What is Cannibalism?

Cannibalism is viewed as a barbaric practice which is shunned in most if not all cultures in the world. However, there are documented cases of cannibalism in traditional tribes as well as modern people. The world “cannibal” is drawn from the Spanish “Canibales” which is the name used to refer to the Carib people. People who practice cannibalism or the act of eating human flesh or specific body parts are called cannibals. Not limited to humans, cannibalism also applies to other living things such as insects and mammals who eat their own kind—may it be sexual cannibalism or cannibalism due to lack of other prey to hunt.

Cannibalism in Different Cultures

Eating human flesh has been present as a cultural practice and has been present for hundreds if not thousands of years, especially in tribes such as those in Melanesia. In some societies, consumption of human flesh is a cultural norm or even a kind of ritual. Some even believe that the deceased, when eaten, can help with the grieving process of those left behind. For tribes, cannibalism may be a celebration of victory against rivals, or as a way of showing the dominant tribe in the said place.

In some cases, cannibalism occurs not because of cultural norms or for ritualistic purposes but rather the need for survival. It has been known to be one of the last resorts for people faced with famine, and since the human body is packed with nutrients—it is an excellent source of energy especially in times of great need or food scarcity.

Cannibalism in Modern Men

Some cannibals are actually mentally ill people who have their personal reasons for committing cannibalism. One of the most famous documented cases was of Albert Fish who was a known child murderer and cannibal. He even documented his own acts and sent a letter to one of his victim’s parents. His victim was named Grace Budd whose parents he was able to convince to allow him to accompany to a party.

Armin Meiwes

In more recent events, German Armin Meiwes used the internet forum Cannibal Café to get in touch with a willing subject which he later on consumed. He admitted to his crime and revealed the details of what transpired once the victim was with him. He is presently serving a life sentence in a German prison.

Whether it is a cultural norm or a kind of human perversion, there are still debates on cannibalism and whether or not it should be treated as a mental disorder.