Cannibalism is one of mankind’s ultimate taboos... but what would it take to kill and devour another human being?
The term 'Cannibal' originates from the Carib Indians of the Caribbean. The Carib Indians were accused by their neighbours as being very fierce and of eating people. The Spanish had a problem pronouncing the letter 'r' in Carib, so this became 'Canib' and eventually 'Canibales'.
Those of us who have bitten our finger nails or eaten a bit of our own hair can be counted as a type of cannibal. Also known as auto cannibalism or self cannibalism.
“Kuru” is a disease found amongst certain tribes in Papua New Guinea which is said to be contracted by eating human flesh. Scientists think of it as the human equivalent of Mad Cow disease.
Even fairytales have cannibals; the wicked stepmother wanted to eat Snow Whites heart, the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk enjoyed to eat English men and Hansel and Gretel were captured by an evil child eating witch.
The Aztecs are believed to have engaged in Cannibalism in order to appease their Gods. One of their emperors Moctezuma is said to have been quite partial to human thighs served with tomatoes and chilli pepper sauce.
In 1972 an airplane carrying a Uruguayan rugby team across the Andes crashed. Those who didn’t perish were forced to eat the flesh of the other victims in order to survive and were eventually rescued 72 days later.
There are also Cannibals in the animal kingdom. The Humboldt squid is known to eat its counterparts especially if they are injured. Their sharp, barbed tentacles cut their prey apart and drag it to their mouth where their baseball sized beak can shred it into edible chunks.
The Fore tribe of Papua New Guinea ate every part of their deceased including their bones and faeces. This practice known as endo-cannibalism, was actually born out of love and respect as they viewed it as a way their deceased to literally live on forever.
A cannibalistic practice known as Ko Ku and Ko Kan occurred in China. Sons and daughters would donate parts of their body such as their liver to their sick parents. A Princess called Miao Chuang surrendered her severed hands to her ailing father, after which she was deified.
There are many different forms of Cannibalism. Some of the less documented forms include Gastronomic cannibalism which is non survival cannibalism, medicinal cannibalism which involves the consumption of human tissues or bone for medical purposes and sadistic cannibalism which is the killing and eating of individuals out of sadistic or psycho pathological motives.
Two scientists named Garn and Block suggested that the meat yield from the average human body would provide about 4.0 Kilograms of protein thus meeting the daily nutritional requirements of only sixty adults.
The Donner party was a group of American pioneers who on their journey to California in 1846 resorted to cannibalism in order to survive after being snowbound in the Sierra Nevada. Of the 87 members of the party that originally set out only 48 survived to reach California.
Vegetarian campaigners in Berlin created a website advertising a new restaurant named ‘Flime’ calling diners to donate their body parts. They said the reason for the elaborate hoax was to draw consumer’s attention to ‘the evils of meat eating.’
In 2007 the Tolai tribe from Papua New Guinea apologized for killing and eating four 19th century missionaries. They were murdered on the orders of their warrior chief, Taleli and were subsequently cooked and eaten.
In Australia, cannibalism was practiced to gain the powers of the particular person who was being eaten. Tribes who ate their enemies rationalized their consumption quite literally, eating the brain for knowledge, the heart for courage and power and the legs if the victim was a fast runner.