Two psychologists from Lancaster University suggested in a recent Newsweek article that it might be time for humans to rethink their aversion to cannibalism. Though consuming human flesh—or anthropophagy—is considered the “ultimate taboo,” they note that it is found throughout the animal kingdom, even among some mammals, and is therefore something natural. The authors aver that there is nothing inherently evil about eating human flesh, but that careful reasoning over the merits of cannibalism is usually “overridden by our feelings of repulsion and disgust.” While not condoning the practice, they note that this revulsion is not based on reason and may even contradict reason. They cite the 1972 Andes plane crash, after which the survivors waited until they were near starvation before “succumbing to reason and eating those who had already died” as supporting evidence of this claim.
The psychologists say that even if we could shed the taboo against eating human flesh, “we can’t silence our thoughts about the person it came from,” ergo the “bias” against cannibalism still persists. If only we were more progressive.
They also note that “philosophers have argued that burying the dead could be wasteful in the context of the fight against world hunger.” This is not the type of recycling I want to think about. It is taking the concept of “waste not, want not” way too far. Let’s just all agree to make a lot more Ramen noodles instead of eating Bob and Betty, okay?
Bizarrely, I’m sure that eating human flesh is the one form of meat ingestion that vegans would support. Whereas “meat is murder” when referring to the consumption of animals, eating humans would help animals and reduce man-caused global warming. “Cannibalism is caring!” That’s a perfect progressive slogan if I’ve ever heard one.
While the authors make it clear they are not actually advocating cannibalism, it is still creepy to think and talk about-- even in a purely academic and “reasonable” sense. Almost every other taboo one can think of has fallen by the wayside or is on the brink of doing so…often in a remarkably short period of time.
I don’t want to wake up one day soon to find that cannibalism is now a mere faux pas. Or even something considered slightly more egregious than jaywalking, but not nearly as bad as failing to use someone’s preferred pronoun.