It’s true. You really can find anything—and anyone—on the Internet. Back in 2001 over in Germany a fellow by the name of Armin Meiwes had a hankering for a little human flesh so he did what any self-respecting cannibal would do and posted an ad on the Internet seeking someone who wanted to be killed and eaten. Amazingly enough he got a reply—no that’s not quite right—he got a lot of replies. Something on the order of 200 people who were keen to volunteer:
At the original trial the court heard Meiwes met his victim after advertising on the internet his desire to eat someone.
Investigators found Meiwes had been in internet contact with more than 200 people who shared his fantasies and he claimed in court there were thousands more like him. At least five other people, also saying they were willing to be killed and eaten, went to his house but either backed down or were rejected as unappealing.
For a cannibal he sure is a considerate person. He eats people, but only attractive people who want to be eaten.
Meiwes has admitted several times to butchering and eating – partly in front of a camera – Bernd Juergen Brandes, a 43-year-old engineer he met on the internet.
The accused ate a total of 20kg of his victim’s flesh, accompanied by potatoes and pepper or wine sauce. He froze part of the flesh and buried the rest.
The fact that Meiwes didn’t kill the first person to show up at his door—did in fact respect the decision by some folks to change their minds about being killed and eaten—was the court’s basis for determining him as being quite sane. Brandes’ sanity, however, is obviously a bit more suspect. How fucked up do you have to be to think when I die I want it to be at the hands of a cannibal who’ll eat me along with some potatoes and wine sauce?
Meiwes was convicted of manslaughter in January 2004 and given an 8 1/2 year sentence, but a Federal judge threw out the verdict as being too lenient and now he’s being tried again. This has prompted the contemplation of a very unusual question:
The court has to determine whether Meiwes committed murder, despite the victim’s purported desire to die.
My libertarian leanings lend me to support the concept that so long as you are not physically harming the person or property of others that you should pretty much be allowed to do what you want even if your choice of activities is self-destructive such as smoking or doing recreational drugs. This includes the option to commit suicide if you have good reasons for doing so—such as being afflicted by a painful, incurable, terminal disease—and are otherwise sane. The question for me then becomes one of can you be sane and still have the desire for someone to kill and eat you? My initial reaction to that question is, no, of course not, but I can’t say with confidence that it’s the correct answer. Simply because I cannot fathom how anyone who is sane could have such a desire doesn’t necessarily mean it’s beyond possibility.
Now that I think about it I can envision a situation where you could be sane and still want someone else to kill and eat you thanks to an old Monty Python Lifeboat sketch in which several sailors that have been adrift at sea for over a month start debating which of their number they should eat in order to survive. It’d be a pretty rare and extreme circumstance, but I could see a situation where one person offers to sacrifice himself to provide food for others when there’s no other choice. Still that’s clearly not the case in the situation described above.
So the question remains: Should Meiwes be charged with murder if Brandes consented to his own death and consumption? It’s a bizarre question to consider as a one time event, but there were 200 more people out there who might have been seriously considering volunteering as well. I’m not entirely sure where the line should be drawn on this one, but it’s probably one of those moral dilemmas where it’s probably best to err on the side of not allowing it as a general rule.