Though often used to refer to Human cannibalism, in Zoology the term ‘cannibalism‘ refers to the act of consuming another individual of the same species as food. Another surprising aspect is that it is found in more than 1,500 species of the animal kingdom and thus is quite a common ecological interaction in the animal kingdom. It is utterly prevalent in nutritionally poor environments as individuals turn to conspecifics as an additional food source. The hard truth is cannibalism regulates population numbers, leading to a decrease in potential competition, which ultimately translates to an increase in the availability of resources such as food, shelter and territory. However, as good as it sounds at the individual level, cannibalism also decreases the expected survival rate of the whole species as a whole. Other drawbacks include more exposure to pathogen transmission as the encounter rate of hosts increases.
Around 90% of all organisms engage in cannibalistic activity at some point in their life cycle. Surprisingly, it is not confined to carnivorous species; many herbivores and detritivores follow cannibalism too. There are different forms of cannibalism like sexual cannibalism (the female consumes the male before, during or after copulation) seen in redback spider, praying mantis and scorpion, size–structured cannibalism in chimpanzee, filial cannibalism in teleost fish and nematodes of the order Mononchida and intrauterine cannibalism in lamnoid sharks, fire salamander.
Considering Sapiens’ humble beginnings as cavemen, who had to compete with their neighbouring cave’s troupe, it is no surprise that human cannibalism was an extensive practice for centuries. In his world-renowned book ‘Sapiens’, Yuval Noah Harari describes how religion, familial values and cognitive functions ‘tamed’ humans. Centuries of behavioural brainwash led to the mainstream regarding cannibalism as something ‘barbaric’ or ‘inhumane’. But you know what? The word ‘human’ doesn’t personify ‘civilized’. We were supposed to be wild beings.
AROUND THE WORLD
Somethings just survive. Even after facing such a widespread repulsion by the majority, it’s still alive in various parts of the world. However, eating human flesh is mostly a vital part and parcel of their tradition or religious ceremonies. While the legality of cannibalism is another issue, here’s a list of places around the world, where people would be pleased to meat you.
- 1.PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Up until the 1970s, the Korowai tribe didn’t have any contact with the western world. They did not know that a world existed outside. So most of the tribesmen still believe that outsiders carry demons and spirits.
Found along the Ndeiram Kabur River in Western New Guinea, they have a rather strange belief. They think that a khakua (demon) is responsible for the group members’ deaths and hence, it is their moral duty to avenge the death by consuming the carcass’s meat. A primitive bow and arrow are used to hunt down trespassers, uninvited outsiders and inter-clan rivals.
- 2.FIJI (THE NAIHEHE CAVES)
Famously dubbed as ‘Cannibal Island’, Fiji has around 2,500 years of history in cannibalism. Archaeological pieces of evidence such as butchery marks on human remnants suggest cannibalistic activity.
The reason, however, is a bit twisted. The Fijian chiefs hold the belief that eating their enemies’ flesh would be their ultimate insult, signifying revenge, control, power. The second belief was that consuming your enemies’ flesh would make lead to the transmission of their knowledge. However, it was a rather brutal ceremony. Most of the victims were butchered badly while the drumming and chanting went on. The flesh was eaten using special forks.
Nowadays, there is close to no cannibal activity there except in the Naihehe caves. Those caves claim to house the last man-eating group of people on the island.
- 3.THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
It came into light in 2003, through Sinafasi Makelo who represented Mbuti Pygmies at a United Nations meeting. He claimed that rebels from Congo’s Ituri province engaged in cannibalism.
Then the 2003 Human Rights Watch investigation came across the rebels indulging in cannibalism “to bring ritual strength to perpetrators and to inspire terror in opponents.”
Some stories like Maria’s saw light. As per The UK Independent, one morning Maria, a 23-year-old Chantal Tsesi heard a gunshot. The Ituri soldiers marched into her humble abode and made the announcement, “Today we are going to cut off your arm.” one of them said.
“They cut off my arm,” Tsesi told The UK Independent‘s Eliza Griswold in 2004. “They cooked it, while they were drinking our mandro [traditional beer], and ate it with the rest of the beans and rice.” She added, “They told me they were going to find my husband and eat his heart.”
It is a common legend that Cambodian soldiers fighting in the Khmer Rouge Rebellion cut the livers and hearts out of the carcasses of their comrades to eat them or even carried them home to dine.
The population holds animist spiritual views that the human liver is an embodiment of utter gallantry and therefore the consumption of a defeated enemy’s liver will lead to the transfer of his or her bravery. They too regarded the gallbladder to hold medicinal values.
- 5.NEW ZEALAND
In his book ‘This Horrid Practice’, Paul Moon elaborated the Maori cannibalistic tradition to not be a food issue, but rather as a post-battle phenomenon. It was like a body-disposal phenomenon and also served as a warning alarm to other enemies that it’s going to be far worse than death.
Another prevalent practise was infanticide. The tribals wanted their children to grow up to be warriors and hence killed their daughters by putting a finger through their soft skull tissues or strangle them.