Exploring Human Cannibalism: Its History, Its Benefits, And How It Explains Our Fascination With Zombies
Cannibalism has been a hot topic of discussion in popular culture, but few people know the details of its history and prevalence in both humans and animals.
In this book, you’ll get an inside look at cannibalism that provides insight into its evolutionary benefits, shows how we can guess at the taste of human flesh, and exposes practices that are still performed by some today.
You’ll learn why cannibalism has been an accepted part of life for many animal species around the world.
And by examining our language, movies, and television references to it, you’ll gain a better understanding of why it’s so heavily tabooed in humans.
So if you’re looking to get a taste of how cannibalism works in both humans and animals, this book is definitely worth picking up!
Cannibalism: How Normal Conditions Can Turn Predators Into Prey
Most people consider cannibalism a shocking abomination, not something that is natural.
But after decades of research, it turns out that cannibalism has been observed in many animal groups and is actually quite common.
Scientists like Laurel Fox from the University of California at Santa Cruz revealed that different environmental factors result in cannablism being observed throughout the animal kingdom – even in “herbivore” species such as butterflies!
Cannibalism usually arises from overcrowding or poor nutrition and other nutritionally marginal areas, while it’s rare to find these behaviors in situations with adequate food supplies.
This goes to show that while cannibalism may be thought of as unnatural and appalling by most, the reality is much different when we look closer into the science of it.
Cannibalism: An Evolutionary Perspective On Nature’S Driven Practice
Cannibalism is typically thought of as a desperate, last-resort strategy for survival.
But in certain species, it can play an evolutionary role.
This has been best demonstrated by the work of Gary Polis, an ecologist from 1980 who noted that immature animals often get eaten more often than adults due to their easy accessibility and high nutrition value.
This phenomenon can be seen in fish, where eggs, larvae and fry are plentiful, small and very nourishing – usually leading to cannibalism among the same species.
Not only does this provide an easy source of food when needed but it also accelerates the developmental processes of certain species; for example, flour beetles have been found to produce more eggs when they practice cannibalism compared to non-cannibals.
Moreover, some species even begin cannibalistic behaviors before they are born!
Sand tiger sharks have been known to practice cannibalism even while still in utero with its siblings; oftentimes leaving just two individuals after preying on its siblings’ eggs or smaller embryos.
Cannibalism provides these sharks with both nutritional sustenance and valuable experience killing for survival prior to birth.
Overall then, there’s evidence that suggests cannibalism can serve a role beyond hunger for survival – it can also be an evolutionary advantage in certain cases!
Cannibalism In Nature Presents Problems That Can Lead To Disease And Population Extinction
When environmental conditions become stressful, it can lead to cannibalistic behavior in a variety of creatures.
For example, overcrowding and lack of access to alternative sources of nutrition are factors present in chickens and hamsters that have caused them to engage in cannibalism.
It is estimated that only 75 out of 5,700 species of mammals practice any kind of cannibalism, likely due to the relatively low numbers of offspring produced by mammals and the advanced level of parental care they provide.
Chimpanzees will occasionally resort to cannibalism as a result of population density or other environmental issues, while some researchers theorize humans encroaching on chimpanzee preserves may cause an uptick in this behavior.
Although certain environmental factors can necessitate cannibalistic behavior amongst some animals, it comes with many drawbacks.
Warm blooded animals who eat their own are at higher risk for contracting diseases due to parasites and pathogens that are often species-specific having evolved ways to overcome a certain animal’s immune defences.
The Fore people of New Guinea provide one notorious example – their ritualistic consumption of deceased relatives’ brains led to a devastating outbreak of kuru disease which nearly wiped out their entire population.
From Human Flesh To Placenta: A Look At The Different Forms Of Cannibalism
You might be surprised to know that real-life cannibals exist today – including the infamous Armin Meiwes, who killed and ate a man in 2001, or Issei Sagawa, who committed a similar crime in 1981.
There are even reports of individuals like white middle class women consuming their own placenta, raw or in smoothies, as well as companies turning placenta into supplements.
So while most people consider cannibalism grotesque and savage, there are some individuals out there who disagree.
It’s possible you might even know someone practicing cannibalism!
The question remains: why do real-life cannibals exist today? While some midwives and alternative health advocates claim the placenta has therapeutic benefits to replenish nutritional loss caused by pregnancy and delivery, much more research is needed to confirm these claims.
How Historical And Pop-Cultural Representations Of Cannibalism Justified Colonization And Perpetuated A Global Taboo
The Western taboo against cannibalism dates back to the Judeo-Christian belief that the dead need a complete body in order to be resurrected.
Over time, this taboo has been further perpetuated through cultural distinctions between “insiders” and “outsiders” based on diet.
For example, colonialists labeled native inhabitants as savages or primitives and frequently ascribed cannibalism as an attribute of their cultures.
But western scholars have also been subjected to an even deeper form of indoctrination—that of fairy tales such as Charles Perrault’s Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood, and the Brothers Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel.
All offer examples of evil, maniacal cannibals which inspired fear in children for centuries—promoting the Western taboos against cannibalism by associating it with danger and death.
Thus, while religion has certainly played a significant role in creating the Western taboos against cannibalism, these taboos were further popularized by storytelling which made them especially memorable to each new generation of readers.
Can Cannibalism Make A Comeback? Evidence Points To The Possibility Amidst Global Environmental Stressors
Humans have evolved cultural norms that make cannibalism unacceptable.
However, as the world faces more serious environmental stressors, there is a chance that these taboos may begin to fade away and cannibalism could become more widespread.
This is especially true during times of famine and war, when people turn to desperate measures in order to survive.
History has shown us this—cannibalism caused by famine occurred 11 times between 793 and 1317 in Europe, and the same occurrences were seen in other parts of the world.
The environmental stresses that we are facing today can contribute even further to this possibility.
For example, states like Texas and California are facing desertification due to unprecedented droughts over the past few years; similarly, countries like Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia are experiencing their worst drought in 60 years.
With such dire circumstances at hand, it is safe to say that if something isn’t done soon, then cannibalism might become a reality once again in the modern world.
At the end of Cannibalism, the key message is that human cannibalism should not be completely dismissed as a taboo occurrence.
It is something that could reemerge in our society if certain environmental pressures are present.
The book points to times throughout history when it has occurred, as well as studies conducted by modern researchers which have revealed that it is a natural phenomenon.
It highlights the potential for tensions and food shortages in the future to cause people to eat each other out of necessity, rather than any twisted or evil intent.
Ultimately, Cannibalism serves as a reminder that humans should strive to live in harmony with the environment and minimize any resources wastage, so such an act will never have to be resorted to again.