Cannibalism - it exist


This year, I noticed quite a number of eaten ladybird pupas (Fig. 1) and wondered why so many didn't make it into adulthood. Other years some pupas were eaten before becoming adults but this year the number seemed to be larger.
Fig. 1: Two ladybird pupas eaten, probably by other ladybirds or other insects, as birds would swallow the whole animal.

Then I made a gruesome discovery. One day I noticed a larva preparing itself to become a pupa and thus an adult. I took some pictures (Fig. 2) to be able to follow the process of transition from larva into a pupa to finish as an adult ladybird.
Fig. 2: Ladybird preparing itself (I'm no expert so don't know whether he or she) to become a pupa.
However, the next day I made an unpleasant discovery, i.e. the pupa was being eaten by another ladybird larva, starting from the tail (Fig. 3). Afterwards, an aunt finished the job and only a little indigestible piece remained (Fig. 4).
Fig. 3: One ladybird eating the other.
Fig. 4: What is left from the ladybird.

I wondered why so many ladybirds may have killed each other when I noticed much less of their preferred food, i.e. greenflies (or aphids), this year. This is not because they are eaten by too many ladybirds or because there are fewer greenflies this year (although the colder and windier weather this year may have an effect) but mainly because earlier this year I was happy to see birds eating the greenflies. And thus while I enjoyed their presence, now I have to face the unpleasant view of many ladybird pupas being eaten by their own kind, even when the name of the insect suggest they are nice.


But cannibalism not only exist amongst ladybirds, also spiders are known to kill and eat each other. Indeed, many people know that certain (all?) female spiders kill there "husband" after mating. One of the reasons may be to be sure the female receives a last dinner so is strong enough to produce more eggs although often it is because she doesn't like sex and company. But not only male spiders sacrifice themselves, there are spider species whereby the female stays with the eggs and after the young spiders emerge, the mother makes sure that by making small movements to irritate her children, they attack and eat her so they don't starve while it also activates their killer instinct. Thus, here cannibalism kills but also provides life.

But spiders do not only kill spiders for reproduction, they also kill because they don't like other living species and because they are hungry (Fig. 5). And don't assume the biggest spiders will win the battle; Fig. 5A shows how the smallest one won. At least the surviving one had now enough food to survive for a few days without the need to kill another insect ... or spider.

Fig. 5: Two examples of spiders killing other spiders, either from another (A) or the same (B) species.


Throughout history, people in many cultures killed and ate some (many) of their fellow humans, either as a punishment, sacrifice (for gods or rulers) or because people were hungry. Often , when those cannibalistic cultures were discovered, their discoverers were so disgusted they hardly left a human alive as punishment. But it is a fact that every carnivore (meat eater) can kill and eat each other during food shortages or because they are competitors or enemies. But for me cannibalism is not only when people eat each other, for me it can mean one individual of a certain species killing another individual of the same species. Thus, this means also when people kill other humans during wars as one can argue too many people are killed to be eaten. And with that definition, there were and still are a large number of cannibals around.

Indeed, it seems a video made during the Syrian civil war shows a man cuts open the chest of a soldier, takes out the heart or lungs and bites in it. We should condemn such behaviour because in doing so it may prevent this person doing this with every enemy he kills (or worse, before killing them) as it doesn't bring grace but only shame. But we should not condemn him too easily because we don't know how we will behave in similar circumstances. Indeed, he gave an interview to the BBC where he describes how he was a labourer before in Baba Amr and how he joined peaceful demonstrations in the spring of 2011 when he saw how a woman and child were killed by soldiers as well as his brother who tried to help them. He then joined the rebels fighting the regime. He lost another brother, relatives, friends and many fellow rebels while his parents were arrested and tortured by police. Now, two years later the war continues and people are getting mad (similar story of cannibalism was already described in the Mahabharata, written thousands of years ago). Whenever a regime destroys its people, madness will decent as it becomes very difficult to thrust anyone and because people are angry their leaders kill them. Thus, one should wonder what one may do in similar circumstances. And as long as the war continuous, hate will increase until it may become impossible to live together any longer. During civil war food production goes down and thus hunger will increase, therefore cannibalism may happen more often because people need to survive, not necessary by killing people but by eating corpses shot during the fighting. The worse is that often parents become the enemy of their children (and vice versa) because the parents will say it was less harsh under the ruler than during the civil war while the younger people may fight because they experience that the ruler didn't give them many chances. People may no longer want to call themselves Syrians and move to other places. Still, mainly one person is to blame for the destruction of people and the country, i.e. President Assad because one should not use violence against peaceful protesters although it shows how much Mr Assad fears his own people. And if he didn't give the order, then he should have punished those who shot.

(At the start of the conflict, I read twice in newspapers how women told the story about a wolf and a lamb. The wolf finds a lamb and raises it. Then one day he eats it. Someone asks how he can do such a thing after he raised it as if it was his own child. The wolf answers he had the power to allow the lamb to live but also to end its life. The women compared President Assad with the wolf, having the power to decide about life and death of his own people as it pleases him. The story also reminds me about real lambs that are happy to see their master coming, normally with the bottle of milk, but one day with a knife to cut the lamb's throat, even when the lamb welcomed its master because it trusted him/her. Indeed, carnivores may even kill those who thrust them. In addition, often people describe someone by comparing their behaviour with that of certain animal behaviour while they don't notice the same behaviour in themselves.)

An example how nice people can change was during WWII, only a few decades ago: Hitler and his army killed many people while rebels and countries fought him and committed themselves what we now call atrocities and would condemn while they were trying to destroy the evil. Indeed, whole cities such as Dresden were destroyed by the allies to demoralise the German people but maybe also partly to take revenge for what the Germans did to their cities and people. On the other site of the world, the Japanese were so feared that the allies used atomic bombs to destroy two cities to stop the war, maybe preventing another few extra hundreds of thousands of war victims (while to soften the Japanese feelings they were allowed to keep their emperor). After the war, many people suffered from revenge attacks in a number of countries before peace could return.

In South Africa Mr Nelson Mandela joined rebels against the racist South African regime. Only because he was many years in prison, he may not have been killed or become too angry with what he may have seen the regime did to others that he may have committed what is called human right violations. One will never know. Still he became an example after his release from prison and as President because he was indeed a victim who lost many years of his life in prison, treated quite badly and catching TB but still he was willing to forgive his abusers as long as they accepted guilt for their actions via the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In acting this way, many people felt they couldn't demand revenge but maybe some may after Mr Mandela's death. Indeed, Mr Mandela is an inspiration for his country. (Therefore, it is a pity his family is already fighting even before his death, but someone in power should know they can't have too many children with too many women or they may fight each other one day.)

Also in the region of Congo, human violations are very large and I find it amazing not all people are yet taking up arms, even when only to protect themselves. Still, in the end maybe only fighters may be left as the war goes on and on and already millions of people are killed. The underwater gas in a nearby lake may one day stop the fighting when it escapes to the surface (e.g. a bomb explodes in the water, causing shockwaves).

To hear in Turkey how PM Erdogan uses the same words and to see how he uses the same aggression as President Assad and Colonel Gaddafi when people simply demand a park is not replaced by a shop is unbelievable as if certain leaders never learn from mistakes made by others. His behaviour angered more people, certainly after some people died after the violent clashes between government forces and the people. PM Erdogan could have spoken with the people without calling them immediately terrorists who want to destroy the country. So, do we know what may happen during next demonstrations? Will he now better understand why President Assad behaves as he does and no longer criticise the leaders in countries with revolutions?

Still, people should also give leaders a chance. In Egypt President Morsi has been outed after one year in power. But it is understandable people protested because when religion wants to rule, lives are in danger. It is difficult to understand why he replaced the previous constitution with a new one without more interaction with Parliament. And when he only speaks for his own people he should know he can't stay. Still, I hope the army can be trusted to be on the side of the people while I fear the reaction of the Muslim Brotherhood and what they may do when they may regain power, certainly when certain other religions chose side against them. Here too we see how older generations are closer to President Morsi's side and thus against their own children who want change while the elder tell them to stop fighting as that makes things worse. I wish the people of Egypt good luck in their battle because an elected leader can be worse than a unelected person, certainly when gods are involved. Indeed, religion and politics should always be separately and everyone should be able to live their own life as they wish as long as they don't force their will upon others. Similarly, non-religious people should not force their "religion" upon religious people although in general this is preferred than the reverse. Still, it is unbelievable that so many women are supporting President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood simply because they claim to speak with god while already the number of women raped or their children (mainly sons) or husbands killed is increasing. But always, those who support the wrong side will one day fall by it while first those fighting it will fall.

In conclusion, struggle for survival and power, as long as via democracy it can be good when those elected try to do good for everyone, thus also do good for those who didn't vote for them. But wanting power to force ones opinion on people is never good as it always hurts people. Although of course that doesn't mean everyone can do as they please because than someones behaviour will cause anger with someone else when the behaviour is against the generally accepted rules.


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