Did Humans Once Eat Pandas?

If you think that eating meat is the reason for humankind’s evolutionary success, then you may consider recent reports that humans once ate pandas to be one more piece of evidence for human carnivory.

Or, if you’re a long-time vegetarian like myself, you may feel your stomach churning.

Claims that humans once ate the now-endangered, adored animals are based on excavated panda fossils found in part of what is now the city of Chongqing in southwest China. Scientist Wei Guangbiao, the head of the Institute of Three Gorges Paleoanthropology, told the Chongqing Morning Post that examining panda fossils revealed that they had been “once slashed to death by man.” Reasoning that prehistoric humans would not have killed animals except to use them, Wei says that pandas must have been used as food. Cut marks were reportedly found on the prehistoric panda bones.

10,000 to 1 million years ago, pandas lived in Chongqing’s high mountains and were much smaller, Wei says. There must have certainly been many, many more of them, too, than the 1,600 who still live in the wild today and the 300 more who live in captivity in breeding programs.

In NPR, Barbara J. King writes, at a time when the panda has “become a symbol of cuteness, an animal we love to love,” most people would be “horrified” to think of cooking and eating a panda. She recounts an experience from years ago when she was in Gabon, West Africa, to study chimpanzees. Monkey was on the menu of a rural restaurant and she declined it, choosing chicken and French fries only to find some black (monkey) hairs on her plate. She removed these and ate her meal.

Now, King says that she no longer eats chicken as “although not in ways as complex as primates, chickens do, science tells us, think and feel.” She still eats fish but finds herself having a “harder and harder time understanding how any of us draw the line about what we will and won’t eat” and all the more in an era when restaurants broadcast that they plan to serve lion and kangaroo and celebrity chefs go into heart palpitations about eating chicken kneecaps in Tokyo. More recent research has found that humans may have been hunting big game about 2 million years ago and that eating raw food alone would not have allowed us to feed and develop big brains.

All very well, but in case we don’t remember: we don’t live in prehistoric times. Many of us do not hunt for our meals, instead hunting down ingredients for recipes in the supermarket aisles. If anything, scientists predict that demand for meat could lead to “catastrophic” food shortages because feeding a global population expected to total 9 billion in 2050 will place massive pressure on available water, land and other natural resources. Producing protein-rich food from animals consumes five to ten times more water than food from a vegetarian diet does; we’re already using one-third of the world’s arable land to grow crops to feed animals as food for people.

For many of us, there are multiple options when it comes to getting our food supply and we don’t have to rely on  whatever creatures we come upon to provide us with our next meal. In other words, eating meat may have played a key role in one part of our evolution and the history of our development, but — in a day and age of climate change and when pandas have become extinct so that the thought of eating one seems, besides abhorrent, the height of folly — eating meat is a choice and one that many of us are glad to say no to.

Is it possible that we’ve evolved, or are evolving, not to need to eat meat, not only for our health but for the future of the planet?


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Photo by scjody


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

.4 years ago

i sure hope they did not,but again i would not be surprised if they did,no respect for any creature great or small,very,very sad,thank you for sharing

rene davis
irene davis5 years ago

Somehow this doesn't surprise me.....me neither.

Dee D.
De D5 years ago

Somehow this doesn't surprise me.....

Mark Donner
Mark D5 years ago

Kim W. claims: Humans are "omnivore"..trying desperately to make the mutated apes infecting this world( (which btw can survive spectactularly on plants) into something acceptable.. no humans are a VIRUS, something between living and dead that greedily takes and takes from nature but does nothing to give back..but that observation is actually an insult to viruses, which sometimes destroy a few hosts, but are intelligent enough not to destroy the whole earth like the human mutated ape things do.

Carrie Anne Brown

interesting article, thanks for sharing :)

David V.
David V5 years ago

Humans will eat anything......they will drive every species into extinction.....then they will start eating each other.

pam w.
pam w5 years ago

" i don't believe that food is the only reason god created them for us. they make the world a prettier and better place."

Could it be that this attitude (animals were created for US) is at the root of all environmental problems around the world?

Why on earth would anyone imagine that WE "own" them?

Human overpopulation is the cause of all environmental problems....not the killing for food....the taking of their habitats, the destruction of their ecosystems and a blind indifference (not to mention ignorance) to how the world has evolved and our role in it.

Kimberele Anderson
kim Anderson5 years ago

this really doesn't surprise me, humans have eaten meat for thousands of years. killing our animals to the brink of extinction. whether from land or sea, turtles, whales, sharks. no animals are safe from the human population. the seas are over fished now as it is, so that population in other countries, turn to land animals for their meat. it saddens me that our beautiful animals wind up on the dinner table. the poaching situation in other countries is out of control. we need to stop the killing of our animals, i don't believe that food is the only reason god created them for us. they make the world a prettier and better place.

Ajla C.
Past Member 5 years ago