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Ever heard about humans eating other humans? Read to find out some chilling facts!

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By: Sneha Singha, The North-Eastern Chronicle

Visual by: Kunal Kaustav Duwarah

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It is generally known that animal cannibalism is widespread; however, in human society, the occurrence of cannibalism is taboo. Let’s take a look at cannibalism and the pervasive stigma that surrounds it.

What is Cannibalism?

Cannibalism refers to the act of eating another member of the same species as food. Cannibalism is a widespread ecological relationship in the animal realm, with over 1,500 species having been documented. Human cannibalism has been reported throughout history, both ancient and modern.

History of Cannibalism in Humans

Cannibalism in Humans human The North-Eastern Chronicle

Cannibalism elicits a mixture of dread, disgust, and plain old sickness in the human conscience like few other prohibited behaviours. Humans eating other humans, however, has been an inextricable part of our past and it varies.

Human ancestors practised cannibalism long before contemporary people walked the Earth. Even when other food sources were available, Homo antecessor, the last common ancestor of Neanderthals and modern humans, resorted to cannibalism on a regular basis. Cannibal feasts were held occasionally by these humans, with members of opposing groups on the menu.

As part of their grieving and burial rites, several indigenous peoples have practised consensual cannibalism as well. The Brazilian Wari’ — a community who practised reverential cannibalism on its dead until the Brazilian government intervened in the 1960s – have revealed intricate burial customs, according to American researcher Beth Conklin. Here, cannibalism was a responsibility, not a pleasure. With the corpse several days old in certain cases, tribe members were compelled to eat rotting flesh that made them sick. It would have been impolite to not do so.

Even Europeans in the 15th century thought they had discovered a miracle treatment for epilepsy, haemorrhage, bruises, nausea, and nearly any other medical malady. It was a brown powder called “mumia” that was created by grinding up mummified human flesh.

Certain evidence points to cannibalism as a means of survival when people were forced to choose between starving to death or eating the corpses.

Practise of Cannibalism in India

humans eating other humans

Across the Ganges River from Varanasi, in northern India, lies a city known as Varanasi. Headed by Hindu pilgrims from far and wide, it has more than 2,000 temples lining its streets. In fact, many Hindus visit the country to die. Aghor, a small Hindu sect infamous for consuming human flesh, has its headquarters in Varanasi. The Aghor are a nomadic ‘cannibal cult’ of India that travels between India and Nepal and lives among cremation grounds. Their fame has outgrown their size.

Indian monks of the Aghori sect undergo cannibalistic rites in order to achieve spiritual enlightenment. It’s been a few years since the group had more than 20 members. People who have previously died are used instead of those who are still alive, as they do not kill anyone to employ in the rituals.

Animal cannibalism

Animal cannibalism human The North-Eastern Chronicle

While human cannibalism may be a taboo subject, it’s surprisingly widespread in the animal realm. And eating your own kind has a lot of advantages.

Extra Nutrition

Cannibalistic chimpanzees have been known to eat unlucky rivals (typically newborns) for the sake of protein.

Offspring Eating

Stress can cause mothers to eat their children, as can the fact that the children are stillborn or weak. This type of conduct might also be advantageous to the mother. 68 percent of new mothers cannibalised all or part of their non-surviving babies, according to a 2009 study of Mexican lance-headed rattlesnakes. They eat them most likely to replenish nutrients after giving birth and prepare to reproduce again.

Cannibal Offspring

Crab spider mothers supply unfertilized eggs to their offspring, but this is insufficient. During the course of several weeks, the baby spiders consume their mother. Spiderlings who feed their moms have better weights and survival rates than those who don’t.

Cannibal Siblings

Pregnancies in sand tiger sharks might start with six or seven embryos in the womb, but only one or two will make it to birth. The first embryonic shark to break free from its egg capsule gorges itself on its younger siblings as well as any unfertilized eggs still in the womb. Researchers believe that intrauterine cannibalism permits young sharks to grow large enough (approximately three feet) to avoid being devoured by predators after they are born. It essentially gives them a leg up on the competition in life.

Deadly Temptations

During mating, the male of the Australian redback spider, a black widow spider species, deliberately offers himself to the female. The male somersaults into the much-larger female’s mouth halfway through the mating procedure. While she consumes him, he continues to transfer his sperm to her. Males who are cannibalised, which occurs 65 percent of the time, have longer copulation periods and produce twice as many offspring as those that are not eaten, according to Maydianne Andrade of the University of Toronto Scarborough. The male redback spider gives his body as a nuptial gift to his bride in order to nourish her and benefit his offspring.

Cannibalism in human societies appears to be nature gone astray in the most heinous way possible at first glance. However, in animals these examples demonstrate that eating one’s own kind can make evolutionary sense. Cannibalism can be a cunning strategy for survival in the animal kingdom, whether it’s to eliminate competitors, feed one’s young, or just out of hunger.

Also Read: 5 places on Earth, where the sun does not set for a long time! Read to know

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