The Ethical Cannibal

When my buddy Adam decided to go vegan, he told me that part of his decision was based on the morality involved in killing animals against their will. I remember asking him whether he would be allowed to eat an animal that died of old age or a suicidal animal. We both agreed that neither of those options were all that appetizing. There is simply no way for an animal to give an informed consent to their own demise.

But people are different.

I think I asked Adam what his stance would be about getting consent from a person to drink breast milk or even eat human meat. Little did I know that my theoretical ribbing had already been acted out in real life.

Armin Meiwes, the Cannibal of Rotenburg.

Armin Meiwes, the Cannibal of Rotenburg.

Enter Armin Meiwes, a German computer repair technician who placed an ad online in 2001 stating that he was “looking for a well-built 18- to 30-year-old to be slaughtered and then consumed”. If you think that no one would be dumb enough to act on such an ad, you’d be wrong. Many people answered. A few met with Meiwes then decided that being killed and eaten wasn’t right for them. But one guy agreed: Bernd Jürgen Armando Brandes.

Brandes signed legal stuff stating that Meiwes was not murdering him, and the two videotaped Brandes’ dismemberment and demise. I don’t want to go into any more detail here as it is already pretty gross, so let’s look at the legal stuff involved in the case.

Meiwes was arrested in 2002 after placing another ad online that detailed his exploits with Brandes. I supposed Meiwes’ fridge was getting empty. Anyway, he was arrested and convicted of manslaughter, then retried later on for murder.

As an ironic after-the-fact tidbit, Meiwes has become a vegetarian in prison. Perhaps he shares my buddy’s convictions.

So was it wrong? Disgusting and deplorable, sure. But was it unethical for two consenting adults to engage in a butcher/meat scenario? Can an act be wrong regardless of intention or consent?

I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on this in the comments.

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