To Serve Man is a science fiction short story by Damon Knight. In the 1960s it was made into an episode of Twilight Zone. In the story a bunch of highly intelligent, friendly aliens come to earth and teach man how to end wars, famine and pretty much everything else that’s wrong on the planet. They even offer free trips to their own Shangri-La planet, Kanamit. One day one of the aliens leaves behind a book which someone figures out how to translate. It’s called, To Serve Man. Everyone is feeling all warm and fuzzy about their new alien friends until they figure out that To Serve Man is a cookbook.
What does human flesh taste like, you ask? Well, a New York Times journalist, William Buehler Seabrook, once convinced a medical intern to give him a chunk of human to taste (for research purposes). Seabrook cooked it. (Breaded I think, like a cutlet, with a little seasoning and some spring vegetables). His opinion:
It was like good, fully developed veal, not young, but not yet beef. It was very definitely like that, and it was not like any other meat I had ever tasted. It was so nearly like good, fully developed veal that I think no person with a palate of ordinary, normal sensitiveness could distinguish it from veal. It was mild, good meat with no other sharply defined or highly characteristic taste such as for instance, goat, high game, and pork have.
The consensus among all serial killer cannibals, on the other hand is that human flesh tastes exactly like pork. (And, ergo that pork tastes exactly like human flesh. Yum).
Cannibalism was widespread among communities of people throughout history and even on into the 19th century. Today, there is only one tribe that we know of who still practice cannibalism – the Korowai of Papua, New Guinea. There are only 3,000 of them left. (Time to hit the A&P).
Anthropologist Beth Conklin, spent time with The Wari’ tribe in the Amazon, who practiced cannibalism until the 1960s when missionaries forced them to stop.
They ate people for two separate reasons. One; they ate their enemies (after killing them in battle) as an added expression of anger. And two; they ate members of their own tribe who had died naturally, as an expression of respect and as their way of coping with grief.
In her book, Consuming Grief: Compassionate Cannibalism in an Amazonian Society, Conklin says:
I hope that this book will make people think more deeply about the meanings that the body has in human relationships, and to consider that other cultures may have understood those in ways that made the destruction and transformation of the body through cannibalism seem to be the best, most respectful, most loving way to deal with the death of someone you care about.
Today, most Western cultures believe cannibalism to be socially unacceptable. But why? (You can’t just say, “Because…ewww, it’s gross.”)
With over-population in many areas of the world and famine in many more, why waste a nutritious product by burying it in valuable and ever more scarce land?
We can’t kill people for food; that’s a whole other taboo/law. But if healthy people die in accidents is there anything inherently wrong with using them for food?
If the dead person has signed “donor cards” ahead of time saying it’s okay with them if their body is used for food after they die?
Would that be so much worse than cultivating and slaughtering our fellow mammals for food?
With the way we’re laying waste to our environment, could cannibalism one day be our only way to survive? Remember the awesome 1970’s dystopian flim Soylent Green?
Would you find humans more palatable if they were made into little green crackers?
What about in a survival situation? Like Alfred Packer or the Donner party or the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 gang. You’re in a plane crash in the middle of nowhere and have very little chance of being rescued. There is nothing else to eat and some of your fellow passengers have died in the crash. Time goes by. Do you allow yourself to starve to death or would you dig in?