Question 24: Are you interested in or willing to eat a person if they willingly give you a piece of themselves to cook and eat? We may refrain from eating animal meat because we are consuming meat against one’s will, but humans are unique because they can offer consent.
I want to pay careful attention to the second part of this question, which talks about consent. On any ethical issue, I tend to believe a consenting adult should pretty much be able to do anything he/she wants with another consenting adult. Now, there are extremes to this that I don’t support, but we’re getting off topic.
So, consenting to consume someone else or part of someone else. If I was a vegetarian who refrained from eating meat due to an animal’s lack of ability to give consent, I would still feel hesitant to consume human flesh because I would question the motivation behind a creature who willingly gives up a piece of what keeps them alive, particularly if allowing me to consume their flesh disfigured or killed them. Why would they want to do something like that? I think that’s an important question I’d have to have answered before I could make any kind of decision.
I say that because cannibalism isn’t a thing in modern society: generally, we frown on it unless there is some kind of life or death extreme survival circumstance surrounding it. It’s a bit like Star Wars, really; you wouldn’t ordinarily cut open an animal and crawl into its chest cavity like it’s a sleeping bag, but if it’s a snow storm on Hoth, then all bets are off. Try doing that like it’s an ordinary everyday thing — you’ll probably get arrested for animal cruelty. If you do it in the middle of a Yukon blizzard fifty miles from civilization though, it’s all good. Maybe that’s why, if I was stranded on a desert island with no food or water, and one of the few other survivors with me offered part of themselves for me to eat, there would be far fewer gripes about the ethical ramifications of eating someone.
For me, after consent is given, it comes down to a scale of reason. If my friend accidentally cuts off his finger and asks if I want to cook and eat it, I will probably say no but I feel it’s not unethical to say yes. Would I eat part of a person for sport or religious purposes? No. These people are consenting, sure, but I don’t happen to trust people who self-mutilate in the name of entertainment or religion. Would I murder a friend if we were starving to death? As I sit here full from eating homemade Mac & Cheese with bacon, I wouldn’t murder another person to survive. If they were already dead, you bet I would eat them.
Everyone has a different sliding scale of reason, so I say: as long as two adults consent to an action that doesn’t infringe upon anyone else’s rights, it’s probably fine. Eat up!
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