Saturday, 26 April 2014

by Chua Zi, Form 5 Science 1, Class of 2014

“Soylent Green is people!”

In the 1973 cult sci-fi film, Soylent Green, the world is steeped in overpopulation, poverty, social inequality, pollution, an overheated climate and depleted sources — pretty typical conditions in a 21st century dystopian world. The subsistence of most of the population relies on a foodstuff advertised as a type of algae, but as police detective Robert Thorn screams, it’s actually processed corpses.



That scene encapsulates what a majority of the civilized world thinks of the consumption of humans by humans — it’s horrific. As Youtuber Michael Stevens a.k.a. Vsauce says in his video What Does Human Taste Like?, cannibalism is not only unpleasant on a visceral level, it also sees humans as slabs of meat to be put on plates. People react the same way when humans are treated akin to pigs to the slaughter as they do when exposed to animal abuse videos.

To the exasperation of the public, criminal cannibalism often debilitates the justice system. Those who participate in the act are usually charged with related crimes like murder, desecration of a grave, or necrophilia. In 1981, Issei Sagawa cannibalized a fellow student in France but he currently lives unconfined in Japan. The French had declared him insane and refused to submit the court documents to Japan to charge him for murder. In another famous case in Germany, the victim gave consent in a response to an online forum created by the killer, Armin Miewes which said: “looking for a well-built 18 to 30-year-old to be slaughtered and then consumed.” Meiwes was given a life sentence.

However, socially permissible behaviour, like beauty, is often objective to a culture. Anthropologist Beth Conklin wrote in her book, Consuming Grief: Compassionate Cannibalism in an Amazonian Society, "Cannibalism is a difficult topic for an anthropologist to write about, for it pushes the limits of cultural relativism, challenging one to define what is or is not beyond the pale of acceptable human behavior." Conklin had observed the Wari tribe of the Amazon rainforest, who consumed deceased tribe members to absorb the spirit of the dead. They considered it to be one of the most respectful ways to treat a deceased member.


Not all are as righteous. Interrogations of persecuted criminal cannibals reveal that cannibalism is sometimes a result of curiosity. What does human meat taste like? What type of human meat is the best meat? How nutritional is it in comparison to chicken, beef, or pork?

In an interview from the jail cell of Armin Miewes, he said, "the flesh tastes like pork, a little bit more bitter, stronger. It tastes quite good.” Issei Sagawa, the Japanese celebrity cannibal, would love to dine on a Japanese woman. "I think either sukiyaki or shabu shabu is the best way to go in order to really savor the natural flavor of the meat."

Based on numbers published in his book, Prime Mover: A Natural History of Muscle, Steven Vogel, a biologist at Duke University theorizes that one human body can provide approximately 45 pounds of edible material, supplying 60,000-70,000 kilocalories worth of nutritional energy. We need 2,000-3,000 kilocalories per day, so said cannibal could sustain for 200 days on a diet consisting solely of that one person’s meat.


So in the offhand chance that the future brings famine due to a new strain of virus, or a prolonged drought and we are subjected to Soylent Green levels of food scarcity, is cannibalism an option?

According to World Health Organization statistics, approximately 55 million people died worldwide in 2011, with the number showing a decreasing trend since 1990. Considering the fact that a cannibalistic diet demands at least one human a year — given other types of food like vegetables and grain are still available and other animal meats are substituted for human meat — that’s barely enough to feed 1% of the current population.

Our last resort would be to go for senior citizens. The United Nations estimates that by the year 2050, the estimated global population of people 60 and up will be around 2 billion. Not to mention we’ll be able to plug the hundred billion dollar drain on the worldwide economy caused by the cost of taking care of senior patients, social protection plans, etc. People 50 and over also control 77% of all financial assets in the United States, a fraction of them billionaires, CEOs, heirs, the like, so a purge of the members of this top 1 percent would rid our newly dystopian world of its model oppressors. 

Alas, 2 billion is still only a fifth of the estimated human population of 2050, so not a viable option either. Social inequality prevails, and you shall never be what you eat.

“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chi-an-ti.” - Dr. Hannibal Lecter

For more information on how to cook a human, click here.
by Chua Zi 14:09 7 comments | in , , , ,

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