Follow TV Tropes


Artificial Cannibalism

Go To

This is the civilized sub-trope of I'm a Humanitarian: rather than eating flesh that used to be part of an actual person, people eat Artificial Meat that closely resembles human flesh.

Some works present this as being an extreme or outrageous thing to do, while others explore the conflict between the Squick factor of cannibalism and the logical point that this is a completely harmless activity, so why not? Works with magical settings also include this as a solution for beings who need to eat human flesh.

In hard science fiction the meat is usually cultured from human muscle biopsies. Works at the softer end also use other methods of production, including Matter Replication, magical materialisation and "human flavoured" vegetable protein.

This is a speculative trope for now, but given the progress being made on cell culture for food production it may be only a matter of time.

This trope also includes the following edge cases:

  • Other sapient species which either practice artificial cannibalism or eat the artificially produced flesh of another sapient species (even though the latter isn't technically cannibalism).
  • Human (or non-human sapient) flavoured products, such as salt-and-human crisps.


    open/close all folders 
    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Transmetropolitan: The future Mega City setting has a popular fast-food chain, Long Pig, that specializes in cloned human meat. It's played for gross-out humour in-universe.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Antiviral takes place in a world where celebrity worship is such that fans are willing to shell out serious cash to eat the cloned tissue of big stars from licensed, mainstream "meat markets". The company "Astral Bodies" is one such provider, selling items like sausages, bacon bits, and "1st Grade Stem Cell Meat" taken from movie star Hanna Geist.

  • In one good ending of the Star Challenge book Dimension of Doom, a Cyborg in the alternate universe asks for food to feed the dinosaurs present on his planet (long history). Since they're carnivorous he asks for a sample of human genetic code to produce artificial meat for them, which gets slapping your character in the face.

  • Accelerando includes a description of a party where "long pork" was served. It isn't explicitly stated that this was artificial meat, but the setting would imply it.
  • In The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump, artificial human tissue is used as a substitute in modern Aztec Human Sacrifice. Some people still use real humans.
  • Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: "Tastes-just-like-human" meat products (mostly derived from chicken or pork) become a vital commodity to ensure peaceful human/Unnatural relations in the wake of the Big Easy.
  • In "The Food of the Gods" by Arthur C. Clarke, people stopped killing animals for meat long ago and instead grew it in vats. Indeed, the idea of eating the flesh of dead animals is enough to turn people's stomachs. Then one company hit upon the idea of cloning and growing meat cloned from humans, which proved a wild success. However, their competitors insinuated there was something wrong with the food, and when the Senate decided to investigate, they were only too happy to explain the problem:
    Yes, Triplanetary's chemists have done a superb technical job. Now you have to resolve the moral and philosophical issues. When I begin my evidence, I used the archaic word "carnivore." Now I must introduce you to another: I'll spell it out for the first time: C-A-N-N-I-B-A-L...
  • At the end of Project Hail Mary, Ryland Grace ends up subsisting on what he calls "me-burgers" — meat made from his own cloned muscle tissue. He acknowledges the Squick factor, but given that he's living on a planet unsuited to humans or their nutritional needs, it's not like he has many other options.
  • Rule 34 mentions the Morningside Cannibals, a club of middle-class people who held dinner parties where they served meat cultured from each other. The police wanted to charge them but couldn't find a law they had broken. Then the press got hold of the story.
  • While a Contact ship visits Earth in The State of the Art, one of the crew arranges a feast including the power figures of 1977:
    Stewed Idi Amin or General Pinochet Con Carne ... General Stroessner Meat Balls and Richard Nixon Burgers ...Ferdinand Marcos Saute and Shah of Iran Kebabs ... Fricasseed Kim Il Sung, Boiled General Videla and Ian Smith in Black Beans Sauce...
  • The Shand from Strata are ritual cannibals. At one point, Silver goes insane from hunger and is fed meat cultured from her own cells because there is no other meat with a compatible biology to use as a pattern.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Nightflyers, the Nightflyer comes across a rundown old ship whose crew have survived by cloning human meat as a food source.

    Religion & Mythology 
  • Christianity: In Catholic theology, the bread and wine served in the Eucharist are miraculously changed into the body and blood of Christ, although they still appear to be just bread and wine.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Shadowrun universe, people infected by a certain magical virus turn into ghouls, who must eat metahuman flesh in order to survive. One of the bequests in the will of the dragon Dunkelzahn was to give 2 million nuyen to anyone who developed artificial metahuman flesh that could satisfy a ghoul's hunger.
  • In Transhuman Space, one of the weird subcultures that have sprung up is "Clonabilism", in which people eat cultured protein cloned from themselves. The frontispeice of Toxic Memes shows a man cheerfully eating a duplicate of his own head, which looks equally cheerful.

    Video Games 
  • Fallout: New Vegas: The side-quest "Beyond the Beef" involves a cannibalism plot. One option to foil it is to create a substitute dish that tastes just like human — and after the speech at the banquet, you then expose Mortimer about the plot.

  • In one page of Bloody Urban, Shaz finds a pack of hot dogs made from cloned celebrity meat and uses their You Are Who You Eat powers to transform into Samuel L. Jackson.
  • Freefall: Strip #3791 has an instant food vending machine serving mycoprotein in "Mythical Meat" flavours, with options including Phoenix and Yeti. A notice at the bottom adds "Long pig no longer being served". Diners also notice that Kraken smells a lot like sqid, Sam Starfall's species, and muse that they should discontinue the flavour before opening diplomatic relations.
  • Unsounded: The Silver Eel grows fruit-shaped things for Cutter to eat by replicating the meat of its victims.

  • SCP Foundation: SCP-604, "The Cannibal's Banquet", is a magical rather than technological version of this trope. It is a dinner set which converts any food or drink placed on it into human flesh and blood, usually that of infants. Before the Foundation got hold of it, it was owned by the evil corporation known as Marshall, Carter and Dark Ltd., who used it to provide Exotic Entrees at some of their more exclusive business functions. The Foundation's interest in it seems to be no more than scientific curiosity, but they are considering using it to feed SCP-352, aka Baba Yaga, as a "more efficient" alternative to her usual diet.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Hufu was a short-lived tofu product parodically marketed as "the healthy human flesh alternative" for "cannibals who want to quit."
  • The Ouroboros Steak may be the first true real-life example; it enables the user to grow pieces of human meat from their own cheek cells (so technically Autocannibalism as well) and feed them for several months with expired human blood. However, it was created as a criticism of the cultured meat industry, rather than a serious proposal for people to actually eat cultured human meat.