My stance on cannibalism is really a reaction to vegetarianism. Vegetarianism says that it is cruel to eat animals therefore we must refrain from eating animals. Other, more respectable, versions of vegetarianism say that the way meat is collected today is through inhumane means therefore we must not support the meat industry.
My response to vegetarians is that I have no beef with eating meat. Including all kinds of meat. Even including human meat. I would be interested in eating human meat but it is just hard to get it legitimately. My problem with human consumption is not the consumption part but the non-consensual consumption of other people. Non-consensual cannibalism is better known as murder. It is the murder of other people that I have a problem with. I do not have the same issue with murdering animals - and I will explain exactly why this is so in my follow up post to this one, but not here because it will take me off topic.
Therefore, I respond to vegetarians that I have no problem with any kind of meat whatsoever. It can even be human meat. My position is not that "meat is wrong to eat" but rather the means that were used to acquire that meat. If the means to acquire human meat were legitimate, perhaps the person allowed his dead body to be used for consumption, then I have no problem with it. If however we enslaved the person, killed him, and then sold his meat then I would have a problem with that. I also would have a problem if an animal was skinned alive and tortured, because I do consider animals to have feelings and a consciousness. Thus, I do think it is wrong to eat human meat that we killed off a person without his consent, and I do think it is wrong to eat meat that we tortured off an animal. But if the human meat was acquired with permission of that person, and if the meat of the animal was collected in a humane manner then I do not have an issue with its consumption. So to stress again, it is not the consumption of any kind of particular meat that I have an issue with, but that means that were taken to acquire this meat.
Now I want to get into the historical aspects of cannibalism. Well, I should say, what I believe to be the history of cannibalism because everything I would say about cannibalism now is entirely made up by me. It is known that there were/are tribes that have consumed other human beings after they died. These tribes practiced cannibalism. Their reasons for doing so was because the tribes believed that when they eat their dead members they absorb them back into the tribe. But I believe there was more than just the religious belief of absorbing the dead into the tribe at work here. The reality of the situation of these tribes is that they are very poor. They did not have much food to eat. They did not eat other living members of their tribe because that was not economically sustainable so they had to wait till one of the members died to eat him. Thus, their religion was partially a justification for the post-fact that they needed something to eat. Dead people were a means to satisfy their hunger. When people stopped living in hunter-gather primitive tribes after they learned to farm during the agricultural revolution their standard of living improved so that it was not longer necessary for people to consume other people. And so people practiced in ceremonial burial rather than just eating their own members. The history of vegetarianism is similar to the history of cannibalism. People ate animals for the same reason. They were hungry so they needed a way to eat the animals. In modern ages, ever since the industrial revolution society became blessed with abundance of food. Animals were no longer necessary for the consumption of food. And so people found other means to satisfy their hunger. None of this was possible before the industrial revolution and it is only today in present days that vegetarianism is possible. Therefore, the history of all hitherto existing cannibalistic societies is the history of food struggles.
Cannibalism was practiced because it was necessary. And no person in those tribes had problems with it. It is only in our modern age with the abundance of food that we begin to look at the idea of eating other people as repulsive and wrong. In fact, some of us go so far as to be repulsed by the idea of eating animals. And I believe that if there were chemical alternatives for people to eat in abundance there would also develop people known as the "plant vegetarians", but that is a revolution for the future that did not happen yet.
To state my case in defense of cannibalism I want to say that not all cannibalism would be justified under my values, just like not all animal consumption would be justified under my values. For cannibalism to be justified it needs to be done with the consent of the other person. People are their self-owners. I own my own life and no one has an ownership on my life, it is my inherent natural right, and I hold this truth to be self-evident. Thus, it if is my own life then I can choose to do with it as I so desire. This means that if I no longer value it I can allow myself to be killed by someone else and eaten by him. All I have done is transferred my own property ownership to someone else. I can also, in the same manner, decide what can happen to my body after I die. If I do not believe in funerals or afterlives then I can choose to allow other people to consume me or dispose of my body as they please, even use me as a sex toy. But that is up to them because I have transferred over my property claim to someone else. And it is in this way that cannibalism is justified and defendable.