Cannibalism is the act or practice of eating members of one's own species and usually refers to humans eating other humans (sometimes called anthropophagy). Cannibalism has been attributed to many different tribes and ethnicities in the past, but the degree to which it has actually occurred and been socially sanctioned is an extremely controversial topic in anthropology]], owing to the extreme taboo against its practice in most cultures. Some anthropologists argue that cannibalism has been almost non-existent and view claims of cannibalism with extreme skepticism, while others argue that the practice was common in pre-state societies. The eating of an animal which previously ate a human is not considered an act of cannibalism.
Several archaeologists have claimed that some ruins in the American Southwest contain evidence of cannibalism. Individual cases in other countries have been seen with mentally unstable persons, criminals, and, in unconfirmed rumors, by religious zealots. Cannibalism is also sometimes practiced as a last resort by people suffering from famine. In the US, it is commonly believed that the group of settlers known as the Donner party resorted to cannibalism while snowbound in the mountains for the winter. There are disputed claims that cannibalism was widespread during the famine in Ukraine in the 1930s, during the Siege of Leningrad in World War II, and during the Chinese Civil War and the Great Leap Forward in China. It has been claimed that cannibalism was practiced by Japanese troops as recently as WWII in the Pacific theater. A more recent example is of leaked stories from North Korean refugees of cannibalism practiced during and after a famine that occurred sometime between 1995 and 1997. 
Cannibalism is not common but is a part of the life cycle for some species. The female red-back spider, black widow spider, praying mantis, and scorpion sometimes eat the male after mating (though the frequency of this is often overstated). For other organisms, cannibalism has less to do with sex than relative sizes. Larger octopus preying upon smaller ones is commonly observed in the wild, and the same can be said for certain toads, fish, red-backed salamanders, crocodiles, and tarantulas. Cannibalism may develop in extremes such as captivity or a desperate food shortage. For instance, a domestic sow may eat her newborn young, though this behavior has not been observed in the wild. Another cause for cannibalism in captivity is territoriality; species with large territories in the wild may display cannibal behaviors in confinement with others. For example, while tarantulas infrequently cannibalize in the wild, they do so much more commonly in captivity. It is also known that rabbits, mice, rats, or hamsters will eat their young if their nest is repeatedly threatened by predators. In some species adult males are known to kill and sometimes eat young of their species to whom they are not closely related — famously, the chimpanzees observed by Dr. Jane Goodall. This is believed to be a mechanism of increasing the portion of a colony's energy and food expenditure that will then be available to the cannibal's own offspring. During the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, a number of animals in Belgrade Zoo, including a tigress and two she-wolves were reported to be so traumatised that they ate their offspring. Prince, a Bengal tiger, was even reported by an Indian war correspondent to have started eating himself — gnawing at his own foot in what the zookeeper was quoted as saying was his "protest" at the bombing.
Cannibalism among humans
Template:Weasel It is generally accepted that accusations of cannibalism have historically been much more common than the act itself. Queen Isabella of Spain decreed that[conquistadores could not enslave any Native American tribes they encountered unless they practiced cannibalism. This meant that the incidence of cannibalism was wildly exaggerated and in most cases invented. The Carib] tribe acquired a longstanding reputation as cannibals due to this, whereas in fact modern research has found no trace of the practice. During the years of British colonial expansion, slavery was considered to be illegal unless the people involved were so depraved that their conditions as slaves would be better than as free men. Demonstrations of cannibalistic tendencies were considered evidence of such depravity, and hence reports of cannibalism became widespread.
The Korowai tribe of southeastern Papua is one of the last surviving tribes in the world said to engage in cannibalism. In many wars in Africa, cannibalism is said to occur commonly, although in peacetime it does not appear to happen except for isolated cases involving traditional medicine.
Marvin Harris has analyzed cannibalism and other food taboos. He thinks that it was common when humans lived in small bands, but disappeared in the transition to states, the Aztecs being an exception.
Other more contemporary reports have also been called into question. The well known case of mortuary cannibalism of the Fore tribe in New Guinea which resulted in the spread of the disease Kuru is well documented and not seriously questioned by modern anthropologists. This case, however, has also been questioned by those claiming that although post-mortem dismemberment was the practice during funeral rites, cannibalism was not. Marvin Harris theorizes that it happened during a famine period coincident with the arrival of Europeans and was rationalized as a religious rite.
The word cannibal comes from Spanish Canibal (used first in plural Canibales), derived from Caniba, Columbus's name for the Carib or Galibi people.  There is verbal confluence here. Christopher Columbus originally assumed the natives of Cuba were subjects of the Great Khan of China or 'Kannibals'. Template:Citation needed Prepared to meet the Great Khan, he had aboard Arabic and Hebrew speakers to translate. Then thinking he heard Caniba or Canima, he thought that these were the dog-headed men (cane-bal) described in Mandeville. Others (Samuel Purchas, Hakluytus Posthumus, Volume XIV, 1905: 451) claim that "Cannibal" meant "valiant man" in the language of the Caribs. Richard Hakluyt's Voyages introduced the word to English. Shakespeare transposed it, anagram-fashion, to name his monster servant in The Tempest 'Caliban'. The Caribs called themselves Kallinago which may have meant 'valiant' (Raymond Breton 1647, Relations on the Caribs of Dominica and Guadalupe).
Cannibalism was reported in Mexico, the flower wars of the Aztec Empire being considered as the most massive manifestation of cannibalism, but the Aztec accounts, written after the conquest, reported that human flesh was considered by itself to be of no value, and usually thrown away and replaced with turkey. There are only two Aztec accounts on this subject: one comes from the Ramirez codex, and the most elaborated account on this subject comes from Juan Bautista de Pomar, the grandson of Netzahualcoyotl, tlatoani of Texcoco. The accounts differ little. Juan Bautista wrote that after the sacrifice, the Aztec warriors received the body of the victim, then they boiled it to separate the flesh from the bones, then they would cut the meat in very little pieces, and send them to important people, even from other towns; the recipient would rarely eat the meat, since they considered it an honour, but the meat had no value by itself. In exchange, the warrior would get jewels, decorated blankets, precious feathers and slaves; the purpose was to encourage successful warriors. There were only two ceremonies a year where war captives were sacrificed. Although the Aztec empire has been called "The Cannibal Kingdom", there is no evidence in support of it being a widespread custom. Aztecs believed that there were man-eating tribes in the south of Mexico; the only illustration known showing an act of cannibalism shows an Aztec being eaten by a tribe from the south (Florentine Codex). In the siege of Tenochtitlan, there was a severe hunger in the city; people reportedly ate lizards, grass, insects, and mud from the lake, but there are no reports on cannibalism of the dead bodies.
The friar Diego de Landa reported about Yucatán instances, Yucatan before and after the Conquest, translated from Relación de las cosas de Yucatan, 1566 (New York: Dover Publications, 1978: 4), and there have been similar reports by Purchas from Popayan, Colombia, and from the Marquesas Islands of Polynesia, where human flesh was called long-pig (Alanna King, ed., Robert Louis Stevenson in the South Seas, London: Luzac Paragon House, 1987: 45-50). It is recorded about the natives of the captaincy of Sergipe in Brazil, They eat human flesh when they can get it, and if a woman miscarries devour the abortive immediately. If she goes her time out, she herself cuts the navel-string with a shell, which she boils along with the secondine, and eats them both. (See E. Bowen, 1747: 532.)
Famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera claimed in his autobiography that during a period in 1904, he and his companions ate "nothing but cadavers" purchased from the local morgue. Rivera was fully aware of the shock value of this tale. Rivera claims that he thought cannibalism a way of the future, remarking "I believe that when man evolves a civilization higher than the mechanized but still primitive one he has now, the eating of human flesh will be sanctioned. For then man will have thrown off all of his superstitions and irrational taboos." Readers may be reminded of the savage satire of Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal.
In pre-modern medicine, an explanation for cannibalism stated that it came about within a black acrimonious humour, which, being lodged in the linings of the ventricle, produced the voracity for human flesh. 
It is interesting to note that currently the cheapest source of material from which food grade L-cysteine may be purified in high yield is human hair. Its use in food products is widespread worldwide. Some debate that consuming L-cysteine derived from human hair is not actually cannibalism. Some believe cannibalism occurs any time any human body part is intentionally harvested, prepared, and consumed as a food.
Few people identify the compulsion to gnaw and bite nails or pieces of skin from fingers as cannibalism, because it is not the intentional harvest of a food item. Similarly, intentionally consuming one's own flesh or body parts, such as sucking blood from wounds, is generally not seen to be cannibalism; ingesting one's own blood from an unintentional lesion such as a nose-bleed or an ulcer is clearly not intentional harvesting and consequently not cannibalistic. Trichophagia is a condition where the subject consumes his or her own hair.
It is possible for some mothers to gain possession of their afterbirth or placenta once their child is born. Some people eat this placenta material as a delicacy. "In the 70s to 80s, the first "cannibalism" practice was attributed to the group of "Kumander Bucay," whose members were reported to have eaten the flesh of their Muslim victims during the "Ilaga" and Moro rebel fighting. [...] He confirmed that the "cannibal gang" did eat the "human heart and liver" of their victims and drink their blood, believing that it is an effective "amulet" to protect them from bullets and bladed weapons." PHILIPPINE NEWS SITE --->
Historical cannibalism incidents
Cannibalism is reported in Jerusalem by Flavius Josephus during the siege that resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in 70AD. He reports that two women made a pact to eat their children, but after the first mother cooked her child, the second mother ate it but refused to reciprocate by cooking her own child.
Cannibalism was documented in Egypt during a famine caused by the failure of the Nile to flood for eight years (AD 1064-1072).
Cannibalism was practiced by the participants of the First Crusade. Some of the crusaders fed on the bodies of their dead opponents after the capture of the Arab town of Ma'arrat al-Numan.  . Amin Malouf also discusses further cannibalism incidents on the march to Jerusalem, and to the efforts made to delete mention of these from western history. (Amin Maalouf, The Crusades through Arab Eyes. Schocken, 1989, ISBN 08052089)
In Europe during the Great Famine of 1315-1317, at a time when Dante was writing one of the greatest pieces of literature in western history and the Renaissance was just beginning, there were widespread reports of cannibalism throughout Europe. However, many historians have since denied these reports as fanciful and ambiguous.
During the 16th century, there was even a whole clan (48 people) of cannibalistic murderers in Scotland. Together with their leader and, in many cases, father Sawney Bean they murdered and ate over a thousand people. However, now historians believe, this was just a folks tale, based on some ridiculous fairy tales.
In the Dutch rampjaar (disaster year) of 1672, when France and England during the Franco-Dutch War / Third Anglo-Dutch War attacked the Republic, Johan de Witt (a significant Dutch political figure) was killed by a shot in the neck; his naked body was hanged and mutilated and the heart was carved out to be exhibited. His brother was shot, stabbed, eviscerated alive, hanged naked, brained and partly eaten.
The survivors of the sinking of the French ship Medusa in 1816 resorted to cannibalism after four days adrift on a raft.
After the sinking of the Whaleship Essex of Nantucket by a whale, on November 20, 1820, (an important source event for Herman Melville's Moby Dick) the survivors, in three small boats, resorted, by common consent, to cannibalism in order for some to survive . See The Custom of the Sea.
Sir John Franklin's lost polar expedition and the Donner Party]] are other examples of human cannibalism from the 1840s.
In the 1870s, in the U.S. state of Colorado, a man named Alferd Packer was accused of killing and eating his travelling companions. He was later released due to a legal technicality, and maintained that he was innocent of the murders throughout his life. However, modern forensic evidence, unavailable during Packer's lifetime, indicates that he did indeed murder and/or eat several of his companions. The story of Alfred Packer was satirically told in the Trey Parker comedy/horror/musical film, Cannibal! The Musical, released in 1996 by Troma Studios.
The case of R v. Dudley and Stephens (1884) 14 QBD 273 (QB) is an English case which is said to be one of the origins of the defense of necessity in modern common law. The case dealt with four crewmembers of an English yacht which were cast away in a storm some 1600 miles from the Cape of Good Hope. After several days one of the crew fell unconscious due to a combination of the famine and drinking sea-water. The others (one objecting) decided then to kill him and eat him. They were picked up four days later. The fact that not everyone had agreed to draw lots contravened The Custom of the Sea and was held to be murder. At the trial was the first recorded use of the defence of necessity.
During the 1930s anecdotal accounts of cannibalism were reported from the Ukraine during the Holodomor. 
On October 13, 1972, an Uruguayan rugby team flew across theAndes to play a game in Chile. The plane crashed near the border between Chile and Argentina. After several weeks of starvation and struggle for survival, the numerous survivors decided to eat the frozen bodies of the deceased in order to survive. They were rescued over two months later.
It has been reported by defectors and refugees that, at the height of the famine in the 1990's, cannibalism was sometimes practiced in North Korea.
Médecins Sans Frontières the international medical charity, supplied photographic and other documentary evidence of ritualised cannibal feasts among the participants in Liberia's internecine strife in the 1980s to representatives of Amnesty International who were on a fact-finding mission to the neighbouring state of Guinea. However, Amnesty International declined to publicise this material, the Secretary-General of the organization, Pierre Sane, stating at the time in an internal communication that "what they do with the bodies after human rights violations are committed is not part of our mandate or concern". The existence of cannibalism on a wide scale in Liberia and Sierra Leone was subsequently verified in video documentaries by Journeyman Pictures of London.
Cannibalism in war
Some people claim cannibalism took place during the WWII siege of Leningrad.    Some American Indian tribes believed that by eating part of your enemy one could gain a particular characteristic of the deceased rival (e.g., eating the heart of a brave opponent would help you gain more courage). References to cannibalizing the enemy has also been seen in poetry written when China was repressed in the Song Dynasty.
An event occurring in the western New York territory ("Seneca Country") U.S.A., during 1687 was later described in this letter sent to France: “On the 13th (of July) about four o’clock in the afternoon, having passed through two dangerous defiles (narrow gorges), we arrived at the third where we were vigorously attacked by 800 Senecas, 200 of whom fired, wishing to attack our rear whilst the remainder of their force would attack our front, but the resistance they met produced such a great consternation that they soon resolved to fly. All our troops were so overpowered by the extreme heat and the long journey we had made that we were obliged to bivouac (camp) on the field until the morrow. We witnessed the painful Sight of the usual cruelties of the savages who cut the dead into quarters, as in slaughter houses, in order to put them into the pot (dinner); the greater number were opened while still warm that their blood might be drank. our rascally otaous (Ottawa Indians) distinguished themselves particularly by these barbarities and by their poltroonery (cowardice), for they withdrew from the combat;..." Marquis de Denonville.
Lowell Thomas records the cannibalization of some of the surviving crew members of the Dumaru after the ship exploded and sank during the First World War in his book, The Wreck of the Dumaru (1930).
Documentary and forensic evidence supports eyewitness accounts of cannibalism by Japanese troops during World War II. This practice was resorted to when food ran out, even with Japanese soldiers killing and eating each other when enemy civilians were not available. In other cases, enemy soldiers were executed and then dissected. A well-documented case occurred in Chichi Jima 1945, when the Japanese soldiers killed, rationed and ate eight downed American airmen. (Ninth downed, Lt.JG George H. Bush, was picked by submarine USS Finback, and avoided the fate.) This case was investigated 1947 in war crimes trial, and of 30 Japanese soldiers prosecuted, five (Maj. Matoba, Gen. Tachibana, Adm. Mori, Capt. Yoshii and Dr. Teraki) were found guilty and hanged.
Cannibalism was reported by at least one reliable witness, the journalist Neil Davis during the South East Asian wars of the 1960s and 1970s. Davis reported that Khmer (Cambodian) troops ritually ate portions of the slain enemy, typically the liver. However he, and many refugees, also report that cannibalism was practised non-ritually when there was no food to be found. This usually occurred when towns and villages were under Khmer Rouge control, and food was strictly rationed, leading to widespread starvation. Any civilian caught participating in cannibalism would have been immediately executed. 
Cannibalism has been reported in several recent African conflicts, including the Second Congo War, and the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Typically, this is apparently done in desperation, as during peacetime cannibalism is much less frequent. Even so, it is sometimes directed at certain groups believed to be relatively helpless, such as Congo Pygmies. It is also reported by some that African traditional healers sometimes use the body parts of children in their medicine. However this is undocumented and believed by most anthropologists to be an untrue rumor.
'Cannibalism' as cultural libel
Numerous groups, peoples, and cultures are accused of killing and eating human beings. See Blood libel.
Unsubstantiated reports of cannibalism disproportionately relate cases of cannibalism among cultures that are already otherwise despised, feared, or are little known. In antiquity, Greek reports of anthropophagy were related to distant, non-Hellenic barbarians, or else relegated in myth to the 'primitive' chthonic world that preceded the coming of the Olympian gods: see the explicit rejection of human sacrifice in the cannibal feast prepared for the Olympians by Tantalus of his son Pelops. In 1994, printed booklets reported that in a Yugoslavian concentration camp of Manjaca the Bosnian refugees were forced to eat each other's bodies. The reports were false.
William Arens, author of The Man-Eating Myth: Anthropology and Anthropophagy (New York : Oxford University Press, 1979; ISBN 0195027930), questions the credibility of reports of cannibalism and argues that the description by one group of people of another people as cannibals is a consistent and demonstrable ideological and rhetorical device to establish perceived cultural superiority. Arens bases his thesis on a detailed analysis of numerous "classic" cases of cultural cannibalism cited by explorers, missionaries, and anthropologists. His findings were that many were steeped in racism, unsubstantiated, or based on second-hand or hearsay evidence. In combing the literature he could not find a single credible eye-witness account. And, as he points out, the hallmark of ethnography is the observation of a practice prior to description. In the end he concluded that cannibalism was not the widespread prehistoric practice it was claimed to be; that anthropologists were too quick to pin the cannibal label on a group based not on responsible research but on our own culturally-determined pre-conceived notions, often motivated by a need to exoticize. He wrote:
"Anthropologists have made no serious attempt to disabuse the public of the widespread notion of the ubiquity of anthropophagists. … in the deft hands and fertile imaginations of anthropologists, former or contemporary anthropophagists have multiplied with the advance of civilization and fieldwork in formerly unstudied culture areas. …The existence of man-eating peoples just beyond the pale of civilization is a common ethnographic suggestion."
Aren's findings are controversial, and his argument is often mischaracterized as "cannibals don't and never did exist," when in the end the book is actually a call for a more responsible and reflexive approach to anthropological research. At any rate, the book ushered in an era of rigorous combing of the cannibalism literature. By Aren's later admission, some cannibalism claims came up short, others were reinforced.
Conversely, Michel de Montaigne's essay "Of cannibals" introduced a new multicultural note in European civilization. Montaigne wrote that "one calls 'barbarism' whatever he is not accustomed to." By using a title like that and describing a fair indigean society, Montaigne may wished to provoke a surprise in the reader of his Essays.
Similarly, Japanese scholars (e.g. Kuwabara Jitsuzo) branded the Chinese culture as cannibalistic in certain propagandistic works — which served as ideological justification for the assumed superiority of the Japanese during World War II.
Sexualized cannibalism (fantasies and real)
The wide use of the Internet has highlighted that thousands of people harbor sexualized cannibalistic fantasies. Discussion forums and user groups exist for the exchange of pictures and stories of such fantasies. A good example of such fantasies is provided by the works of Dolcett. Typically, people in such forums fantasize about eating or being eaten by members of their sexually preferred gender. As such, the cannibalism fetish or paraphilia is one of the most extreme sexual fetishes.
Rarely ever do such fetishes leave the realm of fantasies (aided by modern technology for photo modification or completely computer generated images). There have been extreme cases of real life sexualized cannibalism, such as those of the serial killers Albert Fish, Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer, Sascha Spesiwtsew, Fritz Haarmann ("the Butcher of Hannover") and Andrei Chikatilo "The Soviet Hannibal Lecter".
Another well-known case involved a Japanese student of English literature, Issei Sagawa, who grew fond of Renée Hartevelt, a 25-year-old Dutch woman he met while studying at the Sorbonne Academy in Paris in 1981. He eventually murdered and ate her, writing a graphic yet poignant description of the act. Declared unfit to stand trial in France, his wealthy father had him extradited back to Japan where he eventually regained his freedom. The way he reveled in what he did made him a national celebrity, and he has written several bestselling novels and continues to write a nationally syndicated column. The story is the subject of a verse in the 1986 Rolling Stones song "Too Much Blood" and the 1981 Stranglers song "La Folie".
In December 2002, a highly unusual case was uncovered in the town of Rotenburg in Hesse, Germany. In 2001 Armin Meiwes, a 41-year-old computer administrator, had posted messages like his more recent ones (see messages) in Internet newsgroups on the subject of cannibalism, repeatedly looking for "a young Boy, between 18 and 25 y/o" to butcher. At least one of his requests was successful: Jürgen Brandes, another computer administrator, offered himself to be slaughtered. The two men agreed on a meeting. Jürgen Brandes was, with his consent, killed and partially eaten by Meiwes, who, as a result, was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in jail for manslaughter (Totschlag, second-degree murder). In April 2005, the German Federal Court of Justice ordered a retrial upon appeal of the prosecution, and in May 2006 Meiwes was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. The band Rammstein took up this case in the song "Mein Teil".
This was not the first consensual killing mediated through the Internet, but it is the first such known case of consensual cannibalism.
Cannibal themes in myth, religion or arts
On a primitive level, ritually eating part of the slaughtered enemy is a way of assuming the life-spirit of the departed. In a funeral ritual this may also be done with a respected member of one's own clan, ensuring immortality. Cannibal ogresses appear in folklore around the world, the witch in 'Hansel and Gretel' being the most immediate example.
The opening of Hell, the Zoroastrian contribution to Western mythology, is a mouth. According to [Catholic dogma, bread and wine are transubstantiated into the real flesh and blood of Jesus, which are then distributed by the priest to the faithful. The accusations of cannibalism made against ancient Christians may reflect earlier versions of such beliefs but should also be understood as a form of libel, expressing anxiety and concern about a new and somewhat secretive religious group. The Christians in turn accused their opponents, such as the Gnostic sect of the Borborites, for cannibalism and ritual abuse.
In the Qur'an slanderers are stigmatized as those who eat the flesh of the dead body of the person they slander.
Cannibalism as "sympathetic magic"
This is a subset of the general idea of eating a totem to absorb its distinctive power, much like tiger penis is eaten to promote virility. By eating our enemy, we take his power into ourselves. Some also consider this idea to be at the root of the Catholic dogma of transubstantiation: to acquire divinity (immortality, sinlessnes) by absorption, by eating the flesh of God. (However, the more likely Biblical theological and historical roots of this are pertaining to the sacrificial offering of Christ and its reference to the representations in the Jewish Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was being celebrated during the Last Supper.)
The doctrine of transubstantiation has nothing to do with acquiring divinity. The Roman Catholic Church is not pantheistic. Transubstantiation is the belief that Christ is present in the elements of the Lord's Supper. It is based on the Aristotelian notion of substance and accidents. The elements are Jesus in substance, but they retain the accidents of bread and wine. His presence in the elements dispenses grace to believers who partake. Transubstantiation is opposed by the Protestant belief that the Lord's Supper serves for remembering Jesus' sacrifice.
Rugby followers will have been struck recently by the new "Haka" of the All Blacks/New Zealand team. In it the well-documented ritual cannibalism of the Maori is represented not only by the "opening of the chest" of the more usual "Kamate Kamate" Haka which has been consistently performed by the New Zealand Rugby Football team - immediately after the singing of National Anthems - since 1905, but by a dramatic throat-slitting gesture at the climax of the new ceremony which was memorably led by the All Blacks captain Tana Umaga in the Test match against England at Twickenham in 2005.
Cannibalism as a funeral rite
Several cultures have been known to eat their dead loved ones as a matter of course, such as the Fore tribe of New Guinea.
Cannibalism in popular culture
Some examples of cannibalism in popular culture: