One of the most common justifications for eating animals that vegans encounter is, “If I wasn’t meant to eat meat, then I wouldn’t have these canine teeth!” It’s a knee-jerk defense that’s often made after a meat-eater has been confronted with information about the routine cruelties of animal farming, or with the fact that humans have no biological need to consume meat, dairy, or eggs.
But there are several serious problems with the “canine teeth” argument, the most glaring one being the premise that “the presence of canine teeth = meant to eat meat.” In truth, with the exception of rodents, rabbits, and pikas, nearly all mammals have canine teeth. In fact, several herbivores and primary plant-eaters have ferocious canine teeth.
Another problem with the “canine teeth” argument is the idea that, just because we have a physical attribute that enables us to do something harmful, we are morally justified to perform that activity unnecessarily and whenever we want. Humans are physically capable of inflicting all kinds of violence (“If I wasn’t meant to beat people up, I wouldn’t have these big fists!), but our capacity to harm others has nothing to do with whether or not we are right to harm others. Indeed, most people would say it is wrong to cause harm when you can just as easily avoid doing so. And we can easily (and drastically) reduce the needless harm and suffering we cause to other animals simply by making different choices at the grocery store.