What’s Eating Him?

July 19, 2012

Jennie Erin Smith reviews Bernd Heinrich’s Life Everlasting for the Wall Street Journal and opens with an interesting proposal:

A couple of years ago the ecologist Bernd Heinrich received a letter from a very sick colleague asking whether Mr. Heinrich would one day host his body on his forested Maine property, so that coyotes and ravens could eat it.

Smith later explains,

[W]e have managed to drastically limit the populations of large animals, such as bison and whales, whose carcasses “have, throughout evolutionary history, been left to return to the earth,” nourishing an amazing variety of life. In the developed world even most livestock that die in the field are rendered or buried before scavengers can have their crack. And we humans have largely removed ourselves from the cycle via sealed caskets, embalming and high-heat cremation, practices that range from wasteful to seriously polluting.

Whereas Zoroastrians had “sky burials,” in which a body was left in a specially designated place for vultures to feast on. Don’t they go for the eyes first, or was that just on Tales from the Crypt? (Yes, the link is to a horrendous scene, but it does star Kyle MacLachlan.)

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