What is Cannibalism?

Legal Definition
Cannibalism is the act or practice of humans eating the flesh or internal organs of other human beings. A person who practices cannibalism is called a cannibal. The expression cannibalism has been extended into zoology to mean one individual of a species consuming all or part of another individual of the same species as food, including sexual cannibalism.

The Island Carib people of the Lesser Antilles, from whom the word cannibalism derives, acquired a long-standing reputation as cannibals following the recording of their legends in the 17th century. Some controversy exists over the accuracy of these legends and the prevalence of actual cannibalism in the culture. Cannibalism was widespread in the past among humans in many parts of the world, continuing into the 19th century in some isolated South Pacific cultures, and to the present day in parts of tropical Africa. Cannibalism was practiced in New Guinea and in parts of the Solomon Islands, and flesh markets existed in some parts of Melanesia. Fiji was once known as the "Cannibal Isles". Cannibalism has been well documented around the world, from Fiji to the Amazon Basin to the Congo to Māori New Zealand. Neanderthals are believed to have practiced cannibalism, and Neanderthals may have been eaten by anatomically modern humans.

Cannibalism has recently been both practiced and fiercely condemned in several wars, especially in Liberia and Congo. It is still practiced in Papua New Guinea as of 2012 for cultic reasons and in ritual and in war in various Melanesian tribes. Cannibalism has been said to test the bounds of cultural relativism as it challenges anthropologists "to define what is or is not beyond the pale of acceptable human behavior."

Cannibalism has been occasionally practiced as a last resort by people suffering from famine, including in modern times. Famous examples include the ill-fated Westward expedition of the Donner Party (1846-7) and, more recently, the crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 (1972), after which some survivors ate the bodies of dead passengers. Also, some mentally ill people obsess about eating others and actually do so, such as Jeffrey Dahmer and Albert Fish. There is resistance to formally labeling cannibalism as a mental disorder.
-- Wikipedia
Legal Definition
Cannibalism is the nonconsensual consumption of another human's body matter. In the United States, there are no laws against cannibalism per se, but the act of cannibalism would probably violate laws against murder and against desecration of corpses.

The British formally outlawed cannibalism in the early 1800s.[1] By most accounts, it was the spread of Western religion and law into pre-industrial societies that extinguished many cannibalistic practices.[2] In countries with established legal infrastructure—that is, in which they were economically successful enough to afford courts—cannibalism had already been made rare.

One case in which nonconsensual survival cannibalism takes center stage is taught in most every criminal law course: Regina v. Dudley and Stevens. In Dudley, two upstanding naval citizens, Dudley and Stevens, along with their shipmates Brooks and Parker, were marooned on a raft after their vessel, the Mignonette, was destroyed in a storm.[3] They had no fresh water on the raft, and just two cans of turnips. They managed to fight off a shark attack and capture and eat a sea turtle, but they ended up starving and thirsting for many days.[4] The youngest and weakest, Parker, buckled and drank sea water, which made him sick with dehydration.[5] After Parker went comatose, Dudley killed him and the survivors drank his blood and ate his meat for the next week before being rescued.[6] The judges in that case did not accept the necessity defense and sentenced the defendants to death. Judge Posner defends the Dudley convictions, arguing that enforcing criminal penalties for cannibalism forces the perpetrators to kill only if the circumstances are so drastic as to make murder worth the later punishment.[7]

In 2001, a German named Armin Miewes placed an online solicitation for “a boy, if I can real kill him and butchering him. I am a cannibal, a real cannibal.”[8] The respondent, Bernd Brandes, had sex with Miewes before asking Miewes to cut off his penis.[9] Miewes complied, whereupon he fried the penis and the two ingested it together.[10] Miewes then killed Brandes with Brandes’s consent, afterwards dismembering the body and freezing it for later consumption. Miewes was later arrested, by which time he had ingested approximately 20 kg of Brandes’ body. Cannibalism was not illegal in Germany in 2001, but Miewes was nonetheless convicted of killing by request and defiling a corpse, for which he received a sentence of 8.5 years.[11]

[1] Travis-Henikoff 282.

[2] Sanday 210.

[3] Stephanie Miller, Cannibalism and the Common Law (1984).

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Richard A. Posner, An Economic Theory of the Criminal Law, 85 Colum. L. Rev. 1193, 1229-30 (1985).

[8] Roger Davis, You Are What you Eat: Cannibalism, Autophagy, and the Case of Armin Meiwes, Territories of Evil 151 (2008).

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.
Legal Definition
In zoology, cannibalism is the act of one individual of a species consuming all or part of another individual of the same species as food. Cannibalism is a common ecological interaction in the animal kingdom and has been recorded for more than 1500 species.