy.
I am writing this to describe my own journey, from my first
instincto (a negative view), to my current favorable view. It is my
hope that others will find this of interest, and perhaps can see
themselves as being on a similar journey.
It is best to begin with a brief description:
A system of sequential mono-eating (1 food at a time), guided by the senses.
Food is selected by smell (and other senses), and one eats until there is
a "signal" from your body, to stop eating, e.g., a taste change, a feeling of
fullness/satiation, or strong emotions or thoughts arise. If still hungry,
select another food by smell/senses, and repeat the process. Instinctive
eaters generally are non-vegetarian. However, some instinctos consume very
limited amounts of animal foods. Most instinctos eat a diet that is primarily
original foods: the pre-fire diet of our prehistoric ancestors. Such a diet
consists of raw animal foods, fruit, and small amounts of raw vegetables,
but excludes grains and dairy products.
My journey can be divided into 3 stages, as follows.
Stage 1: Negative Reaction
My first exposure to instincto came by reading Zephyr's book
Eating: The Lost Knowledge of Optimum Nutrition"). The book is very
interesting, and challenging to vegans on a number of levels. There are
graphic descriptions of killing and devouring (raw) animals. Even worse, in
the view of the sensitive vegan, the author (Zephyr) describes eating raw
meat as something akin to a spiritual experience. This is too much for many
vegans, whose extensive conditioning makes them react emotionally, with
horror and revulsion.
The result is that many vegans form a negative opinion of
and in some cases of instinctos, because they can't "mentally digest"
(understand) the idea that someone could ever want to eat raw animal flesh.
My initial reaction was similar to the above, and I see many
that stage and stop (hence this article).
Side note. I recommend the book by Zephyr, precisely because
it presents a
challenge to vegans and veganism. Interesting reading!
Stage 2: Understanding
My first exposure to instincto was in the first half of 1996,
book, and also via the veg-raw e-mail list on Internet. In May of 1996, I
left veg-raw for various reasons, primarily because I was exhausted from
trying to have a civil discussion with an uncivil fruitarian zealot.
Shortly before leaving the list, I received some nasty hate e-mail from
people I had never heard of. As I didn't know who they were, I thought
they might be instinctos - surely only raw meat eaters, who like the taste
of blood, could be so nasty (that is what I foolishly thought at the time!).
Things were quiet for some time. In late 1996, I learned of
Nicholson interview article in "Health & Beyond". I read the text on
Internet, and obtained a copy of the footnote/reference list. Here at
last was convincing, documented scientific evidence that: apes are
not fruitarians but omnivores, and our prehistoric ancestors were
also omnivores. For years I had believed, and even told others, that
apes were fruitarians, and we humans were natural frugivores/vegans.
This presented me with a dilemma: I could shut my eyes to the evidence,
to the truth, and go on as before. Alternately, I could accept the
truth, understand that a raw vegan diet was not totally natural, and
continue as a vegetarian for spiritual reasons (only). I felt that I had
no choice but to remain intellectually honest.
The realization that an omnivorous diet was natural, and
vegan diet a
major restriction of that natural diet, also cast a new light on
instincto. I saw that instinctive eaters aren't bloodthirsty, they are
simply following a different (and more accurate) model of nature, than the
one I was following. I also finally "connected with" information that I
had been told many times before: that hunter-gatherer societies are
omnivores, none are vegan. That says quite a bit about the vegan diet, if
you stop and think about it. The result of these revelations was that I saw
that it was inappropriate for me to condemn a diet, or those who follow a
diet, when the people following that diet have science and reason backing
them up. (Of course, one should avoid judging others by their lunch, but
that is something people often do anyway.)
Stage 3: Acceptance as a Legitimate Raw Diet
Around the end of 1996/early 1997, I returned to the veg-raw
to find a major debate in progress between a group of fruitarians and a
group of instinctos. It turned out that the people who had sent me hate mail
in Spring of 1996, were fruitarians! I sat back and watched as the fruitarians
attacked the instincto position, in a very hostile way. The instinctos
responded with science and reason, and very little of the hostility present
on the fruitarian side. In that debate, the scientific basis of instincto was
thoroughly documented, and the utter lack of a scientific basis for
fruitarianism, was made very clear.
This debate featured the defenders of compassionate veganism
in a very hostile, anti-compassion way, and the instinctos, non-vegetarians,
behaving in an honest, civil manner. If you are a vegan, doesn't that
seem like a contradiction to you?
The final result of the debate was to establish instincto as
diet, in my eyes. If one can back their diet with science, then it is a
legitimate diet - even if I don't follow it or even care for it. Because
of this, I passed from understanding, to seeing instincto as a valid part
of the raw diet spectrum. That is what I mean here as acceptance. (Note that
I am still a vegetarian, and do not practice instinctive eating).
Although most vegans will disagree with the instincto
consumption of animal
foods, there are other important issues here: respect and tolerance for others
whose lifestyle is different from yours, and respect for their freedom of
choice. Even if one opposes the consumption of animal foods, one should
recognize that others have different views, and we must respect their choice,
as well as their personal dignity and freedom. That is why the bigoted
attacks on instinctos by certain vegans (discussed below), are so
What instinctive eating has to offer other rawists:
The philosophy of instinctive eating has a number of points
that other raw
fooders might find of interest. A select few of these points are as follows.
* a more accurate, honest model of nature than one will find
other raw diets
* the taste change - it's not an infallible stop signal, but
some attention to, when it occurs
* the concept of original foods
* the insistence that animals are raised humanely, in
conditions that are
as similar to wild nature as possible - a point it shares with some of
the less radical vegans
* that a sequential form of mono-eating can work (mono-eating
rare in the raw vegan community).
Vegan Bigotry: Referring to Instinctos as In-Stinkos
It has become popular in certain raw vegan circles, to refer
as in-stinkos. This practice, in my opinion, is a clear form of bigotry
and should stop. Here I am not critical of those who use the term once
or twice in ignorance or by accident, but of those vegans who think it is
"fun" to create and use a derogatory, insulting nickname for another dietary
group. The deliberate, repeated use of "in-stinko" is the moral equivalent
of using a derogatory, insulting nickname for people who follow another
religion, or who are of a different race. In the 1990's, such behavior
is socially unacceptable. It is surprising to me that vegans condone or
tolerate such behavior by some in the vegan camp. Most vegans would not
condone the use of insulting nicknames for racial or religious groups;
why do you tolerate it when it is used against those in a different
I would encourage vegans to let those who use such derogatory
that such behavior is not in line with the vegan claim of compassion.
I hope that this sheds some light on why vegan attacks on
not appropriate. If you are a vegan with a negative view of instinctos,
I hope that you will analyze the reasons for your negativity, and consider
the points above.