Monday, July 28, 2008

What's That On Your Plate--part 2

Another Sequel Post.

Bugs are a controversial meal, but there's something even more controversial.

Eating each other. Cannibalism.

One of the Australian-related books I read this year was called The Custom of The Sea.

It's the true story of a British ship bound for Sydney in 1884.

The Custom of the Sea refers to a practice where if things are very bleak, one person is randomly chosen to be eaten. This is called survival cannibalism and it differs from ritual cannibalism.

According to the book, survival cannibalism was not rare at sea. It was a fairly open practice with specified instructions on how to proceed (what part of body to eat first and how to do the killing) and there was poetry written about it.

Captain Tom Dudley deviated from the rules a bit. Instead of choosing randomly (drawing straws), he picked the weakest--the young man who was sick and close to death. Then they killed him and ate him.

Tom felt grief for what he did and probably some shame. But he didn't think he had done anything illegal. Because of this, he did not make any attempts to conceal the incident. When they finally reached land, he openly told his story. To his shock, he was arrested. The rest of the book is about the trial.

Personally, the book made me furious. These men did what they could to survive. The man they killed would have died anyway. If they hadn't eaten him, they would have all died.

I felt the same way when I read the book Alive--the one where the plane crashes in the Andes. I couldn't understand the hesitation or the guilt.

I think I'm missing the gene that makes most people see cannibalism as wrong and horrific.

Okay, don't get me wrong. Don't get scared. I'm not some kind of Hannibal Lector. I don't have a craving for human flesh. I don't look at my friends and think Oooh, I wonder if you'd taste better barbecued or fried.

I hope I never come to the point where I have to make the choice--die of starvation or eat my dead/dying companion.

All I'm saying is that if my survival depended on it......

I'm a vegetarian. I don't eat meat. I don't see a need to do it. I think meat is a luxury, not a dietary necessity.

But if I'm in a situation where I'm starving--or someone I love is starving? All bets are off. If there's not enough mangoes in the trees and grapes on the vines, I'm eating any animal I can find--and that includes the hairless ape.

I suppose some people have a deep respect for the human body--the dead human body. I don't.

I never understand why people search for body parts so someone can have a proper burial. I can understand searching for the body so the family knows he/she is truly dead. You want closure. Of course! I just can't personally understand the proper burial thing.

For me, a dead body is gross--a piece of trash that should be discarded. Or eaten if you're really hungry.

I guess it's just one of those moral issues where I'm on a different page than most people.

There was an episode of Nip/Tuck that offended me. A woman and her boyfriend were on their honeymoon. They got stranded somewhere in their car. The woman had hypoglycemia--a bad case and was dying. Her husband sliced off a small piece of his flesh, cooked it with a lighter, and saved her life.

They came to the plastic surgeons so they could patch up his arm.

Now I thought this couple had been incredibly brave. I thought what the man did for his wife was the right thing to do. He loved her. He saved her life. Yes, it's a bit gross. But what can you do?

Christian and Sean acted completely disgusted with the couple. They treated them like pariahs.

When you're in your comfortable home with your fully stocked refrigerator, it's easy to judge others.

When you're starving and there's no food around....you do what you have to do. Or you die.