Cannibalism: Should We Be More Lenient?
The self-appointed genius and legendary comic strip character Calvin of the famous comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, was in class one day and he gave his teacher a rather unexpected suggestion. He suggested that the class put their desks in a circle and debate whether or not cannibalism should be grounds for leniency in murders since it is less wasteful. The next panel shows Calvin in the corner in a dunce cap noting that teachers would rather teach their pupils things that can simply be looked up. While Calvin did not get to debate his side, it is a potentially important issue that must be discussed. Cannibalism should be grounds for leniency in murder trials, since it is less wasteful.
Now I personally feel that yes, cannibalism should be grounds for leniency in murders since it is less wasteful. However, I must make it clear what I mean by cannibalism and murders. I know that there have been instances like the Donner Party where the members have had to eat each other to stay alive. It happens. When I am talking about cannibalism, I am not talking about eating another human being to maintain survival. I am talking about a person who deliberately murders a person and eats them for a reason other than a last resort survival technique.
The first reason that it should be grounds for leniency is the burial factor. Funerals are not cheap. “According to the Federal Trade Commission, the average funeral costs in the United States can be well over $10,000 by the time you add floral arrangements, prayer cards and family transportation” (mydollarplan.com). If the dearly departed murder victim was eaten, then there is no need to have an expensive funeral. The only thing that one can possibly have is a memorial service which is far cheaper. The cost of funerals is accumulated with things like graveyard space, headstones, caskets, and funeral homes. With no corpse, all of those things become moot. Also, the cremation route, while it is cheaper, is still relatively expensive. “Cremation services usually start at $1000.” (mydollarplan.com). while the cremation route takes away costs like graveyard space and a headstone, the family would still be stuck with the additional costs of the memorial service. If the victim was cannibalized, there is no need to pay any expenses with anything to do with a corpse. By eating the victim, the killer just saved the victim’s family thousands of dollars leaving them with no debt.
There is another factor that must be taken into account: motivation. A reasonable motive lessens the severity of the crime. In a cannibalism case, there is one factor that is more or less prevalent throughout: people are delicious and nutritious. “A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie, or a ragoust.” (Swift). Jonathan Swift knew that people even at a young age made excellent meals. A person who simply murders someone is wasting more than just a life, if you murder someone there are many things that you can do with the corpse to be less wasteful about it. “Those who are more thrifty (as I must confess the times require) may flea the carcass; the skin of which, artificially dressed, will make admirable gloves for ladies, and summer boots for fine gentlemen.” (Swift). Famous ‘50’s serial killer Ed Gein was famous for not only making clothes out of his victims, but furniture and jewelry as well. This obviously is a large part of the leniency: they don’t waste anything by killing and eating their victims.
There are, of course, many reasons why they should not be given leniency. Many religious texts, which clearly make up the basis for most, if not all, of society’s most basic laws, feel that cannibalism is very wrong. “But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man" (NIV Genisis 9 1-6). This is basically saying not to eat someone alive. Also, God makes it very clear that man has dominion over all animals and that is why he is allowed to eat them. However, God also makes it very clear that man is made in his image so to consume something that was made in God’s own image would no doubt be a more heinous crime than murder. It is true that there is no specific bible verse saying ‘thou shalt not eat the flesh of man’ or any variation of that. However, the Bible shows cannibalism as a last resort. Something someone would only do if they had no other choice. Also, God seems to use it as a punishment. “Therefore in your midst fathers will eat their children, and children will eat their fathers. I will inflict punishment on you and will scatter all your survivors to the winds.” (NIV Ezekiel 5:10). God never explicitly says in the Bible that cannibalism is wrong however, this is generally explained by the fact that it is something so painfully obvious that it is one of the worst crimes that you can commit, that God felt that he didn’t need to say it.
I will be the first to admit that cannibalism is wrong. To eat another human being is something that should only be done when the consequences allow for no other choice. Murder is also one of the worst crimes someone can commit. A person taking the life of another person for a reason other than self-defense or combat is a shameless waste of what could have been a fruitful and rich human life. However, the combination of the two, must lead to leniency for the offender. However, in determining whether or not a cannibalistic murderer should receive leniency, because he ate his victims, one must fully establish what leniency should mean. According to deathpenaltyfact.org, as of right now, 35 of the 50 American states practice capital punishment. 15 States, as well as Washington DC, abolished the death penalty between 1853 and 2009. Since murder almost always results in the death penalty for the 35 states that practice it, the 35 states that practice the death penalty would execute the cannibalistic murderers while the 15 who do not would imprison them for life. I propose this: if a person has killed and eaten a victim entirely, then they should only serve a prison sentence of up to 60 years with the possibility of parole in 50 years. If a person only partially consumes his victim, then they must serve a prison sentence of up to 80 years with the possibility of parole in 60 years. So basically, the rule would be that the more that you waste when you murder someone, the longer your prison sentence and the longer that you have to wait before you are eligible for parole. This new law would be an incentive law. If a person must murder than they can get less jail time if they eat their victim. It can also be used as a deterrence law. If a person wants to avoid death or life in jail then they will have to eat their victim. The hope is that people will know that they would have to eat the person that they murdered and would then hopefully avoid it altogether. This would also be a law that would be decided on a state-by-state basis. Each state would vote on it just like the death penalty.
Despite all of the social and religious taboos that cannibalism carries, I feel that it should be grounds for leniency in murder trials. The fact that it means less waste for everyone is something that we should reward the criminal for. It lessens the financial burden of the family of the victim, people are delicious and nutritious, and they can be fashioned into things like clothing and furniture. Also, a law in the favor of cannibals would both help the convicted cannibals in return for the small service done to the victim’s family and society and it would more than likely help deter future killings because people would know that to get an easier sentence, they would need to consume their victims, something that would disgust most people. I know that cannibalism is very wrong, but it can potentially be a beneficial evil. If only ever so slightly. So, while Calvin never got to discuss his topic and was punished for even bringing it up, he can take comfort in the fact that now, he has strong support of his argument. Yes, it is a touchy subject and one that I’m sure we would all rather avoid altogether. But, the facts cannot be ignored.