In a world full of death and suffering, some creatures are known to be fierce carnivores (meat eaters). In fact, the perception of animals eating other animals is seen as normal in today’s secular, evolution-influenced society. But was it always like that?

The Origin of Carnivory

“Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so.

Genesis 1:30

It wasn’t always like this. At the beginning of creation, there was no death and animals were created to be vegetarian. But people often claim that animals like spiders, birds of prey, and cats could not possibly have survived as vegetarians. They suggest this because today their diets are almost exclusively meat (or insects), but is such a claim true?

Spiders

In a recent ScienceNews article, a spider—yes, a spider—is reportedly a vegetarian! To many, this seems like an outrageous claim, but it is true. The small jumping spider, Bagheera kiplingi, is the first known species of spider that is primarily a vegetarian.1

Researchers in the past were aware that some spiders eat pollen and spores that are caught in their webs for nutrition. Some even sip nectar here and there, but this spider doesn’t seem to have much of a taste for other animals. It lives around acacia trees in Central America and feeds on the trees rather than even on the ants that live in the trees.

Such a spider is a reminder that God’s original creation was indeed very good (Genesis 1:31) and perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4). Animals were not eating other animals, as death was not part of the original creation (Genesis 1:30). That is the type of creation one would expect from a perfect God of Life.

However, when sin entered into the world, so did death (Genesis 3). Things were no longer upheld in a perfect state. In essence, we got a taste of what life is like without God. The entire creation is now sin-cursed and broken, which is why we need a Savior (Romans 5:12–19) and why we need a new heavens and new earth (Romans 8:20–21, Revelation 21:1).

At some point after sin entered God’s perfect creation and before the Flood, animals began eating other animals. Preserved stomach contents of many animals in the rock layers deposited by the Flood verify that animals had been eating other animals. Animals like this spider show that even though spiders are generally carnivorous, they can easily survive on vegetarian diets. But this is not the only animal that exemplifies this ability.

Lions

Two lions have been known to be vegetarian. Perhaps the most famous is “Little Tyke,” who died many years ago. The large cat was raised on a farm but refused to eat meat throughout the duration of her life.2 Her vegetarian diet showed that cats, though carnivorous in the wild, can easily be sustained on diets that are vegetarian.

Another lion, Lea, was a vegetarian for the first seven years of her life. She was then transported to a refuge in South Africa where it took around a month to get the big cat acclimated to eating meat.

Vultures

The Gypohierax angolensis or palm-nut vulture is a bird of prey that even mice wouldn’t be afraid of! This vulture’s primary diet is palm fruits. It has been known on occasion to eat fish, carrion, and invertebrates. Palm nuts being the bulk of its diet reveals that this bird of prey does not require meat to survive.3

Pacu

When people think of piranhas, they think of a deadly fish that can strip flesh from the bone in a matter of minutes. Pacu is a common name for several species of fishes in South America that are primarily vegetarian and are considered cousins of the piranha. Pacu are fishes within the same subfamily (Serrasalminae) as piranhas. The two are likely part of the same created kind. In fact, pacu are often confused with piranhas because they look so similar. Experts usually evaluate their teeth (which have slight differences) to tell them apart.4

On some occasions, pacu eat insects or small fish, but they prefer vegetarian foods. This shows that such fish need not be confined to carnivorous diets and could have survived originally on vegetarian foods.

Conclusion

The notion that animals that are carnivorous today have always been that way needs to be reevaluated when thinking back to creation. Originally, all animals were vegetarian; it was only after sin that death and suffering entered into the world—for animals as well as for humans. Animals that one might expect to be carnivorous but that easily survive without meat—like spiders and cats—offer a glimpse of what life could have been like originally. It also shows that these carnivorous animals could have easily have survived without meat in the original creation.

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Footnotes

  1. Susan Milius, “Spider Eats Trees, Not Bugs,” ScienceNews, August 30, 2008, p. 13. Back
  2. James A. Peden, “Vegetarian Lioness: Little Tyke,” http://www.vegetarismus.ch/vegepet/tyke.htm. Back
  3. “Palm-Nut Vulture,” Kenya Birds, http://www.kenyabirds.org.uk/vult-pn.htm Back
  4. Donna O’Daniel, “Piranhas, the Feared Fish,” Answers in Depth 4(1), May 6, 2009. Back