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Cannibalism: An Appetite for Human Flesh

endocannibalism is eating  bodies of their dead members of their family or tribe to honor the deceased/ Photo By Yury Birukov via Shutterstock

 

Consumption of a fellow human’s flesh is considered taboo in most parts of the world. Yet for some, it has been an integral element of their culture. Usually, the practice is rooted in religious and tribal practices. Eating another person may also be seen as part of survival where food is scarce.  For others, cannibalism is simply the result of a morbid fascination and desire to taste the meat of another person. Cannibals who were interviewed reported that the flesh of other people taste like pork. Hence, the nickname of human flesh being “long pig.”

In some news updates, there have been tales of cannibals who engage in brutal acts such as tearing another person’s heart from their chest and devouring someone else’s face. There have also been reports of less serious acts like women who eat their placenta after giving birth.

Throughout history, people have been shown to engage in acts of cannibalism, even dating back from 800,000 to several million years. Even though most cannibalism practices are fading, they have not completely died out. Some minorities have preserved these practices for spiritual purposes, while others continue to try and fulfill their yearning to sink their teeth into human meat. Sometimes, these cannibals are fortunate enough to find willing victims who, strangely enough, are enthusiastic about being eaten.

 

Types of Cannibalism

Listverse indicates that there are generally two types of cannibalism. These categories are:

Endocannibalism

In this type of cannibalism, people eat the bodies of their dead members of their family or tribe to honor the deceased. An instance of this the custom of the Fore tribe from Papua New Guinea. The members of the Fore Tribe have the belief that in order for the soul of the dead person to stay connected to those who are alive, they are obligated to eat that person’s body parts including their brain and their skin.

Exocannibalism

Opposite to endocannibalism, the aim of this type of cannibalism is to either threaten their enemies or take away their life force. In 2014, this was demonstrated by an African man called Mad Dog who fed on a Muslim’s man’s leg as a form of revenge on the unrelated Muslims who did atrocious acts to his family. Previously in his life, some Muslims have killed his pregnant wife, his sister-in-law, and her baby.

Theoretical Reasons For Cannibalism

Besides practicing it as a cultural ritual or as a survival tactic, there is no clear understanding as to why people would engage in cannibalism. Some experts infer that it may be caused by childhood trauma linked to separation anxiety from their mother which also lead to them having oral aggression. A few criminal cannibalists have also been discovered to be affected by schizophrenia. Some are also known to resort to cannibalism as a way to fulfill their sexual fetishes.

 

Effects of Cannibalism on the Body

It turns out that aside from the long pig being an unsustainable supply of food, it is also revealed to be unhealthy. Dr. Jim Stoppani, a Yale certified nutritionist stated that the best parts of a human to ingest are the muscles, which are rich in protein and the brain which is rich in fat and glucose. However, feeding on these may risk a person to acquiring a disease. Since the liver and kidney are full of waste products, it is advised that people abstain from eating those. Eyes should also not be consumed because their acidic solution could cause a person to fall ill.

Those who practice cannibalism are prone to getting Kuru, the human form of Mad Cow Disease caused by prions. When people eat human meat, they are likely to have their brains come in contact with infected proteins called prions (shortened name of proteinaceous infectious particles). In the event that these prions encounter other proteins, they attach themselves to them and distort them, horror.media elaborates. One of the ways it distorts them is by making them malformed. Afterwards, they will infect as many of these proteins as they can, slowly causing a person to decay internally.

If an individual is affected by Kuru, this may cause their brain to degenerate, lose their motor skills and in extreme cases, it can lead them to their demise. The most dangerous parts of the body that a person can eat are said to be the bone marrow and the brain, which are infested with prions. In addition, if a person suffers from this disease, they will display symptoms such as hysterical laughter, tremors, not being able to express coherent words and gradually, they may also lose their ability to move or swallow. If they do not die from Kuru, eating the human flesh could lead them to have an oversized stomach, gallbladder and liver, as well as fill their bodies with pus and ulcers. This was shown in an autopsy on Tarrate, a French cannibal in the 18th century.

 

practicing  cannibalism can cause  Kuru/ Photo By Nick Fox via Shutterstock

 

History of Cannibalism

According to Business Insider, the practice of human cannibalism is believed to have started millions of years ago, since the existence of the homo antecessor. It was believed that the homo ancestor was cannibalistic due to nutritional reasons, but over the course of time, humans adapted to the use of more efficient hunting techniques. They found that making other humans their source of food was not sustainable, so they turned their attention to animals as their source of nutrition.

Upon the discovery of America by Columbus in 1492, his expedition team came in contact with a tribe that was ritually cannibalistic, the West Indies Carib tribe. They were unable to pronounce the name of the tribe properly and started calling them Canibs. This mispronunciation was said to be the root of the word cannibal, which was first used in 1553 as stated by the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary.

Throughout the 16th to 18th centuries, there were people who engaged in cannibalism for medicinal purposes. Blood, ground bones and other human body parts were eaten because of the belief that when a person consumes another individual’s body and spirit, it can give them power and life.

In more recent cases, particularly during the 20th century, there have been reports of people engaging in survival cannibalism. Some of the cases of this have happened the 1960s in China, while up to now, it still occurs in Korea.

 

Cannibalism in Pop Culture

The most popular reference to cannibalism in media is the movie Silence of the Lambs which is noted for their characters Hannibal Lecter and James Gumb, who is commonly known as Buffalo Bill. This movie has also been known to prompt some people to try cannibalism. In many cases, it has served as an inspiration to most cannibals because its depiction of cannibalism piques the interest of many.

It was also featured in some fairy tales, the most famous one being Hansel and Gretel, health24.com states.

 

Places and Tribes that Still Practice Cannibalism

Some of the locations where the human flesh is considered a delicious delicacy by selected tribes and sects are Papua New Guinea, Congo, Fiji and French Polynesia. Other places where some criminals have been convicted for their cannibalistic crimes are Liberia, Germany, Cambodia, and Florida.

 

 a person who is found guilty of cannibalism will be given murder charges in the US/ Photo By DarkBird via Shutterstock

 

Infamous Modern-day Cannibals

Though some people engage in cannibalistic activities in groups, there are some people who prefer to enjoy their human meal by themselves. Two of the most famous criminal cannibals come from Japan and Germany. Due to public and media curiosity, they have often been interviewed about the whole process, experience and reasons for consuming the long pig. They have also been asked what it tastes like, straight from their prison cells. Mentalfloss.com and lifedeathprizes.com describe in detail how Issei Sagawa and Armin Meiwes became the most talked about cannibals they are today.

Issei Sagawa

This Japanese human flesh enthusiast has been deemed as Japan’s “celebrity cannibal”. At 28 years old, he traveled to Paris and resided there to pursue his studies. As he continued to study in Sorbonne, he fell in love with a Dutch classmate named Renee Hartevelt. One day, he asked her to have a dinner date at his house. She accepted his invitation which would unknowingly lead to her death.

Sagawa had been contemplating her murder for quite a long time and had chosen her as his victim because of alluring features. He finally killed her on June 11, 1981 by aiming a rifle at her neck. He consumed her body in a span of two days and threw away the parts that were left of her. In devouring Hartevelt, he hoped that he would be able to soak up her energy and it would also help compensate his weaknesses. When he was throwing away leftovers of her flesh, the French police caught him in the act.

After being regarded as unfit to stand trial, he was kept in a psychiatric institution. Soon, he was deported back to his country and was detained in the Matsuzawa hospital. The mental health professionals found him to be sane and said that his crimes were driven by sexual perversion.

All the charges against Sagawa in France were dropped, due to an unfortunate twist in their law. Documents pertaining to the murder he committed were sealed and Japanese authorities were not able to gain access to them. As a result, they were unable to imprison him in Japan. He was able to leave the hospital in 1986 and is presently roaming free.

Armin Meiwes

Armin Meiwes, a German,  found a match in Bernd Jurgen Armando Brandes after he posted “Looking for a well-built 18-30 year old to be slaughtered and consumed” on a blog. Brandes positively responded through a German chatroom where they discussed how they will follow through with their planned cannibalistic activity.

March 9, 2001, the fateful day when they met each other face to face arrived. Brandes consented to being eaten by Meiwes as originally planned and they documented their cannibalistic acts. After some months passed, Meiwes had fully consumed Brandes’ flesh and came back to the cannibal fetish blog to seek his next willing victim. However, instead of being able to find another victim, he was reported to the police upon posting his second ad. He was charged for manslaughter in 2004. Two years later, he stood trial again and was convicted with murder. In 2006, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

 

Laws on Cannibalism

Despite cannibalism being greatly discouraged, there have been no laws explicitly prohibiting its practices, especially in the United States. At most, a person who is found guilty of cannibalism will be given murder charges and will be convicted for desecrating the dead.

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