Taboo and foods

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Food delicacies and taboos are mostly the product of religious and cultural traditions. Food taboos are prevalent in almost every human culture. Various foods are declared fit or unfit for human consumption by religion. According to Meyer-Rochow (2009), the laws and regulations that regulate different human life cycle processes may be associated with special activities such as conception, menstruation, lactation, and childbirth. Food eating taboos have a long tradition, implying that a strong and sound reason for the presence of dietary practices within a society must be understood. However, the topic remains to be controversial based on the notion that no single theory exists to explain the concept of food taboos (Meyer-Rochow, 2009). Cannibalism is majorly common in South America, various Pacific Islands and some of the ancient Native American tribes (Thomas, 2017). The presented analysis seeks to reveal why some cultures consider some foods to be delicious while others consider them unfit and a taboo for human consumption.


Cannibalism is an act violating human dignity

Cannibalism forms a fundamental basis of savage behavior. The main aim of the existence of food taboos is to protect the human race from aspects such as food allergies. Schutt (2017) notes that food taboos have also played a significant role in the enhancing the cohesion of a particular group by maintaining its identity in the face of others therefore establishing a feeling of belonging. Cannibalism is one of the food taboos evident in different parts of the globe. Speedy (2013) reports that most parts of the globe consider cannibalism as a taboo and morally wrong. Religions, such as Christianity, have strongly opposed the issue of cannibalism trying to explain why the practice is morally wrong. The members of the religion believe that cannibalism forms a fundamental basis of savage behavior (Ostman, 2008). Most people distrust the cannibalistic tendencies since it is an expression of having power and control of the victim which is not supported from a biblical view. Incidentally, cannibalism suggests an expression of dominance over the other individual driven by the feeling of hostility and fear expressed through murder and consumption of the other human being.

Cannibalism drives fear and horror among the people based on the belief that humans should not feed on each other. Similar to other conditions like incest, cannibalism is highly rejected by the society despite the fact that most people find it difficult explaining why. According to tradition and instinct, cannibalism is immoral and unethical (Narayanan, 2016). Most societies rely on instincts and tradition as a reliable guide to identify what is wrong and right. As a result, most societies agree that cannibalism is offensive since tradition and instinct brands it as morally wrong.

Feeding on human flesh is also considered a taboo since it devalues the life of humans. The fact that cannibals consume other humans in a similar way as animals do provides an indication that the value attached to humans as a superior animal may fade with time. Further, Kozinets, Patterson and Ashman (2017) notes that devaluing the life of humans would have significant bad consequences. For instance, people will always live in fear of their live as humans begin hunting each other for food. Moreover, the loss of societal identity would be seen as an outcome where people no longer recognize what their roots represented or what their fore fathers stood for. To prevent such instances, people should refrain from eating human flesh.

Cannibalism and Health

Some foods, such as human flesh, which are acceptable and considered as delicious in some cultures may be considered a taboo to others as a result of the potential health concern associated with their consumption. Cannibalism may result to the development of diseases such as Kuru (Hayes, 2012). The presented illness is not only rare but also untreatable. The disease was first experienced in Papua in New Guinea in the 1950s before it declined over the decades. The Fore tribe in the identified region consumed human flesh triggering the presented health concern that further caused death of many in the presented geographic zone (Hayes, 2012). After the intervention of scientists who identified the illness and related it to cannibalism in 1960s, the condition significantly decline. The best mode of Kuru’s treatment is prevention. Hayes (2012) expresses further that prevention is necessary in that once an individual contracts the presented Transmissible Spongiform Encephalophathy (TSE), he/she cannot be cured and the condition is known to be highly lethal. Constant headaches, loss of balance and tremors are some of the common symptoms of the disease which affects the brain and its gray matter. Research shows that the condition only affects cannibals. Therefore, avoiding eating human flesh prevents one from contracting the noted condition.

Other than Kuru, it is clear that cannibalism can cause other health related issues. According to Conklin (2001), the Wari were associated with low immunity as they could easily succumb to infectious diseases which they could not resist. Influenza, Malaria, mumps, measles, and whopping cough are some of the diseases which the members of the community were susceptible to after contacting dead bodies which they fed on (Conklin, 2001).

Environmental risks

Foods that are considered delicious may also be regarded as disgusting by others as a result of the environmental risks associated with their consumption. Genetically modified foods is one of the group categories associated with grave environmental risks. As a result, some people consider feeding on them as undesirable (Askegaard et al., 2014). The fact that genetically modified foods are established through gene modification explains why most members of the community considers it unfit for human consumption and a threat to the environment. Consuming GE products means supporting the notion of genetic engineering which threatens the original species that existed in the world since history. Other that this concern, Mahadevan and Suardi (2014) notes that GE plants an animals can easily transfer their genes resulting to undesirable environmental effects which is defined by new strains of diseases which are harmful and difficult treat. The situation may even become worse if an individual opts to consume the food in question.


Some consumers find foods that others find delicious as disgusting such as in the case of GE foods. Evidently, most of genetically modified foods lack labeling indication their nutritional value to gauge their health benefits. The presented factor deprives consumers of their autonomy since they do not have preference when purchasing the identified product in question (Proctor, Mclarney & Chung, 2016).

Societal and cultural identity

Foods forms a fundamental basis of cultural identity. The presented fact explains why some communities will always consume foods which others consider as disgusting or a taboo. Rauschnabel et al. (2015) indicates that food is not only a source of nutrition to the human’s body but a factor playing a significant role in the human life, socioeconomics and belief. As a result, food has a symbolic meaning which defines the relationship that people have to the environment and what they believe. Different foods will always convey different meanings for varied cultures. For instance, rare and expensive foods are used to show respect for guests. Different cultures have different identities. The presented assumption provides an indication why different foods will always have varied social meanings.

Humans are known to be omnivores. The presented fact suggests that people are biological creatures which feed on animals and plants. Therefore, they are allowed to meat and plant-based products. Eating meat was common during the historical times since it is an essential of the evolution of humans (Deemer & Lobao, 2011). Despite this, not all communities will favor eating meat and animal products based on their social and cultural beliefs. Tradition and culture is a major determinant of what is appropriate and inappropriate. For instance, several cultural communities are forbidden from eating meat despite the fact that the action is not considered inappropriate.

Varied religious beliefs

Varied religious beliefs also provides an indication why people will always not consume products which others consider delicious. In most cases, some religion discourage people from consuming various food products which goes against religious beliefs such as human flesh. According to Ma (2015), some religious traditions discourage people from eating meat while others condone the move. Narayanan (2016) states that eating animals not only aim in celebrating tradition but also serves as a way of enjoying the gift of nature. Over the years, different religions have undertaken the obligation to advise people on the sacred path to take when it comes to the food they consume.

Foods can also be utilized to define different events which serves as a form of group representation. Members of a Christian community will always eat different foods from their Muslim counterparts based on their religious beliefs and traditions. A banquet can be used to mark special events such as religious beliefs and baptism. The symbolic significance of the foods consumed during such instances is important than its religious belief. Ma (2015) states that most of the groups believe that certain foods, such as unleavened bread among Christians, reestablishes relationship between God and man. Special foods are also used to celebrate special events in different locations across the globe. For instance, Americans value turkey consumption during Thanksgiving. In China, people will always value dumplings during the Spring Festival to recognize their roots.

Social status

Food can also used to define an individual’s social status. With this, some people may want to be associated with the food they eat based on their economic class while others may find similar foods as disgusting. Ma (2015) expresses that food can be utilized to gauge the character of a group based on religion, family, and race. Countries are known for their State Banquet and what is served during such occasion. For instance, countries such as France, Italy and China are known for their food culture and cuisine. In places such as China, rice is considered a staple food for the people living in the southern part of the region while wheat products are majorly consumed by people living in the north (de Bruijne, 2015). Even when moving to different geographic locations, people will tend to eat the foods that they consider as first choice even if the people in the presented destination do not consider it as delicious as they do. The Chinese find it difficult to change their food choices and habits even after a considerable amount of time as a result of the food and taste preference.


To conclude, different people will always have varied food preferences driven by personality, culture, religion, and social status among others. Some will consider the consumption of other foods as a taboo while others will not. Additionally, some may consider some foods as delicious while others as disgusting. Culture, religion and tradition has significantly driven people’s food choices. For instance, some communities do not consider it unethical or morally wrong to eat human flesh while others do not support the presented concern. Cannibalism is highly criticized by people from different communities as a result of the potential consequences associated with the move. For instance, cannibalism is regarded as an act of violating human dignity by depriving the victim of the power and the right to live. Furthermore, religious groups, such as Christians, have condemned such habits since they are not biblically supported.

Some foods also pose significant environmental risks which discourage people from consuming them such as in the case of genetically modified foods. The fact that establishing those foods involves the process of genetic manipulation and engineering indicates that the future of the current plant and animal species is at a threat. Furthermore, such strains may result to resistant diseases which can be difficult to cure or control in the future.


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September 01, 2021



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