Episode 085: Three Long Pigs

Imagine yourself stuck in a mine. It’s just you and two other people, and the food runs out. One of the others pulls you aside and suggests the unthinkable. You’re mortified… but that third survivor’s thighs look as tasty as a 50-piece Nugget Meal from McDonald’s. What do you do? The prospect of cannibalism continues to fascinate humanity, and we here at BF are no exception. This episode Kiki, Kevin, and I dive deep into this forbidden dish and explore our boundaries on the issue. Where a couple of us draw the line may surprise you! So put on your best chain mail, grab some tasty insect munchies, and bring down that bottle of your best BBQ sauce, it’s time for BF…

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This Week’s Post-show Song Pimpage: “Timothy” by The Buoys

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9 Comments on "Episode 085: Three Long Pigs"

  1. rbzargon
    04/03/2011 at 6:41 am Permalink

    Mormons like to mention the infamous Donner Party whenever the subject of cannibalism comes up. Any publiicity is good publicity they say.

  2. RamblingRose
    04/03/2011 at 11:15 am Permalink

    Fascinating show. And Kevin – thanks for being a little insulted for me, I was too.

  3. Matthew
    06/03/2011 at 12:12 pm Permalink

    There are two issues here which kept getting inflated: killing people and eating people. The focus tended toward killing people–at least, that’s my take with all of the talk of firing squads, and whether people give permission to be killed or eaten, and what have you. But killing someone and eating someone are two separate acts and you can

    1. Kill someone and eat them
    2. Not kill someone and eat them
    3. Kill someone and not eat them
    4. Not kill someone and not eat them

    These are your four options (unless you take the Buddhist route, and then there’s a whole cluster fuck of possibilities that we westerners tend not to posit). If we’re asking about the morality of each of these options, #4 seems like a safe way out, right? But then we have the archetype of the soldier who finds his comrade horribly injured and puts a bullet in said comrade’s head to end the suffering caused by such gruesome wounds. If we hold this archetype to be morally sound (i.e. that killing someone to end their suffering is a good act), then there are instances in which #4 is actually immoral. But we don’t care about that. We want to talk about eating people.

    That doesn’t necessarily take #3 out of the running (once we do kill someone, do we have an obligation to eat them?) but we’ll just let that ruminate in the background of our other conversation.

    #1 can get tricky. Presumably we want to know the circumstances under which a person was killed before we can pass a judgement. The focus here is still on the killing though; the eating is just a context. I mean, we’re presuming that people are killing others in order to eat said others, though admittedly there could be a subset that kills people and just happens to decide to eat them. We’ll ignore this subset for the sake of brevity.

    For the remaining people falling under option #1, they’re either killing people because they want to eat them, or because they (believe they) need to eat them. The latter is your stereotypical survival scenario and the former is your Hannibal.

    Let’s start with the Hannibal. The focus here is likely to fall on the killing again; it will only be all the more theatrical because of the cannibalism. Is it moral for a person to kill them and eat them just because they want to? Likely we’ll say that the list of circumstances under which one person can morally kill another will not become more expansive when the consumption of flesh is involved. Perhaps we say that it is permissible to kill in self-defense, to end suffering, for a death sentence, and perhaps a few other circumstances. This list likely gets smaller when cannibalism is involved. Will we accept cannibalism from someone who is claiming to have killed in self-defense? Probably not. But still, there may be circumstances in which we can kill and eat someone because we want to and be able to justify it, like if they are receiving the death penalty. (This depends on whether the eating itself is justifiable, which will be explored later.)

    Alternatively, we might kill and eat someone because we feel we need to. Three people are trapped in a mine with little hope of being rescued. After going without food for some time, they decide that somebody will have to be eaten so that the other two can survive. This is a no-brainer. Of course one person should die versus three people dying. Let’s presume that all three of these people are the so-called breadwinners of their families. If all three people die, then all three families suffer immense emotional and financial damage, and they too may even starve to death. If one of the miners is sacrificed to save those other two, then sure, one family suffers grave emotional damage, but likely those other two families can pull together to support the third. The problem here is choice. How does one choose who to eat in this situation? If one person offers to sacrifice their body for the others it’s easy. If not, then do you draw straws? Do you compare the qualities and potentialities of the miners to decide which ones deserve to live most? Does the weakest one get overtaken by the others?

    Eating one of them just makes sense. Whether we can, emotionally, prepare ourselves to kill and eat somone that we presumably care about is another question altogether.

    Which brings us to #2. If a person dies (of natural causes), is it moral to eat them? Barring a soul, or at least presuming that what happens to the body is of no consequence to the soul, my answer is a resounding yes.

    Think about it. We spend our entire lives consuming, rather inefficiently I might add. As of 2006 or 2007, 70% of our corn crops were going to feed livestock. The numbers are similar for other grains and soy. For every 30 calories we put into something like a cow, we get about 1 calorie out. We’re expending an unmaintainable amount of energy so that we can eat meat (and as mentioned in the podcast, as this continues, and as the global population and standard of living grows, meat as we know it will become rarer and more expensive). In fact, it’s estimated that if we shifted our resources away from feeding livestock and instead fed those plant crops to people, world hunger would disappear (at least, until the population grew and land area devoted to farms was diminished as a result… and assuming we cooperated well enough to get that excess food to those that need it).

    After we’ve lived on this earth, consumming inefficiently for 60, 70, 80, 90, or even 100 years, they just throw us in the ground. The human animal is being raised very inefficiently, and then just thrown away.

    The answer is the get rid of livestock. They take up land and resources that are better used elsewhere. We shift to a society that raises only plant crops. We’ll have more than enough to feed everyone, and to sate our desire for meat, we’ll eat those people that die of natural causes. We won’t have to give up extra land to cattle because we’ll be the cattle. We’ll live long, happy lives, and when we die our bodies will go to nourish the next generations. Yes, human meat will still be just as inefficient to grow as beef, but that fact likely isn’t going to stop us from breeding, so we may as well make the best of it–and we won’t have the calorie degradation that we have from putting plants into animals and then animals into us… we’ll put the plants directly into us and then eat each other.

    We don’t cringe at the thought of organ donation, so why should we care about eating people? It’s all a matter of harvesting bodies to preserve the living. I think it would be a good use of my body after I’m dead and have no use for it.

    The problem is cultural, not moral. We’re grossed out by the thought of eating another person, just as we’re grossed out by the thought of eating bugs. Bugs are, in fact, quite tasty. Beatle larvae taste like pecans. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t grossed out when I tried it, but I recognize that it had nothing to do with the taste or texture of what I was eating; I had been inculcated from the time I was born to believe that bugs are icky.

    Shifting to eating bugs, and to eating those of us humans that pass of natural causes, is the moral choice when considering the alternatives. We just need to shift how we relate to the dead as well. If we could adopt the mentality that our loved ones are living on through us when we eat them, it would help move us beyond our cultural hangups.

  4. ceimi
    07/03/2011 at 8:15 am Permalink

    Why is it that most women I’ve met in school have been psych or sociology majors? Perhaps they are the most curious about the human mind and relationships.
    Kevin, I’m curious what your sister herself thinks of the field of psychology. I wouldn’t be offended if you had something critical or humorous to say about my sister’s field of Facilities Engineering, but I can understand your loyalty to her. I have a rather skeptical view of the value of my own major in Physical Sciences, my studies haven’t prepared me well and from what I’ve seen graduate school in my field will contribute very little utility for humanity. I know you feel strongly the opposite for your field.
    The fact is that we really haven’t proven that anything in psychotherapy is effective except for the therapist-patient relationship. And even that is rather dubious with the high rates of patient drop-out and the scale of decades that some appointments may continue. I believe that psychologists are valuable in our society and preserve a certain set of our American cultural values like optimism, self-confidence, and that negative feelings are not reflective of reality. I disagree with some methods such as creating mythologies by reconstruction of false memories which are taken to be the cause of the individual’s present identity. In fact, I believe that mild depression for example is quite a useful condition which can increase the realism of your evaluation of reality and increase the creativity to respond to your situation. The sad part is that most people who resort to psychotherapy do not have a strong social network; they do not have friends with whom they believe they can comfortably share their true thoughts and feelings. Then again, it is often a waste of time for some normal open-minded person to listen to another’s crap, and might be best left to professionals.
    Does she accept simply accept everything without criticism, and feel offended?
    My question for your sister is what does she disagree with or dislike most about her field? How could she improve it in her view?

  5. RamblingRose
    12/03/2011 at 12:39 pm Permalink

    Hi,

    I’m the sister that was slightly offended by that psychology related question on BF’s formspring. Ignoring your comment about gender differences in the field of psychology, I have some points of contention with your comment.

    I also would not be offended if someone had an insightful critique of the field of psychology that showed that they knew what they were talking about and thought these points were relevant, but that is not at all how I interpreted the formspring question. It seemed to me to be a jab at psychologists in general saying at the least that their occupation is worthless, and at worst that they are con-artists.

    Indeed they have not proven that anything in the field of psychotherapy is effective, but psychotherapy is very different than psychology or counseling psychology. Psychotherapy is based on the Freudian theory of personality which, while innovative at the time, was flawed and now generally considered to be bunk. The client-therapist relationship was really formulated by Rogers, and is also quite removed from psychology practiced today.

    Psychology today, both in its counseling and research form, has an entirely different theoretical framework that has been scientifically proven. Psychologists who do research (many of them) follow the scientific method and use the same statistical methods that researchers in the “hard sciences” do. They have been doing research for years, and many of the constructs and theories that have been formulated have been tested and re-tested to prove their validity. While getting a bachelors degree in psychology this is mainly what you learn. I have not, and probably will not take a class in counseling methods, but I have taken many classes on psychology research and have undertaken research in the field myself. It is only in graduate school that a person chooses to specialize in counseling or research, and this usually sets them off on different scholarly directions.

    The counseling side is, as I have said, very different than what was practiced so many years ago when the study of psychology was in its infancy (for instance, hysteria is no longer a valid diagnosis for women or anybody as it was in the past). I myself have recently undergone psychological counseling for the very reason you say that people seem to resort to counseling. I had not developed a strong social network and I was seeking help. After a few sessions, I learned about myself and developed skills to change what I was unhappy with and now in the space of a couple of months I have started developing a social network and I no longer see a counselor. I realize that this is purely anecdotal evidence, but it is fairly common across anybody who decides to see a counselor for any reason. The way counseling psychology is practiced today is useful. The counselor does not just provide an optimistic, accepting environment in which the person can move toward self-actualization (Rogerian theory), nor does a patient lay on a couch and talk about their past and blame everything on their mother (Freudian theory – there’s more, but that’s the stereotypical view).

    What offends me by the question in question and, in some ways, by your comment is that the field of psychology is still seen as useless clap-trap by so many people today. People do not approach a counselor when dealing with issues in their lives because they think seeing a “shrink” is a waste of time and money, and in some cases that it shows weakness. I believe there is a time in everybody’s life, especially the more dynamic times such as college, in which a person would benefit from seeing a counselor.

    I enjoy criticism, especially in the fields of my study (I am also earning minors in History, English, and Religious Studies). Criticism brings new ideas to the table and makes a person think. I am not averse to taking a new idea in and changing my mind if I think the new idea is valid. However I am averse to people making fun of any field or occupation in what could be a mean-spirited way. The world has enough unhappiness without us adding to it.

    Of course, as with all fields, psychology is not perfect. I am taking a class currently that focuses on research methodology, and there are always flaws. That is why so much research is done with different methodologies to attempt to negate these flaws. However my main dislike of the field is how it is comparatively unknown, I think that there should be more done to educate the general public on what it is now compared to what it once was.

    I should qualify this entire argument by saying that I am not going to be going into a specifically psychological field in my future. I am going to be a pastor, which is why I chose psychology. My future career is going to be mainly working with people, sometimes at the worst points of their lives. I will feel confident with this undergraduate degree that I can understand people a little better, and know when it would be best to advise them to see a professional. Because I will not be specializing, I see the field in comparatively broad strokes. I do not feel I am qualified to say where it most needs improvement. However I am confident that my peers who will be specializing will all bring critical thinking to the field and I look forward to keeping up with the research done in future years. Psychology is still a relatively young science, and it has many more lanes of study in its future.

  6. ceimi
    17/03/2011 at 7:45 am Permalink

    Thank you for your informative response.

    I disagree with you about the role of humor. Some forms of humor go beyond what some people feel is the border of controversy, but I think it is part of the magic of showing some local logical contradictions and new perspectives. Ricky Gervais was considered by some to be offensive at the Golden Globes, and consequently our strange obsession with these people and awards, and even comedy itself became a productive point of discussion.

    Humor can on the one hand oversimplify, and on the other make a viewpoint concise and succinct. If it prompts an interesting discussion, I think it justified.

    Are office managers consistently offended by the depiction of the boss in Dilbert? Should we feel offended for engineers who are represented as lazy Wally? I don’t quite understand what is meant by mean-spirited humor, perhaps a lack of context, etc can contribute to such a misinterpretation. Perhaps Americans take everything in life more seriously, every word to be persecution, every subject a victimization, and can’t stomach something like a more caustic British humor.

  7. KevSaund
    21/03/2011 at 9:56 am Permalink

    Jumping in here a little late…

    Matthew, I think your analysis was really interesting, and I hope you stick around, we always enjoy new perspectives that can share their point of view in an interesting fashion.

    Rose, I think you did a great job saying all the things I wanted to but even better. I guess it helps that you’re actually in the field.

    Ceimi, I don’t know exactly where you’re coming from with your comments regarding humor. While humor may be able to give new insight into something, making disparaging jokes does not.

    If a joke points out a serious flaw in something, quickly and easily that’s great, but if it simply reinforces incorrect assumptions then you have a problem. This is the same reason that race jokes are seriously problematic. Falling back on stereotypes reduces people to those stereotypes which can have serious negative consequences for everybody. Does that mean there can not be a single funny joke about professions (or race?) No, but the context, intent and consequences are all important. Furthermore, you delve into the same issues with your last comments regarding American and British sensibilities and humor. To sum up either one as a single entity does both a disservice and I know there is certainly a lot of crossover in fans of both. There are American comedians as wide ranging as Robin Williams, Chris Rock, Demetri Martin, Sam Kenison, Don Rickles, Jeff Foxworthy, Kathy Griffin, Amy Pohler, Ellen DeGeneres, Richard Pryor, Phyllis Diller and Jay Leno to name a few. I don’t know as many British comedians but people like Eddie Izzard, Jimmy Carr, Dave Gorman, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Rowan Atkinson, Monty Python (yes, I know they’re group) and Russel Brand all come to mind. I wouldn’t want to claim that any of them have the same style let alone split them up by country.

    Enjoy the complexity of life and the people found within it!

  8. ceimi
    22/03/2011 at 8:19 am Permalink

    Allow me to distort your argument into a different form–
    One class of good jokes are ones we already feel have correct assumptions and point out a serious flaw in something that we already believe is flawed.
    Bad jokes disparage our assumptions and what we hold perfectly correct, and do not change what we already believe.
    A second class of good jokes give us new insight, questioning our assumptions and suggesting flaws in our understanding, changing what we believe.
    The only difference between bad jokes and the second class of good jokes is a change in what was believed–and who is to verify which is which? A bad joke is simply a “2nd class” good joke in disguise. It actually doesn’t matter whether the “bad-2nd class good” joke implies something true or false, or even whether the opinion of the person hearing the joke is true or false. In my opinion, I don’t think it even has to change a person’s mind (or be an explicitly-held belief by the joker), it simply has to expose someone to another viewpoint, true or false as it may be. Since the joke is in the ear of the hearer, it is impossible to consider disingenuous telling a joke with assumptions which are merely culturally inappropriate.

    Making disparaging jokes does give you new insight, case in point. Isn’t it necessary to understand an erroneous point of view is in order to correct it?
    When people feel sufficiently offended by humor, a dialogue is initiated ideally to attempt to reconcile the cultural values either side may or may not have. The world would be rather boring if we all agreed with each other on everything, if we knew or felt what everyone else did.

    Stereotypes and simplifications themselves have never been offensive. Posing a joke is like an experiment where the subject’s reaction gives an idea of a person’s identity and experience. If they like it or chuckle, perhaps they have a tacit agreement with some part of it, or perhaps they only find it surprising or shocking. Even if they find it disagreeable, the dialogue which ensues can be instructive. Unfortunately, in many other cases where jokes come in a continuous stream, many such jokes are ignored and forgotten rather than openly debated.

    Be as tolerant of absurdity as of meaning.

  9. Taz
    30/03/2011 at 3:51 am Permalink

    Bloody good show, chaps. Bloody good show indeed.

    Unfortunately I’m a little short on time to jump into the discourse above, but I’ve got a couple of quick things to throw in.

    1) Totally with Kiki. I too want to eat the world; to experience it through the medium of munch. And I believe this to be an admirable trait. Hell, even old Gran’daddy Darwin spent a reasonable portion of his life eating his subjects, rather than studying them. In fact, during his time in the Cambridge Gourmet Club, he once famously described Brown Owl as “indescribable.”

    2) When it comes to eating people and the context in which such a thing might happen, let me just put this out there: If it means living another day – you’re all god damned stew to me. In the nicest possible way, of course.
    I see survival and living as two very different things. (When I talk about survival here I refer to the immediate “If I don’t do this I am dead” survival and not the “if we let X happen then Y might possibly happen down the line and F up our Z” survival.) In a case of immediate survival, how can there be any time or place for morals or ethics? In living, such things are arguably vital to the protection of self, society and environment. But in a desperate, near-death survival situation, surely the refusal of a food source on grounds of “ickiness” or “immorality” would acheive nothing but validating one’s candacy for immediate Darwinian execution.

    3) If you ever need a Brit on the show: I promise I come off a lot less beligerant in person than in writing. Also, Charles Darwin was British (a useless statement, given the context, I know, but Darwin had managed to worm his way into the 2 points preceding this one and I didn’t want number 3 to feel left out.)

    Much love,
    Taz

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