Monday March 13, 2017

Cannibalism more natural than it seems, says zoologist

Author Bill Schutt alongside his new book, Cannibalism.

Author Bill Schutt alongside his new book, Cannibalism. (Workman Publishing)

Listen 24:46

Read story transcript

What could be more gruesome and taboo than eating one's own kind? 

Zoologist Bill Schutt thinks otherwise, maintaining it's a perfectly natural part of life, in many different species.

In his book, Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History, Schutt argues cannibalism has been a widespread practice among Homo sapiens, and could rear its head again if the world faces a catastrophe where food supplies dwindle. 

"It wouldn't be science fiction because it has happened throughout history many, many times in places where famines occur," Schutt told Anna Maria Tremonti.

'I see no reason why it might not happen again.' -  Bill Schutt

In his books, Schutt points out that survival cannibalism took place in Leningrad during the Nazi siege of that city during the Second World War.

It also occured in China during the catastrophe of the Great Leap Forward, when Mao's agrarian reforms plunged the country into famine.

Schutt warns the nightmare of rampant cannibalism could have health consequences around the world.

"If it does happen, the medical community is going to have to be much more aware of it beyond the gory details you will see on CNN. But the ramification of that might be more nightmarish because of diseases like kuru."

Kuru, also called the "laughing death," was linked to cannibalism in Papua New Guinea, destroying the nervous systems of its victims.

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal.