Cannibalism. It's the last, greatest taboo: the stuff of urban legends and ancient myths, airline crashes and Captain Cook. But while we might get a thrill at the thought of the black widow spider's gruesome mating habits or the tragic fate of the nineteenth-century Donner Party pioneers, today cannibalism belongs to history – or, at the very least, the realm of the weird, the rare and the very far away. Doesn't it?
Here, zoologist Bill Schutt digs his teeth into the subject to find an answer that is as surprising as it is unsettling. From the plot of Psycho to the ritual of the Eucharist, cannibalism is woven into our history, our culture – even our medicine. And in the natural world, eating your own kind is everything from a survival strategy – practiced by polar bears and hamsters alike – to an evolutionary adaption like that found in sand tiger sharks, who, by the time they are born, will have eaten all but one of their siblings in the womb.
Dark, fascinating and endlessly curious, Eat Me delves into human and animal cannibalism to find a story of colonialism, religion, anthropology, dinosaurs, ancient humans and modern consequences, from the terrible 'laughing death' disease kuru to the BSE crisis. And – of course – our intrepid author tries it out for himself. Published in partnership with Wellcome Collection.
This book has been published in the US by Alonquin Books under the title Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History.
Bill Schutt is Professor of Biology at LIU-Post (Long Island University) and Research Associate at the American Museum of Natural History. He is the author of Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures and a novel, Hell's Gate (with J. R. Finch).
"Entertaining [...] fascinating"
– Bee Wilson, Guardian