How many times did your mom used to tell you not to chew on your fingernails. She might have said it could hurt your teeth or make your nails jagged; but did she ever tell you that it can be seen as a form of cannibalism?
It might surprise you that self-cannibalism – also known as autophagy in this case – occurs on a small scale in each and every living being. You could be considered a cannibal purely due to the ingestion of dead cells from your tongue and mouth, or in the case of nervous nail biting. Those who have a habit of chewing on their own hair have self-cannibalistic tendencies as well. Have you ever cut yourself and then licked the wound? This can be considered a form of auto-vampirism – also a type of self-cannibalism.
Don’t Eat the Spaghetti
Self-cannibalism actually occurs in day-to-day life; however, traditionally recognized cannibalism is typically rare. That said, it still occurs. In recent years, reports of more disturbing acts of cannibalism have gained media attention.
In 2007, a Chilean artist by the name of Marco Evaristti held a dinner party for a few personal friends. What was the main course, you ask? Why, it was agnolotti pasta with a meatball in the center. The meatball was made with oil from the artist’s own extracted body fat, which was taken from him by liposuction the year before. The cannibalistic dinner was meant to be artistic, as Evaristti arranged the dinner party in the fashion of the ‘Last Supper’ and explained that he wanted to emphasize the sad truth that people live to eat rather than eating to live.
More recently, a man in New Zealand sawed off his own finger and ate it after boiling it in a pot, along with a healthy array of vegetables. The man, who was never named, said he felt severe depression before he took his own finger and had planned on taking two more and boiling them, but decided against it. His method included a shoelace for a tourniquet and then a jigsaw to cut the finger off.
There have also been reports of cannibalism being used as a form of torture, such as the case of young people in Sudan being forced to eat their own ears in the 1990s; or 16th century Spanish colonizers forcing the natives of their next conquer to eat their own testicles.
Although most of us would never dream of eating human flesh, many of us do so without knowing. Next time you chew your nails or suck a wound, think about what you’re actually doing. After all, in this case especially, you are what you eat.