iOS app Android app More

Cannibalism: Is It Safe To Eat People? (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

First Posted: 05/09/2012 7:51 am Updated: 05/09/2012 1:44 pm

There's no doubt that cannibalism is simultaneously fascinating and repulsive. Hearing survival stories makes us question whether we could eat the flesh of our fallen companions, like the Donner party was forced to do in February of 1847. Choosing to eat human flesh is even more unfathomable, as Jeffrey Dahmer did to many of his 17 victims between 1978 and 1991.

Apparently, cannibalism is alive and well today. Right here in the United States, just this past winter, a man allegedly killed another man with an axe, ate his brain, and washed it down with some sake. And in one of only eight documented cases of self-cannibalism in the world, a New Zealand man recently and quite methodically removed his own finger with an electric saw, cooked it in a pot with vegetables, and served it up for dinner.

Ever the science geek, this got me thinking, is eating people dangerous? Nutritional? Healthy? What actually happens, physiologically, when human flesh is consumed? To learn more about cannibalism and it's dangers, watch the video above and/or click the link below. And check out the included slideshow to see depictions of cannibalism throughout history. As always, don't forget to leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Talk nerdy to me!


CORRECTION: The video states that "three Brazilian men...were arrested for making empanadas out of their murder victims." In fact, the accused individuals are one man and two women.

See all Talk Nerdy to Me posts.
Like Cara Santa Maria on Facebook.
Follow Cara Santa Maria on Twitter.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Cannibalistic practices date back at least 800,000 years, according to anthropologists. In fact, <a href="a href="" target="_hplink"" target="_hplink">fossilized human remains</a> suggest that early Europeans hunted and ate each other frequently. (Photo: a model of a female homo antecessor practicing cannibalism on display in an exhibit of the FundaciĆ³n Atapuerca in Spain).

  • Fossilized human remains found in a ditch in southern Germany could serve as evidence of mass cannibalism in the Early Neolithic Era, according to <a href="" target="_hplink">research published in Antiquity</a> in 2009. (Photo: bones, discovered in Herxheim, indicate that the bodies were first butchered, and heads were skinned).

  • In the early 1500s, European explorers documented cannibalistic rituals among various native tribes in the Americas. (Photo: depiction of cannibalism in the Americas, attributed to Italian explorer <a href=" and cannibalism&f=false" target="_hplink">Amerigo Vespucci</a>).

  • In the 1920s, when a famine hit areas of Russia, multiple acts of cannibalism were recorded. "Parents kill children," wrote one reporter in The New York Times in May 1922. (Photo: victims of the famine in Russia collected at a cemetery).

  • A <a href="" target="_hplink">kuru epidemic</a> amongst the Fore tribe of Papua New Guinea in the 1950s was attributed to cannibalism of infected individuals. (Video taken in 1963)