As we write this, there is a lot of controversy over Elon Musk’s Boring Company’s flamethrower that may or may not be a joke. Musk said on Twitter that the weapon would come in handy for a future zombie apocalypse. Most of us are fascinated by survival scenarios with many video games and movies depicting them. Some unfortunate people have actually experienced such life or death situations. Take the Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed over the Andes in 1972. Those that didn’t die in the crash were left stranded in the snowy mountains and soon food rations ran out. How did they survive? They ate the dead, whose frozen bodies were buried in the snow. If they hadn’t, they would likely have not survived. Today we’ll take this a step further, in this episode of the Infographics Show, Could you survive eating your family?
First of all, let’s set the scene. You are a family of four. Let’s say mum, dad, brother, and sister. You and your sister are both in your late teens and so in terms of size are pretty much fully developed. Your parents are late middle-aged. You are trapped, and here we can get creative. Perhaps there are zombies outside that will eat you alive, or perhaps there’s been an incredible natural disaster and you are trapped in a place where you cannot get out. Either way, you are not going anywhere. Lucky for you there is a source of water, but there isn’t much food.
Let’s say you have decided on cannibalism, but can’t bring yourself to eat another member of your family. You are left with the grim prospect of eating yourself. You have around 650 muscles and 206 bones to choose from, so at least it’s a varied menu. But, according to Scientific Reports, you should choose well as not all of you is good for your health. The report states that in the past, cannibals would only consume certain parts of the body, and so scientists tried to figure out why that was.
Apparently nutritional cannibalism starts with looking for the parts that contain the most calories, and these are the fat pads. You have these deposits all over the body, but the thigh muscles would seem like a good place to start. You better hope you have a knife or getting down there could be difficult.
This is mere speculation as we can find no studies on this subject, but it would likely be easier to allow a member of your family to take a chunk out of you than to do it yourself.
We all know we can survive a long time without any food. People fast for days on end. One report suggests most people can survive for up to two months without food, as long as they have water. Irish political prisoner, Terence MacSwiney, survived 74 days without food on a hunger strike, but then he died. It also depends on what kind of body you have. If you have big enough fat stores, all the better. Anyway, your one piece of human flesh should add many days as you wait for someone to find you or the zombies all die out.
Unfortunately, there is a problem… as if you don’t have enough of them. Eating yourself is dangerous, not only because of all the infections you might get, not to mention the pain, but your own meat is not good for you. Edward Moseley, a Biochemist and Data Scientist, said this about eating your own body parts: “An individual who ate his or her own body parts in an attempt to prolong their life would do nothing but satiate their hunger and starve faster.” You see, your body is already busy eating itself in a natural way when you are starving. By cutting yourself up you are wasting parts, spilling blood, and throwing away bone if you get that far. You also poop yourself out, throw yourself up, and some of you won’t get digested. Frankly, it’s best if you just leave your body alone so it can eat itself naturally.
So, let’s say like the guys in the Andes you are faced with eating someone else, after they died. Your skinny sister was first to go. If you’ve seen our show on what happens when you die, you’ll know that human meat will turn rank very soon if not refrigerated. If it’s freezing cold where you are, all the better. If you can start a fire, you can also cook the meat and save it for later. What should you do now?
Your sister may have been very slim, but she still had a butt. According to the Scientific Report, those butt muscles are high in calories and so that’s where you’d want to start. Not surprisingly, the report said don’t go for the kidneys, pancreas or teeth, a menu option that doesn’t provide much nutrition. Like the Andes survivors, the best bits on the human body when it must be consumed are the thighs, butt, arms, torso, all the bits of the animal we usually go for first. But which parts would taste the best? Is there such thing as a prime piece of person?
Human bodies differ from farm animals, so we try and find what our prime piece is. We don’t really have a good fillet region at the back of the ribs, but one person writing on the subject did say this would be a good place to start if we are concerned about how our meat tastes. He wrote that the shoulder muscles, known as oysters, would be another tasty spot, and the chest muscles wouldn’t be bad either. This person was talking about cooking the meat, which would improve the taste dramatically. Most people agree that we should fill up on the thighs, butt, arms, calves, and the better tasting meat would, as we said, be ribs, shoulder, and possibly the side of the neck.
The Guardian asked the question of ‘what does human meat taste like’, admitting that not many people have tried it, so it’s hard to know. Some people do eat the placenta after childbirth, but that doesn’t help us. Apparently, placenta tastes like liver. Famous German cannibal Armin Meiwes reportedly ate 20kg of his human victim, so perhaps he can give us the best advice. He cooked the meat, and said in an interview from his prison cell, “The flesh tastes like pork, a little bit more bitter, stronger. It tastes quite good.” In another case a New York Times journalist tasted human meat when working in West Africa in the 1920s. He said, “It was so nearly like good, fully developed veal that I think no person with a palate of ordinary, normal sensitiveness could distinguish it from veal.”
Ok, so we know what parts to eat and that if cooked it isn’t that bad to taste. But there is another setback. That is cannibal’s disease, as eating human flesh can pass on a debilitating infection that destroys the brain. Also known as Kuru disease, this is very rare and only seemed to infect the cannibal tribes of Papua New Guinea. It is also thought that only eating the brain can give you this, so, we should be ok with our “fillet de sœur”.
We could indeed survive for some time eating our own family, but a lot would depend on if we could cook the meat, and if we could somehow keep it refrigerated. Indeed, early Americans in the past survived eating their comrades and neighbors. The most notable cases were the Jamestown settlers in the 1600s that ate human flesh during what was called the “Starving Time” and also the pioneers known as the “Donner Party”, who ate the dead when they got lost in the Sierra Nevada mountains during a very, very bleak winter. You may also have heard of the famous painting “The raft of Medusa”, which depicts a terrible event. 147 French sailors after being shipwrecked in 1816 constructed a raft and set sail. When the raft was found 13 days later only 15 people remained alive. According to one writer, “They slaughtered mutineers, ate their dead companions and killed the weakest.” And they certainly weren’t cooking the meat. In a book on the subject it’s said one of the survivors stated that when just 29 people remained on the raft some turned to eating what he called the “horrible meal” by ripping flesh off the dead. Others were disgusted, but soon they also chowed down on the bodies.
So, could you survive in such a situation? Or would you rather die than consume human flesh? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video called Vegans vs Meat Eaters – Who Will Live Longer?! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!