Printer Friendly

Cannibalism.

CANNIBALISM

By Bill Schutt

Algonquin

$26.95, 352 pages

ISBN 9781616204624

Audio, eBook available

NATURAL HISTORY

Let's face it: We are fascinated by cannibalism, from Hannibal Lecter to the brain-eating zombies in "The Walking Dead." In Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History, zoologist Bill Schutt writes about cannibalism with a delightful mixture of humor and scholarship.

Our horror of cannibalism is so deeply instilled that we assume it is an aberration resulting from extreme conditions such as starvation. Until fairly recently, most zoologists shared that belief. However, research since the 1990s has demonstrated that cannibalism is anything but rare in the animal kingdom. Schutt makes a convincing and frequently hilarious argument that cannibalism is a logical and successful strategy that many animals--especially insects, amphibians and fish, but also birds and mammals--employ in order to ensure the survival of their species.

The book is at its best, however, when discussing human cannibalism. Schutt writes movingly about the tragic Donner Party, one of the most infamous examples of starvation-induced human cannibalism. He also discusses the ongoing debate about whether ritual cannibalism--the consumption of human flesh for liturgical or spiritual reasons--actually exists, or if it is a rumor based on ignorance and fear, as well as an excuse for genocide and exploitation. But the most sobering reading comes when he explores the links between cannibalism and emerging diseases, and the implications for our own future in the face of diminishing resources.

Erudite, amusing and often moving, this is a compelling examination of a serious topic. Be prepared for some pretty curious looks, though--most people aren't used to hearing bursts of laughter from someone reading a book emblazoned with the title Cannibalism!

COPYRIGHT 2017 BookPage
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2017 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History
Author:Mason, Deborah
Publication:BookPage
Article Type:Book review
Date:Feb 1, 2017
Words:277
Previous Article:Once We Were Sisters.
Next Article:Reality is Not What it Seems.
Topics:

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters