By Linda, Everett Public Library staff
Did you know some cannibals say that humans taste like pork!
I found this information in the prologue of the book Death by Cannibal by Peter Davidson. This book has the true stories of five convicted cannibals.
One of the most famous cases of cannibalism is the Donner Party. Author Bill Schutt investigates the evidence surrounding this controversial case of “did they or didn’t they?” in Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History. The case of Alfred G. Packer is another cannibalistic tale told in the book A Voice for the Dead by James E. Starrs. In 1873 Alfred took off near Provo, Utah with five other prospectors and was the only one to return. As of 2005 when this book was published, James tells us that “Even in today’s world of criminal statutes in the 50 states, the only state declaring cannibalism to be a punishable criminal offense is Idaho.” (page 22)
There are different ways to be a cannibal. Dinner with a Cannibal: The Complete History of Mankind’s Oldest Taboo by Carole A Travis-Henikoff tells us that starvation brings on survival cannibalism, while the ingestion of dead relatives is known as endocannibalism or funerary cannibalism. Religious cannibalism is actual or simulated partaking of human flesh and blood, and autophagy (to eat one’s self) ranges from the little child picking their nose and eating it to torture-induced self-consumption and truly disturbed individuals who cook and eat their own flesh. There are a few other types as well… medicinal, gastronomic, and ritual. This book tells you all you could ever possibly want to know.
Speaking of tasting like pork, humans are more like pigs than we think! Pig (and baboon) body parts have been transplanted into humans in several cases. According to an article in the Aug/Sept 2017 issue of Atlantic Monthly, pigs are also being genetically engineered to grow organs for people. This is called xenotransplanting.
There are many animals that are cannibals too. It is not uncommon for adult lions, hyenas, bears and many other animals to eat the young of their species to prevent them from being competition when they are older, or for young siblings to eliminate competition for food from their mothers. Eternal Enemies: Lions and Hyenas is a DVD that shows both lions and hyenas in this (graphic) documentary.
As author and chef Alton Brown says: “That’s good-eats!” Let’s hope none of us are ever desperate enough to find out!