Eating people is wrong

'There was a moment's silence as we all tried to think of friends who were practising cannibals, but if anyone knew, they weren't letting on'
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The Independent Online

"I don't think I would pay good money to go and see a post-mortem," said the lady with the dark purple hair.

"I don't think I would pay good money to go and see a post-mortem," said the lady with the dark purple hair.

"A post-modern what?" said the resident Welshman.

"Not post-modern," she said. "Post-mortem. This man who has been cutting up bodies in public. For a paying audience. It's awful!"

"Sounds pretty post-modern to me," said the Welshman.

The lady with the dark purple hair used to have black hair streaked with silver. That was when she was in her Guinness-drinking phase. She always tries to match her hairdo to her favourite tipple. Now that the weather is getting colder she is drinking port again. Hence the purple.

"I don't see what's so awful about it," said the man with the dog, signalling to the landlord to refill his pint mug. "People are always cutting people up. Trainee surgeons do it all the time. Pathologists do it all the time. Even butchers do it all the time, though not with humans. When you see hunks of meat being chopped and sawn and sliced and trimmed in a butcher's shop, do you go all faint? I can't say I do."

"No," said the purple lady, "but that's different. That's animals. That's food."

"So are humans food, if you're Hannibal Lecter," said the man with the dog. "I never saw any of those films, but I gather they were all about cannibalism. Well, it seems to me a bit odd to have blockbusting films about cannibalism which everyone raved about and nobody objected to, and then have a single public post-mortem which has everyone up in arms. I would have thought cannibalism was the far bigger taboo."

"At least the guy who did the post-mortem didn't cook the body up and eat it, or sell it for take-aways," said the resident Welshman. "That would have caused a fuss!"

"Absolutely unthinkable!" said the purple lady.

"Not at all unthinkable," said the Welshman. "You've just thought of it. I've just thought of it. Thomas Harris thought of it."

"Who's Thomas Harris?" asked someone. "Bloke who wrote The Silence of the Lambs," said the Welshman. "Man responsible for cannibalism being fashionable. Though not so fashionable that anyone actually does it."

There was a moment's silence as we all tried to think of friends we knew who were practising cannibals, but if anyone knew anyone, they weren't letting on.

"I'll tell you a funny thing about the Hannibal Lecter films," said the man with the dog. "There was no product placement in them that I noticed. Normally you see lots of smart drinks or cars or stuff being advertised in a big film. Not if the hero is a cannibal. You wouldn't buy Worcestershire sauce or Glen Close whisky because it was used by Hannibal Lecter in a film. Can you imagine a product endorsement coming out of a film about cannibalism?"

"They're finger-licking good!" said the Welshman. "That's because they're fingers!"

There was a general laugh and groan all mixed together.

"It also means that it's very brave for the people making the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films," went on the man with the dog.

"Why?" said someone.

"Because you can't make money out of product placement in a mythical world," he said. "There isn't a single commercial product in either film, except magic potions and things. I mean, they even invented a fantastic new game called Quidditch, and they can't make any money out of it because nobody can play it."

"It's true," said the purple lady. "If there was some magic way of getting rid of muggles, or goblins, there would be no point in publicising it, because you couldn't buy it. Or use it."

"I think the great thing about these Harry Potter and JRR Tolkien films," said the Welshman, "is that they haven't led to theme parks. Nobody has built Hobbitland. Nobody has done a replica of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."

"Don't speak too soon," said the man with the dog. "Everything gets commercialised sooner or later. Even post-mortems will be sponsored one day."

"Who by? The Body Shop?"

The major stirred for the first time in the conversation. "Talking of cannibalism," he said, "I think I ate a man once. It was in East Africa in the 1950s. We had been on safari for three days in hostile native territory and..." We all drank up and left. It was the only thing to do when the major started one of his stories.

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