Manage episode 259813509 series 2659594
What have you always wanted to know about cannibalism?
Whet your appetite and meet your hosts Alix and Carmella as they answer listener questions about all things anthropophagous (aka “human flesh-eating”) in the run up to Episode One.
Written, hosted and produced by Alix Penn and Carmella Lowkis.
Theme music by Daniel Wackett. Find him on Twitter @ds_wack and Soundcloud as Daniel Wackett.
Logo by Riley. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @tallestfriend.
Casting Lots is part of the Morbid Audio Podcast Network. Network sting by Mikaela Moody. Find her on Bandcamp as mikaelamoody1.
- Bichell, R. E. (2016). When people ate people, a strange disease emerged. Available at: https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/09/06/482952588/when-people-ate-people-a-strange-disease-emerged
- Constantine, N. (2018). A History of Cannibalism: From ancient cultures to survival stories and modern psychopaths. London: Arcturus Publishing.
- Fultz, I. (2015). Cannibalism in the Bible. Available at: https://www.rationalchristianity.net/cannibal.html
- Gibson, W. (2007). The Boat, Singapore Escape: Cannibalism At Sea. Burrough on the Hill: Monsoon Books Pte.
- In The Heart of the Sea. (2015). [DVD] Directed by Ron Howard. Burbank, CA: Warner Bros. Pictures.
- Jones, M. (2008). Leningrad: State of siege. New York, NY: Basic Books.
- King James Version of the Bible (2011). Urbana, IL: Project Gutenberg. Available at: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/10/10-h/10-h.htm
- Kupperman, K. O. (2007). Roanoke: the abandoned colony. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
- Lam, M.Y. and T. Merino. (2017). ‘What the notorious flesh-eating Aghor religion of India is really like’, Washington Post, 16 June. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-sight/wp/2017/06/16/what-the-notorious-flesh-eating-aghor-religion-of-india-is-really-like/
- Mufson, B. (2018). ‘This guy served his friends tacos made from his own amputated leg’, Vice, 12 June. Available at: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/gykmn7/legal-ethical-cannibalism-human-meat-tacos-reddit-wtf
- Philbrick, N. (2015). In the heart of the sea: The tragedy of the whaleship Essex. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
- Pratchett, T. (2014). Monstrous regiment (Volume 31). London: Random House.
- Read, P.P. (2012). Alive: The True Story of the Andes Survivors. London: Random House.
- Schutt, B. (2017). Eat Me: A Natural and Unnatural History of Cannibalism. London: Profile Books.
- Sugg, R. (2015). Mummies, cannibals and vampires: the history of corpse medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians. Abingdon: Routledge.
- Węslawski, J.M. and Legeżyńska, J. (2002). ‘Chances for Arctic survival: Greely’s expedition revisited’, Arctic, 55(4), pp. 373-379. Available at: https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic721
- Zola, E. (1998). Germinal. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Zutshi, V. (2017). ‘CNN’s portrayal of a “cannibalistic” religious sect has exposed the hypocrisy of the Indian diaspora’, Quartz India, 24 March. Available at: https://qz.com/india/940071/cnns-portrayal-of-a-cannibalistic-religious-sect-in-india-has-exposed-the-hypocrisy-of-the-hindu-diaspora/
Alix: We put out a call for your cannibalism questions, and boy, did you respond!
Carmella: Thank you everyone for sending them in. We got some really good ones; we’re excited to tuck in.
[Intro Music – Daniel Wackett]
C: And we will be making that pun repeatedly throughout the whole series.
[Intro music continues]
C: You’re listening to Casting Lots: A Survival Cannibalism Podcast.
A: I’m Alix.
C: I’m Carmella.
A: Okay, let’s start with the first question, a question that a lot of people have had for us since we first mentioned this: Why? Why are we doing this? Why are we interested in this?
C: Why are we like this as people?
A: Why are you talking to me about this? So, Carmella why are we doing this?
C: Well, I think I sent you a message when I realised that we had a shared interest in survival cannibalism.
A: You did. And I was like, this is the best message I’ve ever received. And then I seem to recall it was Christmas and I went to Planet Hollywood and had quite a bit of gin and I was talking to my best friend (Hi, Lauren. You’re probably listening), who was not quite as in to it as I was. And after a bit of gin, I was like, I’m going to ask Carmella if she wants to start a podcast.
C: Was it my birthday when we had the first discussion?
A: Yes, your birthday, New Year. We horrified our D&D group by talking about cannibalism a lot.
C: Yes, my birthday is New Year’s Eve. And we spent both of those massive events playing d&d and talking about cannibalism.
A: We are the coolest people in the world. Hopefully that answers that question, but it does tie in quite nicely to the next question.
C: So, this is from Ashley or ashiejade_24 on Instagram. She asks: Where did the initial interest in survival cannibalism arise from?
A: For me personally? Ding ding ding. This is Alix’s first mention of the Essex – and I talk about this a lot more in my episode on the topic, which is Episode Seven. I read In The Heart of The Sea in 2016, and that’s what started the interest in the circumstances of when people eat other people.
C: My one was 2014, maybe; it was second year of uni. Does that maths add up?
A: A long time ago…
C: A long time ago we were Germinal by Zola, which is an amazing book. But (spoilers) there’s a bit at the end: two characters are trapped in a mine with a dead body and one of them starves to death. The dead body’s right there! And it just drove me up the wall that they didn’t eat this body because it would just solve the problem. So Zola I don’t know whether you were-
A: He must have been aware.
C: Yeah, he’s not some like morality guy. He touches on some pretty heavy topics in his books that got them heavily censored, so why he decided cannibalism was a step too far.
A: Oh, that’s too much.
C: That’s too much.
A: People have to have a line in the sand, as arbitrary as it is.
C: So anyway, I went and sought out some stories where they do eat people.
A: Where they made the sensible decision.
A: Along those lines our next question also from Ashley Jade on Instagram was asking if there was a particular story which had stuck with us through working on the podcast.
C: For me it was definitely the Medusa, just because I know the raft the Medusa painting. I didn’t know much about the story before.
A: Episode Six!
C: Episode Six. It is just the wildest batshit story, it just goes so long so quickly.
A: We had a lot of fun recording the Medusa episode. My story that stuck with me, this seems slightly mean because it doesn’t actually feature in the podcast.
A: It’s a World War II example of cannibalism at sea and I just thought it was fascinating. I actually read it when I was on holiday and I was just sort of texting Carmella, being like ‘you’ve got to read this story… Actually don’t because I want to talk about it… Oh, we can’t talk about it, we’re already running at 15 hours.’ I won’t spoil it just in case we get to cover it later on. But probably because it was modern, I find the modern ones apart from (ding ding ding) the Essex, resonate with me a lot more just because we have actual narratives from people, I think.
C: Also from Ashley, who just bombarded us because she’s amazing, what were you most and least eager to discuss. I don’t know, Alix, what were you most excited to talk about? Because I don’t think I can guess.
A: I don’t know what you mean. I mean, I had already known a little about this small whaling ship called the Essex. No, it was obviously the Essex. I can remember getting quite drunk, at Chad and Haf’s wedding and also having this really intense discussion about the Essex with complete strangers. Not the worst thing I did at the wedding to be perfectly fair.
A: For least excited about, I think this was probably Leningrad, for a range of reasons. Pronunciation was one. But also due to the difference between accidental and intentional starvation: most of the stories we’re covering are accidental. Leningrad was intentional and that was something very different to have to read accounts for.
C: So that’s Episode Three.
A: Which were your most and leasts?
C: Most was Franklin, Episode Ten. I enjoyed The Terror and I enjoy Victorian mysteries and Franklin sort of hits those spots. Least, probably the Luxborough, because it just didn’t seem that exciting, but actually we had quite good fun with that one too.
A: We did.
C: We did.
A: We probably had more fun than we should have done with these really?
C: Yup. So yeah, I was wrong about that one. I take it back. Luxborough, Episode Four, you were actually a lot of fun.
A: Not for them. I hate to spoil it. They didn’t enjoy it so much. Okay, now we were asked more questions, but in the time honored tradition of this podcast, we’ve divided them up.
C: [Laughs] We didn’t cast lots for them, but we’ve reached an-
A: In fact, I don’t think we’ve casted lots at all. We really should have done.
C: The be fair-
A: There’s two.
C: Two of us.
A: More like flipping a coin. Yeah. I will ask you Carmella the question from furiouscuddles on Tumblr, who asks if there are any parasites and diseases that are uniquely linked to cannibalism due to all of the urban legends about what meat you shouldn’t consume?
C: Actually, there aren’t any that are uniquely linked to cannibalism. I’ve got a few that I will talk about but all of them could also happen from just eating other meats. If you’re unfortunate. Just putting that out there.
So the main one that I think the urban legend that furiouscuddles is probably referring to is the group of prion diseases. So those are caused by an accumulation of prion proteins in the brain that causes lesions. An example of this is Mad Cow Disease, which obviously you get from eating infected brain matter from a cow. There is one that you can get from eating infected brain matter of a human. In the early 20th century, the Fore People of Papua New Guinea suffered an epidemic of Kuru disease, which was nicknamed ‘the laughing death’ because it causes people to shake uncontrollably, they have erratic emotions, including bouts of laughter, loss of muscle control, and eventually death.
A: Was it like that dancing disease?
C: Probably something similar. So as it turns out, this Kuru disease was caused by prion proteins in the brain, which were accumulated in the tribe because of funeral practices that involve eating brain material. That’s what caused it. So, in theory, if you ate someone who was infected with a prion disease like Mad Cow Disease and you ate their brain matter or maybe some of the spinal tissue, then yeah, you might get that.
The other ones are, obviously, there’s parasites like tapeworm, if you’re eating infected meat. Normally intestines because it’s in the poo. And especially if you eat the tapeworm eggs, then the larvae can affect your brain.
C: Yeah. So this is like sometimes cats get the brain parasites from eating infected mice. It’s really horrible. But anyway humans can get them too. That again causes loss of muscular control and seizures, personality changes.
A: I think we have a quite a few personality changes in this podcast.
C: Yeah, whether that’s caused by parasites or starvation. In general, don’t eat the brain, don’t eat the intestines, cook your meat properly, and have it as part of a balanced diet. Because if you’re just eating meat, then that’s when you’re going to get scurvy and stuff.
A: Under certain circumstances, your culinary instructions are not in fact taken to heart.
C: Okay, well, then Alix please tell me, question from Nur: What’s the tastiest or most nutritious part of a person to eat? And, also a related question from Lauren, what part of the body do people go for first?
A: Really, what you’re looking for in a nice nutritious body are the fleshy fatty parts. So, the muscles of the rump, the bottom of the thighs, these parts of the body have the advantage of being accessible, but also they don’t look overly like a person.
A: They look like meat, especially the thigh bones tend to be the bones that we see in historical cannibalism cases that allow us to identify where flesh has been carved off. It tends to be these ‘non-human’ elements that get eaten first, and the meat is often said to taste like pork or veal or lamb. Ultimately, raw meat doesn’t have a very easily-defined taste and for example, the survivors of the Uruguayan Flight Disaster, which is Episode Two, were eventually eating a wide range of body parts. They were seeking alternative flavors such as liver, brains were being eaten and even rotten flesh. Allegedly rotten flesh tastes like cheese.
C: Oh that’s not so bad. I like cheese.
A: [Laughs] I mean, yes.
C: Well, I mean, if I have to eat rotting flesh, I’d rather it tastes like something I enjoy.
A: That’s fair. What I would like to know Carmella, and what Camille would like to know, is what is the difference between survival cannibalism, and mainstream regular cannibalism?
C: We all know that regular cannibalism is a person eating a person, or I guess a dog eating another dog. It’s, it’s the same species eating itself. So, any occurrence of that is regular cannibalism
A: Under any circumstances at all.
C: It might be that you’ve got a serial killer, like Hannibal Lecter who just enjoys the gentrified version of cannibalism, as I like to call it.
A: Coming into our neighbourhood.
C: Stealing our bodies. You’ve got religious practices. So like was mentioning the Fore tribe using it in funeral rights. You have cases of
A: … Sexual cannibalism.
C: Yeah, yeah.
A: I hate to be the one to say.
C: Yeah, you do have cases of sexual cannibalism. You have people eating placentas and stuff. I think I would count that as cannibalism.
A: Auto cannibalism?
C: Yeah, that’s people eating themselves. Medical cannibalism. So for example, a lot of old timey remedies where made just out of human bits like mummies and-
A: Love the mummies. Powdered Mummy.
C: Yeah, Powdered Mummy. That will cure anything. So, survival cannibalism is none of those.
A: Clue’s in the name really.
C: Yeah, it’s cannibalism in a survival situation. So, it’s where you’ve run out of food. You’re going starve to death. People are meat too. What you going to do about it?
A: That is something to clarify slightly though, because survival cannibalism does then in and of itself come under two camps.
A: There is survival cannibalism of people who have already died of natural causes. And then there is murder-survival cannibalism, or casting lots survival cannibalism, which is when the decision is made, whether voluntarily or not, that someone will sacrifice themselves for the others. Which adds an extra dynamic to the event…
C: Just keeps things more exciting. Next question for you, Alix, this was an anonymous question: What’s with co-host Alix and the phrase ‘gastronomic incest’ anyway?
A: I just think it’s a really fun phrase. Gastronomical incest is an academic phrase. It refers to consuming the flesh of your own relatives. It’s very Freudian, it speaks a lot to very Western ideas about death, respect, relationships, and of course, cannibalism.
C: What constitutes good, useful academic language?
A: It’s just so unnecessary as a phrase. I think it’s brilliant. It does pop up time and again, people keep traveling with their relatives. I just think it’s a neat phrase and we should start a hashtag. #GastronomicIncest.
C: You’ll be arrested.
A: You’re coming down with me. This is all on record. I now have a question from thesame4chords on Instagram, which is have there ever been any religious beliefs surrounding cannibalism?
C: My first response was Catholicism.
A: This is my body.
C: Absolutely, to the point that it’s almost common that religions often interact with cannibalism, whether symbolic in the case of the Eucharist, or actual in the case of some other religions.
A: Ancient Egypt, don’t they have quite a lot of cannibalism going on among their gods?
C: And the ancient Greek Pantheon.
A: Of course, yeah.
C: Eating their own children. Gastronomic Incest.
A: See it’s gonna be a thing.
C: I almost couldn’t choose an example because there were just so many examples. Just a recent one that was in the news is the Aghori Sect in India that’s been in the news in 2017, because there was a CNN documentary on it, which was heavily criticised as being sensationalist and misrepresenting Hinduism. Because the Aghori are a tiny sect of Hinduism, and even not all of them participate in cannibalism. Some of their practice does include consecrating and consuming flesh from bodies found in the river Ganges, and the CNN reporter participated in this and ate human brain matter and it was all big media circus over that. So yes, historic religions, modern religions, it’s everywhere in religion. Religion loves cannibalism.
Another question for you, Alix. This is also from thesame4cords on Instagram: What psychological effect does it have on people e.g. those who survived disasters via cannibalism, and this one from Chris, have people struggled to adjust to post-cannibalism food?
A: It appears for the most part, the people are able to adjust to life following survival cannibalism. It depends on the level of support they receive both during and following the disaster and the response from the communities. This is where the religion thing is actually interesting to note. The Catholic Church plays a surprisingly large and supportive role when it comes to instances where Roman Catholics survived via cannibalism. And you can see that this psychological recovery, it’s very important in being understood and being accepted. Which almost was better historically than it is today? I’m not saying that it’s sort of definite certainty. Because of course, what we are lacking historically is the first-hand sources and what people say; today we have newspapers and Twitter for anyone’s opinions to be broadcasted into the internet.
C: Oh, yeah. Any joker can start a podcast on anything they want these days.
A: What a world we’re living in. But looking at the aftermath of, let’s pull an example out of thin air, the Essex survivors.
A: One survivor retires from the sea, fasts every year on the anniversary and eventually dies as a respected member of the community. Another spent the last years of his life in and out of asylums, but throughout their lives, both of these men had very strange relationships with food. Both Essex survivors, for example, would hoard food with it being hidden around their homes or filling cabins so they’d always have to supply. So I think for very legitimate reasons people’s relationship with food changes after a circumstance like this, so long-term starvation, but those who survive do seem able to continue living proper lives. It does appear to be a mixed bag but with the right support networks and with the appropriate understanding and (in cases it’s believed necessary) absolution.
A: People are able to continue. Our next question is from Clement on Instagram, and he asks whether people have donated their own limbs for others to eat, and whether eating your own leg and your own flesh would be nice?
C: This is an interesting question because you’d think it would be the logical thing: we gotta eat someone, let’s start with just my leg. But that hasn’t come up in any of the ones we’ve covered so far. And I couldn’t find much about it googling in a survival situation, and maybe that’s because people tend to only resort to it once the body’s already dead.
A: In fact, I’m going to add on to this here because I had the other half of Clement’s question. You want to read it?
C: How much of someone do you think you could eat and have them survive?
A: So I sort of sat down to think about this and with the other question, you need the necessary medical tools to remove someone’s leg without killing them.
C: That’s a good point.
A: And if you’ve got that sort of provisions, you’re probably in a hospital.
A: There’ll be a canteen. Seriously, that’s the side I’d be more worried about. Amputating someone’s leg, rather than actually consuming it. I don’t think there’s any actual specific health concern when it comes to eating your own flesh. I tell you what I did find though. From the late, great Terry Pratchett, from Monstrous Regiment, because I remember this situation happens.
C: Oh, okay?
A: Between some soldiers, he’s asked what happened and he says that, “It’s not done to eat your own leg is it? You’d go blind”. So they were sharing their legs out all over Discworld.
C: I did find a Vice article published June 2018, wonderful clickbait headline: ‘This guy served his friend tacos made from his own amputated leg’. So I of course read the article straightaway.
A: Sounds like a great episode of Come Dine with Me.
C: Yeah. As the headline misleads you a bit, his friends did know about it. So it was a leg that had to be amputated following a motorcycle accident. He asked the hospital if he could take it home and then texted his friends and was like, ‘Hey, you know how we always wondered what human flesh tastes like? Here’s your chance.’ Ten people went along with it, which I mean, maybe if you look at our friendship group, we’d also get a similar response rate. So, ten of his friends turned up. They cooked up the leg, there are photos of it. If you look on the Vice article, warning: there are photos of the process, it’s quite gross.
A: Barbecue, oven, fried?
C: It was like a lovely dinner party. There was also like quiches and starters and stuff and then that the leg tacos were the main course.
A: Oh, they were tacos. Yeah, I forgot that.
A: I was imagining your classic apple in the mouth pig, but of course, just a human foot.
C: To quote directly the gentleman in question, whose leg it was, from the article: “It tasted good, but the experience wasn’t the best.”
A: He had just had to have to have his leg amputated from a motorcycle accident.
C: There’s your answer Clement, it tastes all right, but it’s not great psychologically. But it’s an interesting story that you can sell to Vice.
C: To be cynical. Um, another one from Chris. Alix: how long could you survive only on human flesh?
A: What I’d like to do here very briefly, put the context of when I received these questions from Chris and Lauren, my two lovely vegan friends: over dinner. So, that is the context that I harassed my friends into asking me questions about cannibalism.
A: I just thought I’d set the scene there. How long could you survive only on human flesh? It’s time for some objective cannibalism calorie facts. Technically, human flesh is just meat. And while it’s not a good idea just to eat meat alone – you’ve covered scurvy, illnesses, diseases.
C: Yeah, we’ve got some good stuff on this in the episode on Douglas Mawson, Episode Twelve.
A: What we’re going to do here is look at calories and weight. Theoretically, how long could you survive? Now all of the numbers in this come from possibly my favourite article from this entire experience called ‘Chances For Arctic Survival’. It will be linked in our wonderful bibliography. Time for some maths and some science. An average man weighing approximately 70 kilograms has 20% fat, 9% protein and 60% water. Now this doesn’t add up to 100% but I don’t do maths.
A: Oh yeah, bone, thoughts…
C: Thoughts definitely make up weight.
A: They weigh you down?
C: They do, okay continue.
A: The minimum number of calories needed to stay alive per day are 1200. This is approximately the same number of calories that you lose per day if you were to do absolutely nothing, like lounging around in bed all day you’ll lose 1000 calories. So, it depends on the survival situation because if everyone is already emaciated and weak the bodies that you’re eating are not going to be as fleshy, obviously. So, let’s say we’re in our proper survival circumstance. So, you can only extract about 15 kilograms of meat from a skinny corpse. The energetic value of flesh is 120 calories per hundred grams.
A: So this is where the maths happens. But luckily, it’s quite easy math for us.
C: That’s because we did it beforehand using a calculator.
A: It’s because I asked my mother to do it for me because she is more scientific than I am. This means that one corpse can feed one man for 15 days. I’m not saying you’d have a good time. But theoretically, if you have a steady number of skinny corpses, you could keep going for quite a while. If you were prepared to really dig in.
C: So, the issue would be coming when you’re just living off meat, and it would be the associated things with that. I guess the same question is, how long could you survive on the Atkins diet?
A: Yeah, we’re not an Atkins diet podcast, I’m afraid.
C: I mean, technically a lot of them are on the Atkins diet by the-
A: Our next question is from Lauren, and is asking if there are any cultural differences in survival cannibalism across the world.
C: A lot of the people that we’ve covered are British or American, or sort of British expatriates living in Australia, or we have some brief encounters with other places and other nationalities.
A: South America.
C: South America, Russia; obviously it’s geographically diverse, because they’re going literally from Pole to Pole.
A: Oh, I like that.
C: But I don’t really notice that much variation between them in terms of- It seems to be if you’re in a survival situation, everyone thinks of it. And the most interesting one was actually not cultural differences geographically, but over time. So, it seems like, for example, with the custom of the sea, which we’ll be covering in all of our episodes at sea- Which are Episodes Four through to Nine. It was generally accepted as a fact that sometimes you gotta eat a body, until we getting into the mid- to late Victorian era.
A: You just gotta, you just gotta eat a body.
C: Sometimes it happens. So, in the sort of mid- to late Victorian era in Britain, we start to see that cannibalism becomes way more of a taboo, because the Victorians are learning about religious practices around the world that incorporate cannibalism and are going “Well, that’s not British. So British people never do cannibalism.”
A: Never happened.
C: Never happened. And if you do cannibalism, well-
A: You don’t.
C: You just don’t do it! So we’ll see that in Episode Ten. With the Franklin we’ll start to see that shift.
A: Oh, yeah.
C: I think that’s what’s interested me most, is the way culture has changed over time, rather than geographically speaking,
A: As they say, the past is another country.
C: Another question from Lauren: What is the first documented case of cannibalism?
A: It’s almost certainly pre-historic. And I will also point out, because this didn’t clarify that it was human cannibalism, it’s very likely to say that as long as there have been living organisms, there has been cannibalism. Things eat the same thing that they are to survive. But I was looking to answer this question with some human cannibalism. So, I went to one of the earliest written sources, certainly that I have in my own house: the Bible. Now this is with the caveat that I am able to read and access the Bible because it’s in English. There are other older religions, as we were talking about religion, that will have narratives like this. But here we have some (most likely) true human survival cannibalism.
C: Yeah, so I didn’t realise there was cannibalism in the Bible. I am very interested to hear this.
A: We start with the siege of Jerusalem, in Deuteronomy and Leviticus. It states that “Because of the suffering that your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb”.
C: I didn’t know that was in there!
A: In Jeremiah and Ezekiel, it states “I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh during the stress of the siege imposed on them by the enemies who seek their lives” and then ultimately in Lamentations “with their own hands compassionate women / have cooked their own children / who became their food.”
There’s more cannibalism in the siege of Samaria, which I believe is a separate occasion. (I technically have a theology qualification. I’m not up to date with my Old Testament.) Kings- It is written about a woman seeking support from the King of Israel and when asked why she cries, replies, “This woman said to me, ‘Give up your son so we may eat him today, and tomorrow we’ll eat my son.’ So, we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, ‘Give up your son so we may eat him,’ but she had hidden him.” So, cannibalism, going on in the Bible.
Chris asks, have there been any cases of accidental cannibalism? Like horsemeat scandal?
C: Thank you, Chris, because that is one of my biggest weird fears, is just that I have or will eat human flesh without knowing that I’m doing it. I feel like you have the right to know.
A: That was my opinion with the horsemeat scandal. I have no issue with eating horsemeat. I just think I have the right to choose what I’m eating.
C: I do have an issue with me eating human meat outside of a survival situation. So, I think that even then-
C: Even then I would still be a bit iffy about it. Yeah, I would say from a little bit of research, I didn’t know whether accidental is the right word so much as tricked, so sort of your Sweeney Todd-esque, selling human meat as non-human meat. There have been plenty of cases of this.
A: This this comes up in Episode Three in Leningrad when meat patties are being sold and everyone just pretends that they think it’s beef.
C: Another one that I found, not survival cannibalism at all but a serial killer.
A: That’s no fun.
C: Joe Metheny from Baltimore, Maryland claimed to have cooked his victims into barbecue burgers and sold them to the public. So presumably when that newspaper article with that quote was published, the people of Baltimore, Maryland are probably a bit freaked out from that, if they’d eaten barbecue burgers anytime recently.
A: I don’t think we should host a barbecue. I don’t think anyone would come.
C: Here’s a question from Shelby: Do you think cannibalism was the reason behind the missing colony Roanoke?
A: Now, I definitely have opinions about Roanoke. I mean, these are actually much less exciting than the rather romantic and dramatic re-tellings. I mostly come down on a disease, travel and integration explanation for the missing colony of Roanoke.
A: I’m going to make it even more boring, I’m afraid, because I’m not so sure that cannibalism is part of this story. Survival cannibalism tends to be a symptom of a larger problem.
A: Warfare, famine, drought, disaster. It’s not really a net cause of tragedy in and of itself. So it’s unlikely that cannibalism alone is the cause of the Lost Colony. To be honest, I don’t think it’s that likely that there was wide-scale cannibalism – survival or otherwise – because to put it bluntly, cannibalism leaves evidence behind and remains, testimony, skeletons, archaeological evidence is how we’re able to identify when these situations have happened historically, even if there’s very little evidence left behind. There tends to be something – I’m thinking specifically of our Jamestown episode.
C: Yup, Donner Party as well. So, Jamestown is Episode…
C: Three. Donner Party is Episode One. We’ve got some very scant archaeological evidence. But yeah.
A: The evidence is there. And there’s really no re-tellings of cannibalism in the Roanoke Myth, and I don’t think it is that much of a possibility. If evidence is established to contradict me, well, I love a good disaster and cannibalism, so I’m not going to turn it down if the evidence is there.
Our next question comes from Ellys on Facebook, and he wants to know if eating raw flesh gave people food poisoning or if they always managed to cook their food.
C: So, in some of our stories, yes, they’re cooking the meat, they’re salting or drying the meat perhaps instead.
A: Or wrapping it up in seaweed, like sushi.
C: Yep, delicious. So, in some of them there is preparation of meat. And other ones, no, they are just eating raw meat. And the thing is, while it’s a good question, I think if you’re starving to death, you’re less concerned about food poisoning because by this point, you are already at the like, ultimate last option. And also, the issue with answering this is from looking back through some of our cases, people were exhibiting symptoms that you might associate with poisoning such as cramps, diarrhoea, fever. But those are also symptoms of just starvation, overexertion-
C: Yeah. So, they’re already dying. And really, it’s hard to establish whether they experienced food poisoning on top of that, or whether it’s just all part and parcel of the same thing.
A: What I will say is looking at the Uruguayan Flight Disaster when the survivors are taken to hospital, the doctors are saying they are in remarkable good health for the circumstances that they’re under.
C: It’s worth pointing out that food poisoning occurs because of poorly-prepared meat, but also meat that’s no longer fresh. And in a lot of these situations, for example, the flight disaster, the meat is preserved because it’s in freezing conditions.
C: So maybe it’s no worse than eating raw beef for something like that.
A: We’re going to go back to sushi again.
C: If you’re in the Arctic or on a mountain, and there’s a lot of snow and the bodies frozen then yeah, maybe you’re alright?
A: I wouldn’t recommend it.
C: No, keep it as a last resort guys.
C: Okay, and the final question for you Alix, this is from Oliver on Facebook. Is there a recorded testimony of what people who had to do it thought of the experience? If so, were the feelings of disgust sometimes enough to prevent them eating even though they had decided to? If there was disgust, did it lessen throughout the experience?
A: Two of our stories in this podcast actually date from 1972, this is Episode Two and Episode Thirteen.
C: Bad Year.
A: They’re within months of each other.
C: Both planes.
A: Both planes, don’t go flying in 1972. But because these are so recent, our survivors from these incidences have gone on the record in print, in person and on camera with their experiences and their emotions. For the most part, it does seem to go the other way. People who struggled with the idea of eating human flesh soon realised that actually they were able to do in order to survive. Exhaustion, depression and circumstance have been known to reverse that decision. One of the initial survivors, who had begun eating human flesh despite his personal revulsion to it, ended up becoming weaker and refusing the food. He just couldn’t bring himself to eat it anymore. He ultimately doesn’t survive the disaster.
For the most part, the disgust in eating dies down into an acceptance that meat is meat and needs must. Certainly, as soon as alternative foods are provided, human meat is almost immediately rejected.
What I’m going to say here just to wrap this up, there’s of course a lot of bias in the testimony and stories we have from survivors who are willing and able to talk about this, because they must have come to accept themselves to be able to publicly testify. So, this might not be a universal approach to eating human flesh.
C: If you do want a really gory, ‘he continued eating human meat even when he didn’t have to’ story, then make sure to listen to Jamestown, Episode Three.
A: Oh, yes. Now that’s a good one. The final question of our Q&A- And thank you for all of your questions, our lovely listeners and listeners-to-be. This is also from Ellys on Facebook. And he asks if anyone has faced legal action due to survival cannibalism?
C: This is a great opportunity to plug one of our episodes.
A: We have not been doing that at all.
C: No, we’ve kept it completely clean of that. But yeah, listen to the Mignonette, Episode Eight. It’s a really interesting case where generally speaking, before that case, it was the custom of the sea as we’ve said. If you’re in a survival situation, you’re not legally prosecuted for it because you had to do it. But Mignonette is a great turning point. And it shows that shift in attitudes. And generally speaking, in that case, the issue is more with murder than with cannibalism.
A: That does tend to be the general issue, especially with that grey line between casting lots and murder. If a body is already dead, no one’s going to do that much about it. But I think it is interesting that the more we get into modern day, it comes up when we talk about World War II. For example, there are going to be instances of cannibalism under survival circumstances that are likely to have happened but not been reported and recorded. Because now you can get in legal trouble for things like that.
C: If you’ve enjoyed this Q&A, make sure to listen to the actual episodes. So, Episode One will be launching on Halloween 31st of October 2019, and it will be on the Donner Party.
A: We hope it will be a feast for your ears.
[Outro Music – Daniel Wackett]
A: Casting Lots Podcast can be found on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr as @CastingLotsPod. And on Facebook as Casting Lots Podcast.
C: If you enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, don’t forget to subscribe to us on iTunes, Google Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. And please rate, review and share to bring more people to the table.
A: Casting Lots: A Survival Cannibalism Podcast is researched, written and recorded by Alix and Carmella, with post-production and editing also by Carmella and Alix. Art and logo design by Riley, @tallestfriend on Twitter and Instagram. With audio and music by Daniel Wackett, Daniel Wackett on SoundCloud and @DS_Wack on Twitter. Casting Lots is part of the Morbid Audio Podcast Network, search #MorbidAudio on Twitter, and the network’s music is provided by Mikaela Moody, mikaelamoody1 on BandCamp.
[Morbid Audio Sting – Mikaela Moody]