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An experiment in cannibalism

An experiment in cannibalism

From the book: “DIEGO RIVERA — MY ART, MY LIFE”

In 1904, wishing to extend my knowledge of human anatomy, a basic requisite for my painting, I took a course in that subject in the Medical School in Mexico City. At that time, I read of an experiment which greatly interested me.


Mexican Muralist Diego Rivera Whistling with Pencil Holder as He Studies His Sketches for Mural

A French fur dealer in a Paris suburb tried to improve the pelts of animals by the use of a peculiar diet. He fed his animals, which happened to be cats, the meat of cats. On that diet, the cats grew bigger, and their fur became firmer and glossier. Soon he was able to outsell his competitors, and he profited additionally from the fact that he was using the flesh of the animals he skinned.

His competitors, however, had their revenge. They took advantage of the circumstance that his premises were adjacent to a lunatic asylum. One night, several of them unlocked his cages and let loose his oversize cats, now numbering thousands. When the cats swarmed out, a panic ensued in the asylum. Not only the inmates but their keepers and doctors “saw cats” wherever they turned. The police had a hard time restoring order, and to prevent a recurrence of such an incident, an ordinance was passed outlawing “caticulture.”

At first the story of the enterprising furrier merely amused me, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I discussed the experiment with my fellow students in the anatomy class, and we decided to repeat it and see if we got the same results. We did — and this encouraged us to extend the experiment and see if it involved a general principle for other animals, specifically human beings, by ourselves living on a diet of human meat.

Those of us who undertook the experiment pooled our money to purchase cadavers from the city morgue, choosing the bodies of persons who had died of violence — who had been freshly killed and were not diseased or senile. We lived on this cannibal diet for two months, and everyone’s health improved.

During the time of our experiment, I discovered that I liked to eat the legs and breasts of women, for as in other animals, these parts are delicacies. I also savored young women’s breaded ribs. Best of all, however, I relished women’s brains in vinaigrette.

I have never returned to the eating of human flesh, not out of a squeamishness, but because of the hostility with which society looks upon the practice. Yet is this hostility entirely rational? We know it is not. Cannibalism does not necessarily involve murder. And human flesh is probably the most assimilable food available to man. Psychologically, its consumption might do much to liberate him from deep-rooted complexes — complexes which can explode with the first accidental spark.

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.

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