Across the globe in impoverished third world countries an estimated 50,000 children die of starvation every day (Quine 36). We have all seen the images of these children–bloated bellies, fly covered, bulging eyes–in television pleas by various charitable organizations. While these images sicken us, we idly sit by (often flipping the channel to avoid them), refusing to help these less fortunate kids. The problem is made worse by the ever-increasing population. Even the wealthy countries like our own now have a starvation problem (Quine 29).
Admittedly, the problem here is less severe, but it still exists. With our current level of technology, the resources at our disposal, and a commitment to help those less fortunate, we can and must end starvation around the world before it gets worse. The main problem facing efforts to wipe-out starvation in third world countries is that people feel no connection to those children. The commercials appealing to our conscience and sympathies are ineffective because, even though the images are awful, the viewer feels removed from the people in the commercials.
There is no connection because the commercial could be nothing more than a fictional image in a movie. We have all heard someone say, or possibly have said ourselves, \”We should help our own people first. \” Intuitively, there is something to this thought. It doesn’t make sense to us to pass over the starving in our own country to help children thousands of miles away. This, however, does not free us from our moral obligation to help those who are far away. What proponents of this view are pointing out is that we do have a problem in this country.
That simply means we are morally obligated to do something about the starving people here also, not that we are not equally obligated to help people in other countries as well. As philosopher Bertrand Russell points out, \”Physical proximity is not relevant to moral obligation\” (Russell 153). Distance and inconvenience do not relieve us of our moral duty. On the contrary, we may be–at least in the case of starvation of distant children–more obligated to help them. In the United States there are many programs, shelters, charities, and individuals to help our less fortunate.
A recent government study has shown that only 60% of the charitable donations of food, clothing, and money are used; the rest is lost, squandered, or in limbo. This same study estimates that the remaining 40% would provide enough resources to feed, clothe, and house every underprivileged and starving child in the country (U. S. Dept. of Welfare 44). With this being the case and with only an estimated 14% of the population making regular donations (Quine 10), the rest of us could easily help those people, especially children, starving in underdeveloped countries.
The people at home are (or at least can be) taken care of, contrary to popular opinion, so if we ignore the distance between us and those poor kids in, for example, Saint Thomas, then we are obligated to help them. Distance is not morally relevant, and we have the resources to help. Therefore, we can and must help. Another objection raised against helping the poor, starving kids in other countries is the financial stability of the American family. Many families live from paycheck to paycheck, barely paying their bills and putting food on the table.
Yes, this is a problem; however, it is not an insurmountable one. The Census Bureau reports that the majority of families do struggle with their finances (U. S. Census Bureau 69) and attempting to feed children in far away lands would provide these families with an undue hardship. However, there is an easy solution which can be found in other Census Bureau data. Two specific statistics are relevant to this issue. First, the U. S. population is increasing by an estimated 2,135,247 people each year (U. S. Census Bureau 32).
Second, approximately 54,000 people die in the U. S. each day, with that number expected to increase as the Baby Boomer generation rushes to meet the Grim Reaper (U. S. Census Bureau 21). Why are these two statistics important to the issue of third world starvation? Because they provide a further problem and a possible solution. The problem is overpopulation. The rate at which the U. S. population is growing will quickly consume all available resources. It is estimated the by the year 2024, our country’s population will have increased to the point that the country’s farmers will be unable to grow enough food (Frege 219).
This, of course, will lead to increases in starvation in the U. S. When we look beyond the nation’s boundaries, the problem becomes even more prevalent. If left unchecked, world population will triple by 2025 (Frege 220). The current food production rate around the world can barely support everyone as it is. With the alarming rate we are losing farmland, in 25 years we will never have enough food supplies to handle feeding half the population. So, the problem of overpopulation and starvation is a global one; increased population means increased starvation unless something is done.
The second statistic, the projected increase in death rates, provides us with a viable solution. With the rise in population there will be a correlating rise in deaths. Increased deaths also pose a potential problem. If we need all available land for housing and farming, then what are we to do with the bodies of the dead? Cemeteries have become a useless waste of prime, much needed, real estate. Over the next decade attitudes will have to change drastically regarding the disposal of remains. While cremation seems a plausible option, if only alleviates one part of the problem by freeing up small (3′ x 8′) parcels of land.
We are still left with overpopulation and starvation. The solution should, by now, seem obvious. We must stop wasting precious resources and use them to help support our fellow human beings. Land currently used for cemeteries should be cleared for use as farmland, and all future dead should be processed into food for the starving. While initially repulsive, careful reasoning will prove this to be the best solution. First, as previously stated statistics show, the current U. S. death rate is roughly 54,000 people a day, and the children dying from starvation every day number approximately 50,000.
The numbers are almost identical. This could easily provide 54,000 meals for 50,000 starving children. However, most children would be unable to eat a whole person, so actually we could provide two or more meals with each dead body for each child on the edge of death. Of course, the numbers are not exact. Some bodies would be unusable because of disease, but the majority would be edible. In addition, not everyone would donate their body or the body of a loved one. This would make the number of meals provided to the poor based on the daily number of dead much closer to the number of meals actually needed.
If only half of the dead were used (or usable), then assuming that one body would feed two people we would have roughly enough meals for all the children who die of starvation each day. But even if we can’t provide enough to feed all the starving children, we will be providing enough to feed most of them. That alone makes the effort worthwhile. Second, the consumption of human flesh would be healthier than the meager diets of gruel most charities ship to starving children. Most humans contain all the essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes necessary to sustain healthy functioning (Wittgenstein 348).
Studies have shown that human flesh is nutritionally equivalent to vitamin-enhanced chicken (Foucault 161). Human flesh is high in protein and low in cholesterol and fatty acids. A medical examination of the Peruvian soccer team immortalized in the movie Alive after they were rescued, showed that besides the lack of sufficient levels of vitamin C provided by fruits, the surviving soccer players were surprisingly healthy. None of the survivors were malnourished beyond a touch of scurvy (Rogers C34).
A comparison of the nutritional value of the current meals provided to starving children, if they receive any, and a meal of human flesh with some fruit will show that this is a better option. If we have an obligation to help starving children, then we have the obligation to provide them with the best possible source of food. As mentioned above, the current diets being pawned off on these poor children are inadequate. The gruel these kids are forced to consume, like they are part of some Dickensonian nightmare, barely keeps them alive; it simply prolongs the inevitable.
By providing them with the high protein diet of human remains, their nutritional needs would be better met, ensuring that they have the strength to help alleviate the problems of their society. Increased strength and desire to live will increase the affluence of their society, providing a foundation upon which to build the institutions and mechanisms to ensure future generations do not suffer the same atrocities. While feeding the underprivileged our dead seems drastic, it is a necessary, and quite possibly temporary, step to end world hunger.
As the current generation benefits from the nutrition of the diet, they will better their social and economic positions. This will relieve the problem, and the need for eating flesh will end. We must only be ready to return to this course if future disasters call for the same level of intervention. Hopefully, the reliance on human flesh will be a short period, possibly a decade; it should last just long enough to allow these people to get back on their feet. Third, as mentioned above, this would free up valuable land for farming which would, in turn, provide more food to feed the hungry here in our own country.
Assuming that two-thirds of the people who die are buried instead of cremated, that means we need to use 2,500 acres of land each day for graves. While most of this land is in areas already designated as cemeteries, over the next decade we will need to create approximately 5,000 more cemeteries, with that number increasing exponentially as the population and the number of dead increase (U. S. Census Bureau 275). That means giving up and wasting valuable farmland that could be used to grow crops or to feed cattle. Those 2,500 acres could be used to grow 6000 bushels of corn (U.
S. Census Bureau 462). Instead of wasting our resources to \”care\” for the \”dearly departed\” we are obligated to get the most out of this land and use it to provide food for the hungry. Fourth, it would cut down on funeral expenses for the families of the dead. The average funeral in the United States costs $64,337. 29 (U. S. Census Bureau 189). This is an expense that most families, even with insurance, cannot afford. Many people wish to spare their families this expense and choose to be cremated, but this too is expensive.
The average cremation costs $12,458. (U. S. Census Bureau 189). For a family living paycheck to paycheck, this is no more affordable than the cost of a full funeral. The savings to these families would be twice as meaningful because the loss of a loved one is, in most cases, leaving them shy one breadwinner. The loss of that person’s income should not be augmented by the necessity of paying for an unnecessary funeral. Thus, it would appear that besides supplying food for the world’s starving children, using cadavers for food would also solve many social problems.
Not only would processing the dead for food eliminate starvation, but we would have the added benefits of freeing up valuable farm land and of not subjecting financially and emotionally distraught families to additional monetary burdens. The health benefits alone would make this solution worthwhile. But not everyone will agree, and there are several objections which can be raised. However, these objections ultimately fail because the potential benefits far outweigh the perceived indignities and immorality. Obviously, many people will reject this solution on religious grounds.
The Judeo- Christian tradition will find it especially vile. But should they? There is no specific scripture in the Bible against eating human flesh, and humans do not fit the constraints within Jewish law on what one cannot eat. In fact, there is a tradition within Christianity which seems to support the eating of flesh. Most, if not all, Christians believe in the miracle of transubstantiation, the transformation of the bread and wine used in communion to the body and blood of Christ. The usual interpretation of this transformation is that the bread and wine really do become flesh and blood.
Thus, Christians are in a sense cannibals. They justify this behavior by saying it is to \”save their immortal souls. \” It would seem that if it is okay to eat human flesh, even if it accomplished through a miracle, to save one’s eternal life, it would be okay to eat human flesh to save one’s mortal, physical life. Christians who don’t believe that the transformation is a literal one are also unable to object because the spirit of eating the \”flesh\” is the same, to save one’s eternal life. How could eating the flesh to survive (physically) not be acceptable as well.
So long as the body is given up voluntarily and the person dies of natural causes, there can be no objection on Christian grounds. Furthermore, many people would argue, on non-religious grounds, that eating human flesh is immoral. Generally, that may be the case, but even if we accept that eating flesh may be immoral, we do not have to accept that it is in every case. For example, the case of the Peruvian soccer team was mentioned above. While we in the \”more civilized countries\” find this repulsive, few rational people would say that they are immoral for eating what they had available in order to survive.
Most people admit that put in the same circumstances, they would have done the same thing (Rogers C35). The need to survive combined with the availability of the corpses of the crash victims overrode the moral obligation not to eat another human being. The situation would be very different than if they had actually killed someone to dine on. Feeding starving children is a similar situation; their survival depends on the availability of nutritious food. Cadavers provide that food source, so eating them cannot be immoral. Another possible objection is the cost involved in shipping cadavers to third world countries.
Currently each C-130 (a large military airplane) shipment of food sent to third world countries costs an average of $150,000. That cost includes only the fuel, the crew, the storage, and the visas and tariffs for getting the food into the country; the cost of the food is not included because it is donated (Frege 222). Besides these costs, cadavers would require refrigeration or freezing for them to be edible when they arrive at their destination. However, this objection fails to take into account the option of processing the meat prior to shipment.
If the meat were high quality beef eaten as steaks by snobbish upper-crust socialites, then seeing that it arrived unprocessed and ready for cooking would be a concern. In the case of starving people, the main problem is to get them food that is edible, not food that they may used to create gourmet meals. It is relatively inexpensive to cook and can meat to prepare it for shipping. Libby’s Manufacturing reports that it costs approximately 13 per pound to cook, process, and can Spam (Libby’s 35). Canned human remains would cost less because the meat would be donated, and we would not have to deal with the refrigeration issue.
Also, shipping canned food would be more cost efficient because, in comparison to the grain shipped now, we would be able to ship more food per shipment. Canned food takes up much less space than the burlap bags or wooden barrels of grain (Quine 12). A more pragmatic objection is that the American public would never give permission for their bodies to be used as food. The lack of organ donors would support this view. Currently we do not have enough people donating minor parts of their bodies after they die. How, then, can we expect the public to donate their bodies as meals for the less privileged?
The answer is simple. Education and economic incentives will entice people to make this small sacrifice. By educating people about the plight of children in third world countries, the expense and hardship of feeding them, and the benefits of feeding them human flesh, the public will see that morality, the drive to be a good person, demands that they donate their bodies. Education is the key to solving the organ donation problem and would work for this problem as well. For those who remain unconvinced economic incentives will provide motivation to participate.
By offering tax breaks, rebates, or some other monetary encouragement, the stragglers could be brought to the program. In modern American society people often do things that they find objectionable for minimal gain. Why should we expect that selling their bodies after death would be any different? Even if people remain unconvinced in the viability of this option for feeding the world’s dying children, the morality of the solution cannot be denied. We are obligated to help if we can. The overabundance of cadavers and the potential problems dealing with them offer the best possible solution to the problem of world hunger.
Human dead provide us with a virtually unlimited source of nutritious food, which is cheaper and healthier than the current meals provided to the hungry. The religious and nonreligious objections fail to outweigh the benefits of feeding starving children in this manner. We have a solution to the problem which also eliminates the additional problem of disposing of our increasing dead. How can we ignore our obvious obligation? We must use the resources available to us and immediately begin solving the problem of world hunger by processing and shipping our dead to the dinner tables of starving children around the world.