Human Bodies
Cannibal Island Tonsils

In 1988 a friend of mine had his tonsils surgically removed and put in a jar filled with embalming fluid. When he got home, he phoned me and insisted that I use his tonsils in a work of art.

Naturally I accepted them and, after giving it some thought, I decided to eat them.

Actually, this idea had occurred to me during my trial at the Old Bailey when I learned that England had no laws against cannibalism. In fact, as far as the courts were concerned, cannibalism was just another way to get rid of a dead body.

Personally, I think cannibalism gets its bad reputation from always being associated with murder since, in the past, all British cannibals had been found guilty of murder, not cannibalism. Apparently, the crime was in the killing not the eating.

Upon realizing this, and with the gift of my friend’s tonsils, I decided to become the first person in British dining history to legally come out as a cannibal.

But before I could start the performance, I had to choose a recipe. And since the tonsils were about the size of a walnut, I decided to make them into party snacks. So for anyone who’s interested, here was my recipe:

Ingredients and Utensils:


  1. Wearing gloves and using a prong, remove the embalmed human tonsils from the jar of toxic fluid and cut them into thin slices.
  2. Rinse the slices in clean water.
  3. Put all of the tonsil slices into a jar filled with 70% drinking alcohol and soak them overnight.
  4. In the morning, remove the tonsil slices from the first bath and put them into a fresh bath of 70% drinking alcohol. Repeat this process every day for a week.
PICTURE: colour photo of a table with cooking supplies and utensils


  1. After a week of cleansing baths, remove a slice of human tonsil from the most recent alcohol bath and put it on a napkin to drain.
  2. While the slice drains, spread a layer of cream cheese on a biscuit.
  3. Place the drained slice of human tonsil on top of the cream cheese.

When made correctly, the appetizer will look like this:

PICTURE: color photo of tonsil hors d'oeuvre.  The slice of human tonsil rests on a bed of cream cheese spread on a thin biscuit.

Shortly after I made my tonsil canapé, I ate it.

PICTURE: colour photo of Gibson holding human tonsil hors d'oeuvre outside his mouth.

The snack was small enough to completely fit inside my mouth.

PICTURE: colour photo of Gibson holding human tonsil hors d'oeuvre half-way inside his mouth.

I then chewed the mouthful and swallowed it.

PICTURE: color photo of Gibson chewing the entire human tonsil hors d'oeuvre.

After waiting for a week, with no ill effects, I sent this press release to the British news media:

Starting at 12:30 on Saturday, 23 July 1988 artist Rick Gibson will walk up and down High Street Walthamstow, London, E17, wearing a sign which reads, “Meet a Cannibal at Erskine Road at 1:30pm.”

At 13:30, next to a hamburger stall at Erskine Road, Rick will show shoppers how to prepare an hors d’oeuvre using human tonsils and cream cheese. He will then eat the tonsil snack.

Gibson wants to publicly declare his cannibalism as well as discuss the rationale behind it. He believes it is socially worthwhile to find more uses for unwanted human tissues.

The artist states, “Human corpses should be processed; not just burnt or buried. Fortunately this is already happening. Internal organs are donated for transplants and entire cadavers are donated to medical schools for educational dissections. My use of these materials for culinary purposes is just an extension of these examples. Fortunately cannibalism is legal and so, with proper safeguards, a new gourmet food industry can be started.”

I chose to do the event in the London borough of Walthamstow because I lived nearby and I knew that the High Street market was a popular shopping area, even on rainy days.


PICTURE: black and white photo of Gibson entering a crowd of shoppers wearing his sign on a rainy day.

During my walk I posed for photos.

PICTURE: black and white photo of Gibson posing next to a sign on a market stall which reads - DOG MEAT.

I also stopped to talk to shoppers who wanted to know what I was doing. I told them that I was going to openly eat a slice of human tonsil to prove that cannibalism was legal.

PICTURE: black and white photo of Gibson talking with shoppers and merchants about cannibalism.

From what I can remember, everyone I talked to that day was surprised to learn that cannibalism was legal in England; although no one wanted to try it.

Moments later, I arrived at the northeast corner of Erskine Road and Walthamstow High Street, where, at precisely 13:30, I raised the bottom part of my sign to create a small shelf.

PICTURE: black and white photo of Gibson making the human tonsil hors d'oeuvre on a shelf attached to his sign.

From my jacket pockets I pulled out a knife, some crackers, a package of cream cheese, and a slice of human tonsil. Then I gave a public demonstration on how to prepare a simple tonsil canapé.

I finished my demonstration by eating the party snack in public.

PICTURE: black and white photo of Gibson putting the human tonsil hors d'oeure into his mouth.

This event turned out to be very popular with the British tabloid newspapers. For example, the Sun newspaper reported on Page 3:

Nutty Rick Gibson has turned cannibal — by eating his pal’s TONSILS.

Rick tucked into the stomach-churning “delicacy” on a cracker with cheese.

Canadian-born Rick Gibson boasted: “My performance was Britain’s first public act of cannibalism. I’ve made British dining history and I don’t care what people think.”

Rick was given the walnut-sized glands by a friend who had them taken out because he was suffering from tonsillitis.

Gibson arranged the sick public nosh-up before shoppers in Walthamstow, East London, to show that human bodies could be put to “good use.”

He said, “I believe it is socially worthwhile to find more uses for dead human bodies instead of just burning or buying them.

“I think tonsils should be sold at up-market shops like Harrods or Fortnum and Mason’s.”

As for taste, he said “It tasted a bit like rubber. I’ll keep an open mind about eating other body parts”.

Rick says his pal was happy to donate the food.

Several days after that story was published, I received a phone call from a Sunday Sport journalist who said, “Rick, this story is becoming old news, but I think I can still keep it alive if you were to say that you planned to open a cannibal restaurant.”

I thought about his idea for a moment and then I said, “Okay, and you can also write that I plan to open the cannibal restaurant in front of the British Houses of Parliament.”

After a moment of silence he said, “I love it,” and wrote this story:

An artist who scoffed his best pal’s tonsils is planning to set up a restaurant…for CANNIBALS!

Gulping Rick Gibson reckons the human body makes a mouth-watering meal.

And he wants to open the grisly grub shop opposite the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

Amazingly, legal eagles believe the weirdo East Londoner’s stomach-churning idea DOESN’T break the law — provided punters agree to go on the menu!

“As far as I’m concerned this would be culinary cuisine of the highest order,” said Canadian-born Rick, who publicly ATE his mate’s tonsils after they were removed by operation.

“Before I ate the tonsils I checked it was legal with a solicitor,” he explained.

“The only known case was in the 1850s when two sailors got hungry and decided to kill and eat a sick mate. But they were guilty for murder, not cannibalism.”

Rick says his restaurant could be supplied with nosh by people who agree to leave him their bodies when they die.

He said, “I’d like to situate it opposite the House of Commons to demonstrate that the whole thing is perfectly legal. Many people already carry donor cards and others leave their bodies to medical science. This is just taking it one step further.

“At the moment we either burn or bury people’s dead bodies which to me is a waste of a great resource.

“I can’t see anything ethically wrong with cannibalism.”

Rick admits most people wouldn’t fancy tucking into grilled grandad or marinated mother-in-law, but he’s still sure there would be plenty of customers for his restaurant.

“It could become a place with a reputation for serving gourmet meals,” he said.

This performance will finally end when a cannibal restaurant opens in front of the British Houses of Parliament.