This word is used to refer to the eating of dead human beings by other human beings, or occasionally to another species where some individuals eat members of the same species.

Historically, the practice is rather rare. Any parasites or diseases which afflicted your dinner may be a danger to you, especially if it is not thoroughly cooked. The victim is dead - how healthy could they be? Of course, if you killed after a tough battle the chance that they had a horrible disease is reduced.

Sometimes cannabalism is found in regions where the population is extremely short of animal protein. A brave Aztec warrior who brought a prisoner to be sacrificed by the priests might well be rewarded with a leg.

Otherwise cannabalism can be a ritual practiced under rare circumstances. One might eat certain parts of a formidable enemy hoping to benefit from some of his attributes. Even where it is regarded as a horror, it might be used to create a rare secret bond between a small group.

In the business world, cannibalism refers to a new section of a company "eating into" the revenues of an older section of the same company. Competing with yourself is a Bad Idea, unless the old technology is obsolete, and needs to be phased out anyway. A transition to a "new business model" may cause this buzzword to pop up.

Example: When sgi sells rackmount multiprocessor Linux servers that compete in the same space as their IRIX server business, that's cannibalism.

Cannibalism, the eating of human flesh, is a rare, ancient practice. Some of the peoples who have been known to have engaged in cannibalism are listed below:

Cannibalism In Australia and New Zealand

Cannibalism was practiced by the original inhabitants of Australia and New Zealand. It was common practice among some Maoris to eat the flesh of enemies killed in battle, and while some anthropologists consider this was because the Maoris wanted to gain the strength of the defeated people, it is also probably that it was used as a means of remedying protein deficiency. One such case of Maoris cannibalism was seen in the Boyd Massacre of 1809.

A similar motive was attributed to some Aboriginals who ate parts of a dead person so that his power remained in his own tribe. This particular form of cannibalism was practiced throughout eastern Australia, on the Murray-Darling river systems, at Lake Eyre and in the West of Western Australia. The Aboriginals also practiced cannibalism in conjunction with infanticide. In these cases, the child was killed as a form of population control and it was believed that if the newly born child was eaten, its spirit would be born again when the group was better equipped to cope with additional members.

Although all the motivations for Aboriginals eating other people are not known, there is a mass of evidence from early reports to indicate that in many parts of Australia, and particularly in North Queensland, intruders who were killed were often eaten. Such examples included Chinese who were making their way to the Palmer River gold rush and some survivors of the wreck of the brig Maria who came ashore north of Cardwell in 1872.

There is also evidence of cannibalism among convicts during the early days of settlement in Australia. A convict group escaped while being transported to Sarah Island in 1822. With food scarce and having gone 15 days without nourishment, the group resorted to cannibalism. Killing off their comrades one by one, Alexander Pearce was the only one left to confess his crimes when he was recaptured in 1823. No one believed the story and he was sent back to prison. He escaped yet again and brought with him Thomas Cox as provisions. When he was picked up again, Pearce confessed his crimes for the second time and showed them a bit of Cox he had saved. He was transported back to Hobart where he was hanged.


Cannibalism in business used to be a simple thing. It used to be, if you had a successful product that competed in, say the automobile market and you release a similar product, sales of your initial product will start to slump. It's called cannibalism because sales from one of your brands are eating into the sales from another one of your brands.

This can be good - if you sell 100 units of a product and introduce a new product, your sales of the old product might drop to 75, but the new product will be selling 50 units as well, so you still end up selling more even if the numbers shift. Assuming an active and competitive marketplace, even the illusion of competition can be beneficial, both internally to the company and in the market as a whole. But problems come when the market fluctuates, and markets unfortunately tend to do that.

Think of it like this: when any given market shrinks, it doesn't deflate evenly like water going down a drain, more like the ripples left in a pond after you throw a stone in it. Richer and poorer sectors of the market will shrink less while the middle class will drop radically. If your target demographic includes those upper or lower echelons you'll lose money at close to the expected rate, but in that middle class (where, pound for pound, all the money lives) will sink like a stone. But, unlike the rest of your competition, you'll be doubly screwed because you're in the sector twice. That's why forceful brand differentiation is a great idea.

It also used to be, when you had one brand eating into another, it was because of publicly noticeable and translucent business practices - you introduce Diet Coke to the Coca-Cola line, and two things happen: sales of regular dip and then rise again (dip because of the new product, and rise because of the improved state of overall brand awareness that comes with a successful new product launch) and sales of the new product average out to what its standard selling ratio will be.

That was the way it used to be. Now, things are very different, slightly trickier and much more ethically strange. Now, because of the effect of over-arching parent companies, the people who buy your products have no idea that you make other products in the same market. The people you're selling to matter, and complete brand differentiation can be the right thing to do if you're fairly certain that their markets won't overlap, but if they do...well, for instance:

How many people knew that Amstel Light is a brand owned by Heineken? Amstel Light was developed for idle drinkers and women, because research showed that everything about Heineken that made people love it (it's hard-edged German pronunciation, bad ass symbolism and the utter, well, manliness of it) was turning off more social, less aggressive consumers (ie women and responsible adults. No, that wasn't a shot.) so a new product was introduced to bring them into the family. Fine. They're not competing at all, really, just increasing market share. Never a bad thing.

But then something weird happens: Hard-core drinkers discover that they like the taste of Amstel Light better and that, more importantly, they can drink a ton more of it without getting full. The market shifted. It happens.

But you're stuck in a tricky situation - you can't change Heineken without losing some of your customers to outside brands like Budweiser, but you can't scale back production of Amstel for the same reasons. And you're losing customers, because light beer drinkers rarely trade back up to your full-flavored beer, they find other light beers that you can't control.

So what do you do? It's counterintuitive as hell but so amazingly cool: you introduce a third beer. Heineken Premium Light. If you target it juuuuuust right, you'll pull Amstel drinkers back to your "hard-edged but so not wussy" image, and your "I love this Heineken, but I'd look like a pansy ordering a light beer" image, and probably suck in some of the "I'm sick of feeling like a pansy with this other beer, but original Heineken gives me a headache" crowd. Your little corner of the market stabilizes and all is right with your world.

...and if you're wrong, your new beer devours the market of your other two beers and you find yourself back selling one kind of beer but spending the money to produce three.

THAT'S why it's called Cannibalism.

Can"ni*bal*ism (?), n. [Cf. F. cannibalisme.]

The act or practice of eating human flesh by mankind. Hence; Murderous cruelty; barbarity.



© Webster 1913.

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