A few months ago, I had a fleeting wave of motivation during which I subscribed to a ton of emailed newsletters: from The New York Times to Amnesty International to Etsy and Pinterest. I kept up with the emails for about two days before they started piling up in my inbox. Now when I unlock my phone I have to ignore the nice red circle telling me I’m 415 emails behind.
I opened one of them the other night after watching two straight seasons of Shameless and deciding I needed some semblance of productivity in my life. It was a science newsletter, and the top article caught my attention with a photo entitled “A Komodo dragon eating the carcass of another dragon,” which is a very fitting title, though I doubt the full revulsion induced by the photograph can be felt without seeing it. The article, entitled “In Many Species, a Family Dinner Means Something Else,” is a chilling compilation of examples of cannibalism, punctuated with graphic and oddly enthralling pictures. It claimed its title as the best thing I read this week not because it was profound or lovely, but because of its vividness and sensationalism.
The most horrifying visual aspect for me was the image of way too many tiny yellow baby spiders eating their huge, brown, hairy momma spider. A close second shows a young snowy owl eating its sibling, the lower half of which hangs haphazardly out of its mouth. I had no idea so many animals ate their own kind, but the article doesn’t end there.
It concludes with examples of human cannibalism, which turns out to have been a more prominent phenomenon than I ever learned in school. I had heard of “funerary cannibalism,” and seen a couple episodes on TV about some tribal nations eating their dead, but it turns out that humans have eaten each other in much more “civilized” situations, going so far as to have devised many different ways to prepare human flesh for dining.
That was all wild and grossly fascinating, but the article ends on a slightly more grave note that resonates especially dissonantly considering today’s political and environmental climate. The author reminds us to be aware that human cannibalism was not so long ago viewed as a tenable practice, and with overpopulation, dwindling of resources and the possible unraveling of civil society, we should be very careful to not lose sight of important principles, such as not eating each other. Seems like an unnecessarily dramatic warning to me, but hey, food for thought.