Happy Meat

These images were created in direct response to an academic paper authored by Mackenzie E. Davenport, Michael B. Bonsall, and Hope Klug in 2019 entitled Unconventional Care: Offspring Abandonment and Filial Cannibalism Can Function as Forms of Parental Care.

The scientists explain in their paper, which was published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution in 2019, how they used a mathematical model to prove that, in some cases, filial cannibalism is a form of parental care. Essentially these cases arise when it is beneficial for the greater good to sacrifice a number of offspring so that many more can survive.

To the best of our knowledge, the idea that offspring abandonment and filial cannibalism can themselves be and evolve as forms of parental care—even in the absence of more traditional care behaviors such as guarding or provisioning—is novel. While offspring abandonment and filial cannibalism are typically viewed as contradictory to parental care, our results illustrate that they might not be as contradictory as is commonly thought.

– Davenport, Bonsall, & Klug (2019)

We can look to works by other academics to understand, from an evolutionary perspective, why this might happen. For example, in his book Eat Me Professor Bill Schutt, explains how cannibalism in general (i.e. not just filial cannibalism) occurs in the population of numerous species at times when the population is under stress, for instance, due to a lack of food sources, or due to overpopulation which means more competition for food. Cannibalism acts as a form of natural balancing in which the population is reduced to a level at which the competition for food is no longer an issue and there are enough resources to go around.

It should be stated that the article by Davenport, Bonsall, & Klug focuses on cannibalism in the animal kingdom, not human cannibalism. However, given the pressing issues of the climate crisis, ecological breakdown and the stretching of the planets resources to their limit is it such a stretch to imagine that filial cannibalism would never happen amongst humans at a time of extreme stress? There is precedent recorded as recently as the twentieth century after all during both the Russian famine and the Great Leap in China.

Brian Mariner wrote in 1992 “Man is born a cannibal […] it is civilisation that places him in chains.”

Let us all Eat happy meat.