Christmas roast, Dutch style

And you thought Big Brother was bad. Over Christmas the Dutch TV channel BNN ran a show called Proefkonijnen (Guinea Pigs) that introduced a whole new viewing experience: cannibalism, in living colour.

Two young presenters, Dennis Storm and Valerio Zeno, each had a small piece of his flesh surgically removed, Mr Storm from his buttock, Mr Zeno, paradoxically, from his belly. A professional chef, presumably the Dutch answer to Gordon Ramsay, then fried the delectable morsels in sunflower oil (recommended by the medical profession as a healthy alternative to butter), but, disappointingly, without any salt and pepper. The two cannibals then had a candle-lit supper on camera, all in the best possible taste, joyously comparing notes on the flavour of each other’s meat.

One hesitates to describe the repast as human flesh for that would imply that the two main participants, along with everyone else involved in the production and viewing of such entertainment, are indeed human — which in this case ought not to be taken for granted. But it’s beyond doubt that the BNN channel has outdone its previous achievements.

A few months ago it ran the show Shooting Up and Swallowing, offering for public consumption live mainlining of heroin, along with sex acts whose nature is implicit in the show’s title. And in 2007 BNN embellished the format of Big Brother (also a Dutch creation, by the way) by presenting The Big Donor Show, where the public was supposed to eliminate one by one gravely ill patients in need of a kidney transplant. All perfectly disgusting of course, but it’s the cannibalism that takes the biscuit — or the buttock, if you’d rather.

One hankers after the days olden when people were regarded, at least in the West, as consumers of food, rather than the main course. The human body was thought sacrosanct, but that prejudice was of course only prevalent before Jesus Christ became a superstar. It was assumed that the difference between man and beast was that of quality, not degree. Man wasn’t just more intelligent than the chimpanzee or more enterprising than the dolphin. He was created in the image of God, which salient characteristic might not have prevented him from killing or being killed, but it did prevent him from eating others or being eaten by them.

The universal acceptance of Darwin’s slipshod theory has put an end to such an outdated notion. Man got to be seen as other animals’ equal, no better than any if a bit cleverer than most. Within the boundaries of such a perception of humanity, any logical objection to cannibalism begins to fade away.

And it’s not just cannibalism. In 2008 Spain’s parliament passed a resolution granting human rights to apes. Specifically, it committed the country to the dictates of the Great Ape Project, founded by the ‘philosopher’ Peter Singer, professor of bioethics in Princeton. Henceforth, the 315 apes currently resident in Spain can’t be incarcerated without due process. That raises all sorts of irreverent questions, such as, where trial by jury is part of due process, who will serve on the juries of the apes’ peers. Presumably it’ll have to be other apes (Millwall supporters may be narrowly disqualified). Then how will the jury follow the barristers’ arguments, evaluate the evidence and pass the verdict? I’m sure Prof. Singer will figure it out, clever chap like him.

Earlier he allowed that humans and animals could have ‘mutually satisfying sexual relations’ because ‘we are animals, indeed more specifically, we are great apes.’ Therefore such sex ‘ceases to be an offence to our status and dignity as human beings.’ This may be bad news for sheep and poor Mrs Singer, but there’s some insane logic there. Why not have sex with apes if we aren’t all that different from them? We do share about 99% of our genetic material with chimpanzees, so what’s that extra 1% among friends? And if we eat bovine flesh, why not the human variety?

No reason at all, especially in Holland, where the legalisation of euthanasia in 2002 put paid to the ancient notion of the sanctity of human life. By some accounts, about 4,000 people have been done in by doctors since then, with the issue of consent somewhat blurred in many instances. And I know from numerous conversations with Dutch people that many of their elderly compatriots refuse to go to hospitals because they fear that doctors will kill them.

In that context, using human corpses as a source of protein is no longer unthinkable. They’re already used for medical research, and their organs for transplants, so the unused portion may add some welcome variety to our diets. And there’s no denying that a small steak cut out of a live person would be fresher, healthier and tastier than dead flesh. So yet again the Dutch have pioneered an important development in the concept of man, not to mention nutrition.

Can you imagine this? ‘And now, ladies and gentlemen, live, from the same wonderful people who gave you Rembrandt and Vermeer, another yummy treat: the devouring of human flesh!!!’ Actually, you don’t have to imagine it. You can watch it on YouTube.




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