The Onion once ran a story about two men who killed and partially ate a coworker while the three of them were stuck in a malfunctioning elevator. The three had been trapped together, without food or water, for nearly half-an-hour. In the story, the men admitted, on reflection, that they may have resorted to cannibalism just a bit prematurely.
I know how they feel. I don’t really want to be known as the first person in the 21st Century to advocate cannibalism, and I really don’t want to lead a crusade for it. I just want for us to get to the day where eating another human being has become an accepted everyday thing.
I know that it’s bound to happen eventually. Whether I want it to happen or not, people have got to realize that the single most abundant source of protein and fat left on Earth is human flesh. I’m not enthusiastic about this fact. I don’t think it anything to celebrate. It’s simply a fact of life. Cannibalism seems inevitable to me at this point, and I think maybe the sooner we get to it, the better.
With over seven billion human beings on the planet, we’ve so outstripped the Earth’s carrying capacity that I just don’t see another way out of this mess. I suppose a global pandemic might do the trick, but it would have to be a doosie, and we shouldn’t just wait around for some hypothetical microbe to solve our problems for us. Like it or not, we humans will probably have to solve the human population problem ourselves, and cannibalism seems like an unavoidable part of the solution.
I realize that most people would rather eat practically anything else, before they would willingly sink their teeth into a “suburban pork” chop. Unfortunately, if we put off the cannibalism option until the last possible moment, we will have already wiped out all of the biodiversity necessary to support those of us who might otherwise survive this grisly phase of human history. It would be like raising a praying mantis, from an egg, in a jar.
If you start with a praying mantis egg case in a jar, soon, you will have a jar full of baby praying mantises.
The praying mantises then begin preying on each other.
Eventually, you have a jar with only one praying mantis left in it, and that praying mantis then slowly starves to death. The whole process takes about a semester, which makes it popular with science teachers.
My point is: if we wait to the last minute before resorting to cannibalism, the survivors have nothing to look forward to, except starving to death on a dead planet. Not much of a future there. You might prefer to become chopped sirloin.
The only thing worse than a world in which people hunt each other down for food, is a world where most people wish they were dead, and the rest, don’t have the appetite to eat them. No matter how bad things get, it’s important to have something to look forward to, and if we hold out too long on the cannibalism question, it might cost us the hope of a post-cannibalistic future.
On the other hand, if we get started eating each other now, while a few fish remain in the sea, before the caribou population collapses, and while some rainforest habitat remains unconverted to palm oil plantations, the few humans that survive these dark days of dietary depravity, might actually look forward to a bright future. As humans became more and more scarce, those few survivors may eventually find that deer, wild boar, and even endangered coho salmon have become more plentiful.
Having lived, for at least a few generations, on a diet high in human protein, these lucky descendents of ours might find the idea of eating these other species revolting and barbaric. However, as humans became more scarce and widely dispersed, and as they developed more successful strategies to avoid becoming someones lunch, people would, once again, however reluctantly, learn to eat these, newly replenished, wild game animals that once nourished our prehistoric ancestors, and eventually, I’m sure, they would reacquire a taste for them.
Still, despite the promise of a brighter future, the idea of a world in which cannibalism has become common, widespread, and “the new normal”, seems unthinkably ghastly, but consider the alternative:
For many years I ate a vegetarian diet. I had many reasons for becoming a vegetarian, but high among them was this argument: The world can support many more vegetarians than it can meat eaters. Basically, the argument goes that it is much more efficient for a person to eat grain directly, rather than feeding it to livestock first, and then eating the livestock.
I bought that argument. I wanted to shrink my carbon footprint and live a lower impact lifestyle, and I thought that eating a vegetarian diet would help me do that.
Today, I’m not so sure. I still want to minimize my carbon footprint, but I’m not so sure that vegetarianism is the answer.
For one, it now seems to me that the biggest problem we face is overpopulation. There are twice as many human beings on the planet now than there were when I was10 years old. 35% of the Earth’s total landmass has been converted to agriculture. The oceans have been mostly fished out and polluted. Even on a vegetarian diet, the Earth’s human population is not sustainable, and agriculture, far more than hunting or other forces, is wiping out wild animal populations by destroying and fragmenting their habitat.
As a result of converting ever larger tracts of land from habitat to agriculture, we get a world populated by more and more humans, and fewer and fewer of every other species.
Not far down the line in the vegetarian scenario we end up with 30 billion humans on planet Earth, and every square inch of the planet not occupied by human habitation, devoted to agriculture. That just leaves everyone one crop failure away from that whole cannibalistic praying mantis scenario. So, when it comes to eating meat, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, it seems to me.
My partner Amy finally got me off of the vegetarian bandwagon.
She tried to join me in my vegetarian lifestyle, but by about the 600th time we had hummus and corn chips for dinner, she decided she couldn’t take it anymore.
We started adding some animal protein to our diet. Amy took more of an interest in food and nutrition, and we started eating better. Every time she read a new book, I’d find some strange new food on my dinner plate, but most of it turned out OK.
Last year, for her birthday, Amy asked me if I would go on the Paleo diet with her. That was all she wanted for her birthday, and she agreed to do all of the cooking. I thought, “I can afford that!” So, ever since last May, we’ve eaten Paleo. It took a little getting used to, but now, I really like it.
Paleo meals are amazingly delicious, satisfying and easy to make, or so it seems, since I never make them, but Amy makes it look easy. We have meat with almost every meal, and meals are simple. Usually, meals have two ingredients, some kind of meat, and some kind of vegetable, usually cooked up in a skillet or dutch oven, maybe with some garlic or ginger. Chicken thighs and carrots, pork chops and beets, ground beef and cabbage, are a few examples of meals I’ve enjoyed over the past year.
I know it doesn’t sound like much, but cooked up together, meat and vegetables taste great together. I’ve never cared much for steamed vegetables, but cooked up in a little bit of pork fat or chicken schmaltz, vegetables taste great. The diet seems to agree with me too. I’ve lost a little weight, without even trying, and my HDL/LDL cholesterol ratio has improved since I started on the so-called “Caveman Diet”.
So, I feel better, my girlfriend is happy, and we both enjoy eating this way. The Paleo diet now feels very natural, like this is how humans were meant to eat. Eating Paleo for a year has convinced me that cavemen lived pretty well.
Then I think about all of those poor battery chickens, and the factory farms, and the suffering and the cruelty that goes along with them. It’s horrible, I know. I feel awful about it.
I’d prefer to hunt wild animals, but precious few of them remain, and those that persist need all the help they can get. I don’t want to hunt anything to extinction.
Really, I can only think of one animal that has become so common that killing them wholesale would actually make the world a better place. Besides their abundance, human beings rate pretty low on the “cute scale”, which would make them even easier to kill.
Besides that, even though I’ve never hunted wild game before, I know human beings and their behavior patterns well enough that I think I could hunt them effectively.
A lot of the humans I see these days look tender and well-marbled. I bet they would taste delicious, and I wouldn’t feel nearly as guilty about eating them, as I do about those poor chickens who never even had a chance to turn around, or see the light of day. Not only that, eating human beings would be a strong positive step in the right direction towards addressing the global overpopulation problem. The cannibalism question seems like a no-brainer to me.
No, I don’t want to be the first, but I do look forward to the day, soon, hopefully, very soon, when we can move beyond our cultural revulsion at the idea of cannibalism, and that cannibalism will become just another accepted dietary choice, and culinary phenomena. The time has come to let go of our outdated ideas about food. We should accept the fact that cannibalism is good for your health, and good for the planet, and the sooner we learn to accept it, the better the future will be for all of us.