Is it time for a more subtle view on the ultimate taboo: cannibalism?

C1R8W3 Maipure Indians, inhabitants of the Upper Orinoco river, grilling the legs of a dead enemy. Italian Engraving 1781. Colored.


IT IS the ultimate taboo: in most societies, the idea of one human eating another is morally repugnant. Even in circumstances where it could arguably be justified, such as when a plane crashed in the Andes in 1972 and starving passengers ate the dead to survive, we still have a deep aversion to cannibalism. One of the survivors, Roberto Canessa, has since described the passengers’ actions as a “descent towards our ultimate indignity”.

Ethically, cannibalism poses fewer issues than you might imagine. If a body can be bequeathed with consent to medical science, why can’t it be left to…

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