It seems that cannibalism just isn't going away.  It becomes more common in periods of resource shortages, leading to starvation (e.g., the collapse of the Chaco Canyon culture), and in occasional incidences of enforced isolation (e.g., the famous Donner Party).  But it appears that it is also becoming more common as a result of chronic impoverishment and desperation, resulting in disaffection.  If so, and if we wish to stamp it out, there is one more good reason to pay attention to poverty and its root causes, and make a serious effort to alleviate it, rather than just leave it to "the market" to solve.

-SB

Humans Still Eating Humans

...The recent arrest of three people in Brazil suspected of making empanadas out of human flesh (and then selling them) reminds us that though human cannibalism is rare in the modern world, it still persists.

Brazil, in particular, has been linked to cannibalism in recent years. The Lancet journal reported in 1994 “that eating human remains” was common among 250 people who lived in an Olinda slum. “Poverty and a lack of compliance with laws” were blamed, since the starving individuals were eating human body parts that they found in the Brazilian city’s garbage dump.

“Cannibalism is an ethologic behavior widespread among human primates and non-human primates,” Isabel Cáceres, a paleoecologist at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, told Discovery News. Cáceres has studied the phenomenon -- going back up to 780,000 years ago in our ancestors.

“Probably, the practice of cannibalism in the genus Homo appears due to lack of resources and competition for territory in critical moments,” she added.

The recent case was apparently a cruel twist on that strategy. The suspects confessed to murdering at least two women, eating parts of their bodies, and using the rest to make meat pies sold in the town of Garanhuns near Sao Paulo.

One quote from one of the suspects also points to other factors. Fifty-one-year old Jorge Beltrao Negroponte told SBT Television, “I did certain things for purification, to protect people and deliver them to God...”

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Replies to This Discussion

Self control is the one frontier that humanity has yet to embrace, cannibalism is but one nightmare. We  have the technology, the science and a new worldview which could assure abundance to the worlds' population. All this while returning to nature much that we have taken away from her. I think I bought one of those meat pies---tastes a lot like chicken--oops that was MacDonalds!!    

Hmmmmm!  Food for thought for a gruesome dystopic novel?  

With the population of the planet having exceeded 7 billion and growing, Soylent Green may soon no longer be a science fiction story.

Pat,

Yet, humanity does not see the urgency of practicing self control. Is it that humanity at large is incapable of rational action, is it impossible to act collectively towards sustainability. When the ,majority of  people are crazy, they just redefine crazy until it sound acceptable to them--may be! 

"if we wish to stamp it out"
Why do we wish to stamp it out? I can understand the moral argument that we should not do to others that which we would not want to be done to ourselves. However, human remains could be viewed as a valuable source of protein going to waste. If we have no religion imposed morals to prevent us, why should we not willingly give our bodies for the consumption of others following our demise? After all, we give our bodies for transplant or dissection.

Comments?

I think you make a good point Neil.  Even when I was still religious, I could not see why eating a person was wrong, as long as you didn't kill them.

I like people but I couldn't eat a whole one.

I can only imagine this behaviour to be religious...if we were ordered under strict duress to carry out such ritual then there are some UK politicians that I would eat, but only for the pleasure of crapping them out.

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