People have always eaten other people of course...sometimes through absolute necessity, as in sieges and shipwrecks, and often after battles, when tribespeople ate the hearts and livers of their slain enemies to gain strength...
Some people eat their murder victims...but that's more of a case of a severe mental glitch than a long held ritual or tradition, and it isn't through hunger either.
Putting aside the sheer desperation of either starving to death or eating one of your comrades' who had recently expired, cannibalism tends to be more of a sacred ritual ...performed with ceremony and care in order to endow the elders of tribal societies with warrior qualities and the belief of longevity, if not eternal life...
We shudder in horror of course because it tends to be a subject beyond our understanding and if you happen to be a religious person I'd imagine the Bible and other Holy books aren't terribly keen on the practice either.
I've always stated quite firmly that I'd never eat certain foods...any creatures eyeballs for instance would have me heaving in an instant...brains are another that'd have me reaching for a sick bag...but there were little shops in the back streets of Birmingham which sold tripe and flat metal trays of brains...delicious on hot buttered toast for tea apparently.
But then I've never been seriously hungry in my life and certainly have never reached starvation I have no idea what it would be like to have to resort to eating a piece of human flesh. Never spent months in a siege with food supplies growing lower and lower and no hope of more...and never been cast away in a tiny boat on a huge ocean with no food at all.
It is one of the last taboos I suppose...something we know happened in the siege of Leningrad and the Polish ghettos during the Second War, but we don't discuss it nor do we really acknowledge it either. It's the stuff of tabloid newspaper headlines, not polite conversation while sipping sherry.
In a way eating parts of another person is rather like the rapid re-emergence of new mothers eating part of the placenta after giving birth...once considered perfectly normal, it fell out of favour during the early part of the Twentieth century but is now becoming something practised by many...and not just the new Age hippies. Medically, there is a sound reasoning behind it...the placenta is still rich in iron and minerals after birth which provide a nursing mother with the essentials she needs to produce milk, as well as replacing those elements she has lost in the birthing process.
Anyone fancy fried placenta and eggs for breakfast tomorrow?