Cannibalism would be great for the environment.

Luisa Callegari
The growing preference for cremation as a funeral rite is responsible for the estimated release of 360 tons of CO2 every year in the US alone, aggravating the Greenhouse effect. Once buried, the decomposition of bodies beneath the ground can impact the soil and water tables; underground water sampled close to cemeteries has raised the alarm on the contamination by necro slurry, ions of chlorine and nitrate, viruses, and bacteria. If we could delegate to our gastric juices and bacterial flora in our digestive system the function to deal with all of our corpses instead, the environment would be greatly spared. From our dead, following the cannibalization, the residuals would not be more than our waste. We would not contaminate the soil, nor would warmful gasses be released into the atmosphere: we would take care of our own from within.
On top of being the more environmentally-friendly way to deal with corpses, cannibalism would be an excellent solution to the mitigation of food - an issue that should be gravely impacted by climate change. Even better than eating gross weird slimy crawling bugs would be eating flesh just like your own.

Why is the idea of cannibalism considered so unbearable and foul? There is no specific legislation in Brazil condemning the practice itself. While homicide is a crime, there’s no prohibition on the consumption of human flesh by itself.

If cannibalism is defined by the ingestion of a body wholly or partially, from a being from the same species as oneself, those who consume their own afterbirths are cannibals. Is it also a cannibal my friend, who went through a body modification procedure and ate a piece of their own ear? Is it also a cannibal, a friend of a friend who ate a slice of his own flesh as a fetishist practice? Who else should be included on this list? Is it also a cannibal who eats fingernails?

What makes a cannibal homicidal - one that killed and ate their  victim - so much worse than a homicidal - that killed their  victim but didn’t eat them?

The word cannibal began to have a perjuratory meaning during the colonization period, as a way to justify the massacre and enslavement of indigenous peoples, attributing to them this as unacceptable habit. “An indigenous that eats people, what a horror. Let’s violently decimate this population, but we won’t eat people, so we’re okay”.

Cannibalism is a common practice in our species even before as human beings as we now know. A study found that neanderthals from Goyet (around 40.500 and 45.500 years ago) practiced cannibalism amongst their peers; In Ancient Egypt, there were paintings and inscriptions on pharaoh Unas' tomb portraying him as a cannibal. Greek philosopher Chrysippus in his treatise On Justice considered cannibalism ethically acceptable. Various peoples around the world consumed human flesh throughout centuries without anyone caring.

Would you try a piece of human flesh, if you knew its precedence? Some people said it tasted like pork. I’ve never really liked pork. But some described it as being on the sweet side. Gender and age can also interfere: elders have stiffer meat, an adult male tends to taste  more like pork, and young men and women are sweeter, with a texture close to veal. Babies taste like fish and are much softer.

There are many reports, rich in details, of cannibals describing with a watery mouth how their crimes and meals took place. "How she did kick – bite and scratch. I choked her to death then cut her in small pieces so I could take my meat to my rooms, cook and eat it. How sweet and tender her little ass was roasted in the oven. It took me 9 days to eat her entire body. I did not fuck her, though, I could of had I wished. She died a virgin” wrote Albert Hamilton Fish in a letter sent to the mother's 10 year-old child that he murdered in 1928. In another excerpt of the letter he explains how he nourished his interest in consuming human flesh, fed by descriptions of a friend of his that, having been experienced, told him that “the rear end of boys and girls is the sweetest body part”.

Is it on account of fetishism that so many cannibals desired to pierce the flesh with their teeth and couldn't because of its toughness, but then would buy a really sharp knife, cut a very bloody piece, and make a mess and smear themselves all over?

Armin Meiwes tells that his fantasy began around the ages of 8 and 12, when he would imagine himself eating other kids from school. He  managed to consummate that fantasy - as he names  it himself. He searched for a volunteer on a online forum, for  cannibalism sympathizers. His ad was looking for a correspondent to this desire: a “young man between ages 18 and 30 to be sliced and devoured”. A not-so-young man showed up and met his executioner so they would consummate sexual relations. Together, they tried to eat the victim’s penis, but couldn’t because the organ was badly cooked. After the sedatives hit harder, Meiwes killed and dismembered his partner, keeping the remaining pieces in a freezer for later consumption in the later 10 months after the dead. Even with voluntary consent recorded in video, Meiwes was sentenced to lifelong imprisonment without parole.

Canadian artist Rick Gibson consumed human flesh on the occasion of two public performances, in 1988 and 1989. In A Cannibal in England, he eats in the form of cannapés the two tonsils donated to him by a friend; in Carnivore, a testicle slice.

In Polpette Al Grasso Di Marco Chilean artist Marco Evarustti eats a whole meal prepared with his own lard. The fat was removed from his belly through liposuction and was used in the cooking of meatballs that sided with spaghetti and tomato sauce, eaten by the artist. The remaining fat was put up for sale as works of art.

Chinese artist Zhu Yu presented in the decade 2000 a performance piece called Eating People (Shi ren, 食人), in which he cooked and ate a human fetus. The six-month fetus was supposedly aborted and stolen from a Medicine school. The performance took place at his own home and documented through photographs in which the artist is shown washing, cooking, and eating the body. About the piece, the artist reflects:

“One question that always stymies us — that is, why cannot people eat people? Is there a commandment in man’s religion in which it is written that we cannot eat people? In what country is there a law against eating people? It’s simply morality. (...) From this we might thus conclude: so long as it can be done in a way that does not commit a crime, eating people is not forbidden by any of man or society’s laws or religions; I herewith announce my intention and my aim to eat people as a protest against mankind’s moral idea that one cannot eat people.”

*** I cannot say for sure whether Zhu Yu is or is not a cannibal, since according to  Frieze and an excerpt from the documentary Beijing Swings there’s information that the artist himself admitted that the performance was forged, but I couldn’t find the original statement from the artist confirming this. I would dare to say that Zhu Yu is, at least, a sympathizer of cannibalism.

On the website MutualArt, Arthur Shawcross’ bio describes him as “an American Postwar & Contemporary artist who was born in 1945. Arthur Shawcross's work has been offered at auction multiple times. The artist died in 2008”. Shawcross, during his time in the Vietnam War, killed, dismembered, mutilated, and ate several enemy bodies. But nobody took much notice of whatever it was that he was doing to his victim’s bodies, since he was a North American defending his country. Years later, he raped, strangled, and murdered with blows on the head a 10-year-old boy. Then, he ate the heart and penis of the boy. He confessed his crimes while arrested for the rape and killing of a 8-year-old girl, but was never sentenced for the other crime. After released, he was arrested again after the murder of a prostitute whose corpse was found with a large bite mark on the vulva, which was missing a piece. He killed 10 other women with whom he was sexually involved, mostly prostitutes, and he ate the internal and sexual organs of one of them. He went back to the place he dumped the bodies to satisfy his necrophile desires and that's how he got arrested for the last time. His defense tried to allege mental insanity, using the same multiple personality disorder from serial killer Billy Milligan, that saved him from prison years before.

Arthur Shawcross lost his penitentiary privileges when it was found that he was selling paintings and drawings on eBay, charged with the Son of Sam Law, which prohibits criminals from profiting from their crimes. The killer died in 2008.

*** Works from the American Postwar & Contemporary artist Arthur Shawcross listed at MutualArt belonged to RoGallery, which replied to my message of interest by saying that they don’t hold those works anymore. Other pieces can be found on auction pages specialized in criminals.

I keep remembering Issei Sagawa, a Japanese cannibal in a Vice magazine interview, saying that he wanted to eat a girl’s butt, but couldn’t bite it through the skin. He was arrested in France and later deported to Japan. There, he went to a psychiatric facility and was later released, after a diagnosis stating an untreatable state (pressured by his wealthy family). So he lived in freedom. And after that, he decided to dedicate his life to art. He created drawings and paintings and wrote comic book stories. He also wrote restaurant reviews, as a food critic.

An Issei Sagawa drawing of a woman he murdered and devoured is shown taking revenge on him, biting off his private parts - although the title says “Renée’s revenge”, it looks much more like a cannibal man’s fantasy than a victim’s revenge - can be purchased for USD 4.900,00.

Is Jack the Ripper so much different than an artist in his way of working? Methodical, repetitive, and loving the attention.

We recognize artists by their signatures. Both in a direct way, the signature itself, and in a subjective manner, by the analysis of frequent repetition of form and content. In the profiles of serial killers, it is frequent that there are recognizable and repetitive methods that make it possible to identify the author of the crime, by looking at the victim’s remains and bodies. That methodological repetition is called a signature.

I’ve always heard that a human finger is as hard to bite off as a carrot, but we are unable to tear off a finger with the teeth due to a psychological block. The human jaw is capable of a bite strength of 520 to 1178 Newtons. To crack a carrot, you need 200 N, easy. A study made for the improvement of car window technology has found that the maximum strength applied to the limit at the subjects was 35 N on the pinky toes, much below what you need to bite a carrot. To crack the bones of corpses, the required force is 1485 Newtons. You cannot break a dead person’s finger with your teeth.

I like biting. To bury my  teeth in a piece of soft skin-covered flesh and close my jaw until I feel the meat give in to the pressure and mold itself to the shape of my dental arch; I like to bite and then follow the different kinds of bruises that appear according to the placement and strength of the bite.

My favorite places to bite are: the butt, arm, or thigh, which are pretty soft. There were times that I bit so hard that it bled, a little bit. I want to bite until it bled a lot, but no one has ever let me. The last time I bit someone until it bled a little it was the forearm,  that it’s not as nice to bite as the upper arm, because the bone is too thick and hard, and there’s less fat and less muscle. I had to bite it for a long long time really hard with lots of pressure and it made a teeny tiny hole, just with the canine teeth.

US artist Vito Acconci liked to bite, I guess. In his performance Trademarks (1971) he bit his own body in every spot he could reach. Then, he inked the places bitten to print them, like engravings. I wish I could see a photo of him after doing this work just to see if he bit hard for real or he just bit a little bit, just so there was a mark. Did the strength of the jaw pass the 35-newton mark of the unbearable? If this picture existed, we would be able to analyze his bruises and understand what kind of pressure was made in each kind of flesh, with more muscle or more fat. This self-biting work must be dull because you can’t reach your butt, which is the nicest place to bite. I, personally, don’t get much fun out of biting myself.

In Following Piece (1969), Acconci gave himself the task of randomly following people in a street in New York City. On MoMA’s website, there is a commentary on that action: Though this stalking was aggressive, by allowing a stranger to determine his route the artist gave up a certain degree of agency. He said, “I am almost not an ‘I’ anymore; I put myself in the service of this scheme.” Concerning a man following people on the street, what is the difference between an abuser and an artist? Why when he was following a man, he lost track of him for 6 minutes, and when it was a woman, the most that he lost track of was 3 minutes and 30 seconds?

The use of the phrase “ Though this stalking was aggressive”, with intention of relativization of the situation, tends to imply that the person writing that text is not a woman who has ever found herself being followed in the public space and had to run inside somewhere asking for help. Personally, I think it is a shame that there are no records of the artist being harmed, while doing this performance.

On the website MutualArt, Vito Acconci’s bio describes him as an American Postwar & Contemporary photographer who was born in 1940. Numerous key galleries and museums such as MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art have featured Vito Acconci's work in the past. Vito Acconci's work has been offered at auction multiple times, (...) The artist died in 2017”.

The work entitled Trademarks was sold in 2020 for an amount 60% above the average estimate, according to MutualArt.

Still on MutualArt, John Wayne Gacy’s bio describes him as “an American Postwar & Contemporary artist who was born in 1942. Numerous key galleries and museums such as Nicodim Gallery, Los Angeles have featured John Wayne Gacy's work in the past. The artist died in 1994."

The work entitled Dahmer Skull by the artist John Wayne Gacy was sold in 2017 by an amount 740% above the average estimate given by MutualArt.

The website forgot to mention that the artist - more known by the nickname Killer Clown - has died by a fatal injection inflicted by the death penalty, condemnation of the torture, rape, and murder of 33 teenagers.

What separates an artist that replicates the behavior of abusers from an abuser that replicates an artist's behavior?

The first piece of human flesh that I’d eat would be a thigh. I remember liking chicken thighs a lot. I think the part I like the most about eating thighs is that you can hold it by the little bone and bite it right off, you didn’t need a knife and fork to cut it, you know? I thought it was cool, a meal that you could hold in your hand and tear up piece by piece with your teeth.

But I think that a human thigh probably doesn't taste at all like chicken.

I can't remember it all too well, but more than liking the taste, I enjoyed the biting and tearing apart part better.

I think that I'd cook the flesh of the deceased following the recipes of the accounts that I've listed. I'd do it like Omaima Nelson and smoke the ribs of my ex-husband and have it with barbecue sauce. For the loin, I'd go like Katherine Knight, cooking my ex-husband in the oven with sides of potatoes, pumpkin, beets, zucchini, cabbage, and gravy. I'd fry the ears, bread them, to accentuate the crunchiness of the cartilages, and serve them with a gravy-like mayonnaise with herbs and lime.

If I were a homicidal cannibal I'd have it at home in my cupboard in little jars with the parts. I love to keep things in little mason jars. Such as a finger floating in formalin or a dental arch or even teeth. You have to remove the teeth of your victims before dumping the bodies, so it's harder to find out who it was. If there was a victim that I was especially fond of, I would build a little altar dedicated to them, where I'd keep some personal objects that belonged to the corpse, who knows, maybe a knife that was used on the crime standing on a little pedestal. Maybe I'd keep a piece of meatless skin hanging on a hook, on the ceiling. If I'd kill enough, I could tie the skins one to another and use it as a curtain to block direct light. I'd try to conserve a head and keep it like next to the entry door, with some salt, to keep away bad spirits, but this would probably need a few shots, I don't really know how to conserve a head without all the stink, and I wouldn't want a lot of bad smell right at the entry of my home.

If I eat the fetus of my own abortion in an art performance, would I be arrested or recognized as an artist?


This text was written in 2022 June and the values of the artworks presented here no longer reflects reality. In September the series “Dahmer - Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” was launched by Netflix and its enormous popularity contributed to an increasing interest by the general population over this matter. The second most watched series of the platform was seven following weeks on the global top 10, resulting to the singing of a contract for the creation of a franchise that promises “two more installments that will focus on other monstrous figures who have impacted society”. In November the cannibal Issei Sagawa died of pneumonia at 73 years old. As we know, the death of an artist always increases the value of their works. The drawing Renee’s Revange has already accumulated a increase of 32% in price since the initial writing of this text. I believe that other works by Issei Sagawa, Jeffrey Dahmer and other serial killers and cannibals will follow the same trend .