Cannibalism is a clear taboo in our society. But, putting ethics aside,
what are the other reasons why you should not eat other humans?
Did you know that cannibalism used to be a popular medical remedy?
That's right, in the 17th century, well before Advil, Europeans would ingest
ground up mummies for headaches. And human fat, blood, and bone were
used to treat everything from gout to nosebleeds, yet cannibalism is largely
absent and morally frowned upon today. But let's forget the social quagmire.
There are plenty of reasons why you shouldn't eat people these days.
For starters, we now know that human meat is a surprisingly low source of
calories compared to other red meats. According to one study, human muscle
contains about 1,300 calories per kilogram. That's less than beef, and nothing
compared to bear and boar meat. Now you might think this would actually make
human burgers a great low cal alternative, until you remember you're probably
trying to eat humans because you're starving to death. So low cal is the
opposite of what you want, plus it's not worth taking the risk if you could
help it. It turns out we carry some pretty nasty diseases that make 24-hour
food poisoning look like the sniffles. Eat someone raw, and you risk contracting
any bloodborne diseases they carry. But even if you cook the meat, it still
won't always go so well for you. Case in point are the Fore people of Papua
New Guinea. The would eat the body and brain of the deceased family
members out of cultural tradition. But that practice stopped after hundreds of
people died in the 1950s and '60s from an otherwise rare neurological disorder
which they contracted from eating infected human brains. The brain tissue
contained prions, deadly misfolded proteins that form spongy holes in your brain.
They survive the cooking process and, if eaten, are highly contagious.
On the legal side of things, cannibalism falls into a gray area. Oddly enough,
cannibalism itself isn't illegal in the US or UK, but you probably committed some
crime along the way to get that slab of meat, grave robbing, desecration of a
corpse, murder and maybe all of the above. One exception that won't put you
behind bars is if you eat yourself. Yep, that's a thing. It's called autocannibalism.
The most common example today, called placentophagy, is when a woman eats
her placenta after giving birth. The idea is that it could raise energy levels and
reduce the risk of postpartum depression by stabilizing hormones, but the science
is still out on whether there's any real benefit. Regardless, this ancient practice
has recently found new life in Western culture. Kim Kardashian and Alicia Silverstone
have reportedly done it. And there are numerous US companies that will grind your
placenta into a powder so you could take it like any other vitamin supplement,
but the CDC warns that even this cutting edge form of cannibalism is a bad idea
because it could transfer a harmful bacteria from mother to child. So if you have
a hankering for human, maybe try some pork instead. After all, that's what
we taste like. Oh, wait, wait, I mean according to cannibals.
1. How was cannibalism a popular medical remedy in the 17th century?
2. How is human meat compared with other meat?
3. Give example of autocannibalism.