There are so many bad things in the world but according to many, cannibalism is considered just about the worst. Depending on your point of view, it rises above even such criminal abominations as, rape and genocide. Then again, we live in a culture, in which people would run vomiting to the bathroom if they saw what went into making their McDonald's hamburgers. Cannibalism, also known as anthropophagi, is defined as the act or practice of eating members of the same species. The word anthropophagi comes from the Arawakan language name for the Carib Indians of the West Indies. The Caribs are well known for their practice of cannibalism.

Among humans, this practice has been attributed to people in the past all over the world, including rituals connected to tribal warfare. There are two kinds of cannibalism -- sociological and pathological. Sociological means living and eating in a culture where cannibalism is accepted, and the pathological means practicing cannibalism within a culture where it's not accepted. Much controversy exists over the idea of sociological cannibalism. Reports of social cannibalism are mostly pointed at the Americas and Africa, since these were the primary continents subjected to European killing and conquest sprees from the Middle Ages through modern times.

Despite what anyone says, there are documented examples of cannibalistic cultures and practices. It was usually a spiritual ritual. In some cases, the bodies of enemies were consumed in order to absorb the enemies's trength. Believe it or not we " re all descended from cannibals.

Recent genetic studies revealed that almost all humans have genes designed to provide immunity to certain diseases, which can only be transmitted by eating human brains. Among humans, cannibalism has been widespread in prehistoric societies on all continents. It is still believed to be practiced in remote areas of the island of New Guinea. It existed until recently in parts of West and Central Africa, Sumatra, Melanesia, and Polynesia. It also existed among various Indian tribes of North and South America and among aborigines of Australia and the Maoris of New Zealand. The reasons for cannibalism have varied.

Sometimes there was simply limited food. Some groups liked the taste of human flesh. However, mostly the reasons had to do with revenge or punishment for crimes, ceremony and ritual, or magic. Some victorious tribes ate their dead enemies to absorb their strength.

In come rituals, the deceased were eaten by relatives, as a manner of reverence or honor for their ancestors, or as a desire for the soul of the dead to be reborn in the body of the consumer. This is called endocannablism. Civilized people have to resort to cannibalism from time to time, as a mean of survival, under desperate circumstances. The story of the Donner Party is one of the more tragic incidents in American frontier history.

A group of about 90 immigrants led by George Donner was caught in a blinding snowstorm in the Sierra Nevada range of California in October 1846. Survivors, who made their way out early in 1847, had been forced to resort to eating the flesh of their dead comrades to survive. Also, in the 1970's, an plane crashed into a remote area or the Andes which forced the passengers to resort to cannibalism for survival. Even though this story is said to be an urban legend, it is one of the most gruesome cases in the history of cannibalism. During the time of Scotland's King James VI, a man named Alexander "Sawney" Bean led his incestuous born descendants into a cave into the woods in which they lived. The family consisted of Sawney himself, his wife, eight sons, six daughters, eighteen grandsons, and fourteen granddaughters.

They resorted to robbing people who passed by to support themselves. To make sure they weren't caught, they made sure that each of their victims were in no position to tell the tale, by killing each and everyone of them. To feed his ever-growing family, Sawney provided them with the only surplus source of food, human flesh. They would dismember the bodies, eating some and pickling the rest. Over the years, it was said that they killed and eaten close to 1000 people until getting caught and executed. Sawney and the other male members of his family, had their limbs amputated and were left to bleed to death, while the women and children were burned at stake..