Extreme Survival: Cannibalism

Ever wondered how to survive a volcanic eruption? Not sure what to do when zombies inevitably take over? Don't worry, we've got you covered.

Oct 4, 2012
Outside Magazine
skeleton bones cannibalism survival apocalypse

Human bones.    Photo: riekephotos/Shutterstock

THE SITUATION: You're shipwrecked on a desert island, without any food or the equipment and energy to gather it. You were with a friend, but he/she just died. If you don't find something to eat soon, you will die. Then, you realize there’s a body next to you. Oh God.

BUT SERIOUSLY, WHAT DO YOU DO? For that answer, we turn to Carole A. Travis-Henikoff, author of Dinner With a Cannibal: The Complete History of Mankind’s Oldest Taboo. 

“If you happen to be a Navy SEAL or were trained in extreme survival tactics by the Armed Forces, you would know that your survival depended on quick and immediate action; you would know that you have no time for grieving or panic." You don't have much time to spare, especially if you're in warmer climes: "On a small, warm-to-hot island a body soon decays and becomes inedible.”

OK, brace yourself and maybe be near a garbage pail.

“First, find some palm leaves or washed-up boards. Cut open the abdomen and eviscerate the body, emptying the body cavity completely while saving the liver, but not the bile duct," Travis-Henikoff says. Wash the body thoroughly using seawater and get it and the liver into the shade.

You'll want to start by eating the liver and remaining organs. "The most nutritious parts of any mammalian body are the organs," says Travis-Henikoff. If possible, make a fire and cook the heart, liver, and brain, which have the most calories, vitamins, and minerals, and will also spoil first. Cook the muscle next. Leftover meat will last for a few days if you rub it with sea salt, wrap it, and store it "off the ground in a well-shaded place."

Your best bet for preserving the remaining uncooked muscle is to make jerky. "The muscle meat you dry will help you survive—make all the jerky you can," advises Travis-Henikoff. Cut the muscle into very thin strips and hang it over a tree limb or pole in bright sunlight. Flies will swarm on the jerky at first, but once the outer layer is dry, it should keep for long enough to supply you with food until help arrives.

Then, you never eat another human being ever again.