Friday, March 25, 2011

Surrender Your Flesh: Cannibalism As Recycling

Previously I drew attention to the fact that our good intentions, our desire to improve the quality of life for everyone, can end up having the opposite effect. If we decrease mortality rates, for instance, then we'll stretch our limited resources even further, and this will likely end in more war over those very resources.

I also promised more of my crazy solutions to this problem. On the docket for today? Cannibalism.

Now, most people who are not practicing cannibals (which I presume is all of us) commit the fallacy of conflating cannibalism with murder. This is not inherently the case. Sure, there are sociopaths out there, but there have also been cultures which have eaten their deceased relatives in order to symbolize that, because of a spiritual belief that, or purely because of the nutritional reality that, in some way, if we eat someone they will live on through us. People can die of natural causes before we eat them.

So, the kind of cannibalism I'm arguing for is the "why don't we eat them instead of wasting all of that perfectly good flesh?"

Now, before you drop a "what the fuck" or two, hear me out. Matt hasn't completely gone off the deep end--only nearly.

People donate organs, don't they? Good. So I hope we agree that the general premise--that is, donating parts of our body--is not an entirely strange or screwed up concept.

So let's look at the why behind my suggesting cannibalism as part of a total system of sustainability.

We feed 70% of our corn crop to livestock. There are similar percentages for soy and other grains. All livestock suck at turning vegetable matter into meat. Cows are the worst offenders, and also one of the most popular. For every 30 calories we put into a cow, we get 1 calorie out as beef.

Now, imagine we reclaimed the 70% land that goes to growing crops for livestock. Reclaim the land that's going to raise that livestock. Reclaim the land that goes to graveyards. Our living spaces will literally double as farms if we are the meat we eat.

Additionally, we'd be cutting back on the oil, pesticides, and fertilizer used to raise crops, the antibiotics and fuel used to raise and transport livestock, and reducing water usage all around.

I know what you're thinking. At least, I know what I hope you're thinking. "Eating people is gross." I get it. That's the feeling I have toward factory farmed meat these days. But we generally have that reaction to most new foods that we try. Have I mentioned my reaction to eating insects? Butchering any animal takes a strong stomach, and I think that part of it is what grosses people out the most; pre-packaged ground human probably wouldn't make you think twice if you didn't know it wasn't some other animal, though.

Of course, I'm sure there will be spiritual arguments against what I'm suggesting. We can't defile these bodies, right? We already donate organs, and many people are horribly maimed before they die; if anything, I think it would be an honorable use of our bodies after we no longer need them. And the soul? If there is something called the soul, I don't think it cares much about the state of the body in death. We all rot eventually.

I'm not sold on cannibalism. I mean, theoretically I am. In practice though, I have the same reticence I have about any other new thing I encounter. It makes sense for us to do this, but can we overcome our bias against it?

Photo by Paul-W

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