Human as Forager vs Hunter-Gatherer

food fight

Raging Questions

Let me first disclose that I am a folio-frugivore (vegan) anarcho-primitivist, and may I add, thriving on healthful sustenance. Questions on the nature of rewilding for present-day ‘hunter-gatherer’ anarcho-primitivists burn inside me. In returning to primeval wild, how are primitivists preferential in selecting the bits of our past ways we strive to make future? As humans have been scavengers far longer than hunters, how does the label ‘hunter-gatherer’ proudly persist? Whenever archeological or anthropological evidence arises of cannibalism, oppression, humans as prey not predator, etc. why is the knee jerk reaction to rationalize it away as somehow not truly in our most natural nature? Why is evidence of hunting so straightaway accepted, lauded and proliferated?

Why is there such disdain for searching further back than industry and agriculture for human’s wrong turn? What if there were even earlier gradual catalysts like controlled fire, wearing clothes, hunting tools, and organized hunting that removed us from our habitat and allowed us to adapt and evolve our way into the invasive species that we have become today? Were we not living more ‘in balance’ when settled into our early human habitat than when we spread out into Earth’s other ecosystems?

Why do primitivists have defensive reactions to evidence that hunter-gatherers have degraded biodiversity, and harmed animals and plants even to the point of extinction? Or when asked for their definition of the human habitat, as if we have innate superiority, freedom from boundaries of habitat, as other animals have? When a primitivist is challenged to hunt and eat as all omnivorous animals hunt and eat, does his sense of outrage that his weapons and fire for cooking were ‘taken away’ not reflect his sense of dominion? How does any modern mind come to ponder the possibility that earliest bipeds might have been persistence hunters? Further, does the fact that humans have done a thing for a long time justify the necessity for its continuance in a primitive future?

Is bias found in mis-interpretations solidifying mis-beliefs? For example, primitivists point to Richard Wrangham’s Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human to conclude ‘meat made us human’. But what if the point of the book is reflected in the title itself? What if it is cooking itself that allowed for rapid consumption of calories and nutrients by breaking down plant fibers that led to a larger brain? In his book Wrangham lays out that meat was unreliable and human’s early diet was primarily plant-based.  What if researchers proposed that cooked starches met the energy demands of an increasing brain size? What if our ancestors thrived without meat, just as we do today? Even if true, what is so much better about having a larger brain? What if cooking was a step down a path toward human dominion and Earth destruction?

Human Foraging Persists

Human’s foraging instinct still thrives today, as evidenced especially in innate actions of our young. I first began witnessing the natural state of human eating in the seconds after my son was born. His strong neck muscles propelled his heavy head, lining up his mouth into perfect suckle position, clasping my breast with his tiny fingers encouraging flow.

At 18 months he wandered outside in a new place, spied ripe grapes on a vine, walked up to them for closer inspection, intuitively plucked one off with primal foraging fingers, placed it in his mouth for an exploratory taste, decided it was good as he chewed it with pleasure and swallowed. He had never before seen a grape. This led me to ponder if the ‘stage’ young humans go through of ‘putting everything in their mouth’ is not a stage at all, but the beginning of learning to forage from all the food around in wild habitat. Whereas in this human domesticated world young are reprimanded until their foraging instinct are suppressed, in a wild world perhaps our young hone their foraging for berries, nuts, seeds, flowers, leaves, stems, tubers, grains, fruits, and mushrooms.

Even before the foraging instinct is suppressed, he still will not accept mouthing a living animal. Try to put a live cricket or worm in his mouth & he grimaces. He has to be conditioned to overcome his disgust. His only first reaction to animals, no matter how small, nonthreatening or ‘tasty’, is fear or curiosity. But he does generally accept and trust what humans put in his mouth, even pieces of charred animals tissues. When humans put animal tissues in their babies’ mouths, is that the first indoctrination into and normalization of a myth that humans are intended to be hunters?


Primitivism calls for an Earth devoid of artificial technology. Some say the only period that sustains that lifestyle is the Paleolithic which is characterized by hunter-gatherer. Many respect vegans’ boycott of civilization’s brutal animal farming, but don’t see how hunter-gatherer bands could support veganism. Hence, the primitivist allure with the paleo diet.

Actual human diets during the 2.6 million yearlong Paleolithic era of vast migrations included a broadly flexible food list reflective of seasons and conditions. Despite popular belief, wild grains and legumes were very likely included, with some evidence of food processing, such as flour 30,000 years ago as well. While Paleo humans were flexible eaters, there is little evidence of that time to draw solid conclusions on nutrition. The most conclusive diet evidence of the Paleo era supports that diets based primarily on plant foods promoted increased health and longevity, at least during times of food abundance. Further, applying any version of a Paleo diet to today’s food repertoire presents the extra challenge that modern domesticated plants and animals differ considerably from those of Paleo times.

And then there is the unanswered question of how hunting shaped who we are intrinsically, especially in connection to hierarchy and civilization.

Life in balance with Earth

The past seven years I’ve channeled virtually all my energies into ecology restoration. This has opened my mind and spirit to hard realities. Now as I walk in a neighborhood or natural area, I identify which plant and animal species naturally belong in that place, which species come from which other places, and how the alien species degrade this place. I sense the urgency to reverse civilization’s course, and chronic frustration with modern human’s aloof, callous willful ignorance. To point the mirror at myself, some primitivists who lack my experience rewilding nature are quick to label me a ‘native plant nazi’.

Primitivists are likely in agreement that we aim for an Earth with healthy ecosystems (biological communities of interacting life and their physical environment). An ecosystem is comprised of native species (indigenous to a bioregion, the result of natural processes such as co-adaptation, generally with no inadvertent harmful human intervention). Modern ecosystems are threatened by invasive species (nonnative life causing habitat harm). A healthy ecosystem is comprised of a diversity of life in connection engaged in a process of co-adaptation.

Negative impacts of civilization on ecosystems are stark, with well-defined catalysts such as agriculture. To effectively change, we begin by understanding what led to human’s fading nature connection resulting in harmful catalysts such as agriculture. Potential early nature connection catalysts such as hunting tools (perhaps first change toward dominance, establishing hierarchy over the world), control of fire, biocultural adaptations such as clothing, need consideration. Though painting an accurate picture of early humans is generally a game of guess, it seems to be fairly accepted that before the great spreading, earliest humans had a primarily plant based diet and were living native life in connection as a part of an ecosystem.

The main question becomes, Did humans evolve into an invasive species when we expanded out of our habitat? What is the human habitat? Every species has a habitat, with all its benefits and limitations. If a species spreads into a region where it begins co-adapting within that ecosystem, and then the conditions change, species unable to adapt move back or die off. If we are a part of the natural world, we need to accept that nature reality. A species can forgo co-adapting and ‘overadapt’ to the point that it becomes invasive. If we have the awareness that our invasive nature has now swollen to doing extensive damage to nature connections, including within our own species, do we also have the motivation and ability to evolve ourselves back out of our invasive ways, back into our natural habitat with more wild symbiotic relationships in lieu of our mega-dominating stance of today?

A Path Forward

Is it commonly thought that the transition from Australopithecus to Homo is marked by scavenged meat eating? Did a transition toward eating meat correlate to a transition in habitat spread from tropical and sub-tropical climates to seasonal climates of constant change? Could it be that humans’ transition to hunting is a major factor shaping our physical and nature connection evolution, turning our species more predatory and invasive? How did and does human survival equate to being an invasive species, and what are potential paths to recreating our nativity? Until these questions are adequately addressed, perhaps the most Earth-connected, harmless past practice worth bringing into the future is simple foraging.

Our species has obviously radically impacted all habitats, ruining them not only for other species, but for our own as well. Virtually all species (that are not invasive like us) are struggling to find & keep their niche. Instead of forecasting the best path forward by constructing and recreating the past, primitivist energies would be well spent focusing on stopping civilization’s destruction and undoing the damage civilization has done. Along the way in rewilding Earth we will instinctively and organically rewild ourselves into a species that reawakens connections and co-evolves, rediscovering our habitat, our niche with Earth.



3 thoughts on “Human as Forager vs Hunter-Gatherer

  1. Pingback: Human as Forager vs Hunter-Gatherer – Vegan Primitivist

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