Cannibalism Book Summary - Cannibalism Book explained in key points
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Cannibalism summary

Bill Schutt

A Perfectly Natural History

3.7 (53 ratings)
15 mins

Brief summary

Cannibalism by Bill Schutt is a fascinating look into the history and biology of the taboo practice. Schutt explores how and why cannibalism has occurred throughout the animal kingdom and its evolution over time.

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    Most people consider cannibalism appalling and unnatural, but research shows it’s quite natural.

    Certain things are absolutely taboo in most human societies, and the images you conjure up when you hear the word “cannibalism” are likely pretty loaded. But this practice has an interesting place in human history and deserves a closer look.

    Simply put, cannibalism is defined as an individual consuming all or part of another individual of the same species. It includes behavior like scavenging and even certain reproductive processes through which tissues, such as the skin or uterine lining, are consumed.

    However, despite the centrality of such practices, until recently cannibalism was considered highly abnormal in nature. It was thought only to arise from extreme conditions like starvation or captivity.

    This conception transformed in the 1970s with new research done by Laurel Fox, an ecologist at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Fox discovered that cannibalism is a perfectly normal response to all kinds of environmental factors.

    She also found that it’s much more widespread than had been previously believed. Cannibalism occurs in every major animal group – even those thought of as herbivores, like butterflies.

    However, this behavior depends on a variety of factors from population density to shifts in environmental conditions.

    Cannibalism is common in nutritionally marginal areas that experience overcrowding, increased hunger and a lack of nutritious alternatives for a given population. Conversely, it’s extremely rare in situations with adequate and predictable supplies of food.

    In other words, cannibalism is usually a result of specific conditions, and in the next blink, we’ll learn which ones.

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    What is Cannibalism about?

    Cannibalism (2017) offers a scientific, historical and cultural approach to the understanding of, well, cannibalism. These blinks explain why animals eat their own, why it’s become so taboo among humans, and why it could come back.

    Cannibalism Review

    Cannibalism (2017) by Bill Schutt is a fascinating exploration of the taboo subject, highlighting the surprising role it plays in the natural world. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With rigorous scientific research and compelling storytelling, Schutt unveils the shocking truth about cannibalism, challenging common misconceptions.
    • The book delves into the evolutionary advantages and ecological implications of cannibalism, offering a unique perspective on the complexities of nature.
    • Through vivid descriptions and eye-opening anecdotes, Schutt engages readers in a thought-provoking journey that will make them see cannibalism in a new light.

    Best quote from Cannibalism

    When he is fat I will eat him . . . Let Hansel be fat or lean, tomorrow I will kill him and cook him. – old woman in Hansel and Gretel

    —Bill Schutt
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    Who should read Cannibalism?

    • Scientists, biologists and sociologists
    • Students interested in evolution and cultural taboos
    • People who love sci-fi and dystopian fiction

    About the Author

    Bill Schutt is a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History and a professor of biology at LIU Post in New York. He wrote Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures and is the co-author of the novel Hell’s Gate.

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    Cannibalism FAQs 

    What is the main message of Cannibalism?

    Discover the history, biology, and cultural significance of Cannibalism.

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    Is Cannibalism a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Cannibalism is a captivating read that explores a taboo subject from a scientific and cultural perspective.

    Who is the author of Cannibalism?

    Bill Schutt is the author of Cannibalism.

    What to read after Cannibalism?

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