Am I Meat?

Even with fava beans and a nice chianti, few creatures actually WANT to eat you.

Yes, you are meat. Technically, flesh of a mammal is defined as meat regardless of its origins, pig, cow, armadillo[1] or human. In terms of who would actually eat you under the right conditions, Dorothy was wise watching out for lions, tigers and bears in The Wizard of Oz. She and her posse should also have been looking out for large sharks, alligators, crocodiles, leopards, wolves, jackals and Komodo dragons (though at that point the chant would become rather unwieldy.) According to wiseGEEK, these efficient killers will prey upon humans to survive when their ordinary food sources are scarce. These animals are referred to as apex, alpha or super predators that all live at the top of their food chain.

Those among us who have seen the movies Alive or The Donner Party might suspect that one apex predator was omitted above. It is true. Humans in desperate situations will eat other humans. And there are some among us who don’t need to be so desperate. The Silence of the Lambs is a very scary movie, but in researching this odd query I came across a real life story that makes Dr. Lecter look pretty civilized.[2] There are a number of examples of cannibalism as a manifestation of mental illness - I am sure few of us have not heard of Jeffrey Dahmer.

In terms of cannibalism as a cultural characteristic, one article I stumbled upon put it in a new perspective for me:

Historically, charges of cannibalism were used by European nations to help justify their colonization efforts. As a result, many historical allegations of people eating are undoubtedly false. But the fact that such allegations were made is not sufficient grounds to conclude that all reports of cannibalism are untrustworthy and should be discounted…

That being said, there is at least one New Guinea tribe, the Korowai who claim to still eat other humans.

Cannibalism has long been featured in satire and comedy. In the 1700s Jonathan Swift mocked Irish policy and the heartless attitude toward the poor by suggesting they could ease their troubles by selling their children to the rich as food in A Modest Proposal. Monty Python’s Lifeboat sketch is a delectable tidbit and Steven Colbert recently made a case for eating him in response to an Occupy Wall Street sign encouraging people to Eat the Rich. He’s apparently “well-marbled”. Pearl Jam offers up this amuse bouche about people eater Dirty Frank.

Obviously, giants also eat people. Roald Dahl cooked up the children’s guide to modified cannibalism in the BFG.[3] According to the Big Friendly Giant, the taste of “human beans” varies according to their provenance. Though the BFG doesn’t eat people, “…the others will be whiffling off to all sorts of flungaway places like Wellington for the booty flavor and Panama for the hatty taste.”

But, according to an infamous real life German cannibal, who I beg you not to Google, we taste like pork.


[1] National Geographic confirms that armadillos are in fact mammals, not reptiles as some might think.
[2] Please let me advise you not to Google cannibalism. It will only lead to stomach upset, nightmares and possibly an irrational fear of Craig’s List.
[3] Am I the only one who suspects that the F isn’t REALLY for friendly?

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