This one falls into the 'obviously wrong if true category.' According to reports last week
, police in Peru have arrested members of a gang who murdered a string of peasant farmers, drained the fat from their dead bodies, and then attempted to sell it to European cosmetics manufacturers. How the fat was extracted from the corpses is gruesome enough to gain the attention of bad horror film producers, and I will spare you the details. What is interesting, though sick, is the very idea of an international black market in human body fat for cosmetic purposes. The rich have long had (or have been sold) some strange notions about special concoctions allegedly capable of turning back the hands of time, or at least the signs of wear and tear on the human face. But using body fat is a new one, and harvesting it among Peru's poor (rather than more corpulent and frequently liposuctioned populations elsewhere) just seems gratuitous -- not that there is some part of the world where this should pass as acceptable behavior.
As the Independent points out, the gangsters oddly discarded more lucrative items in the form of livers, kidneys or lungs. My instinctive response: don't give them any ideas.UPDATE
(Dec 1, 2009): it seems to be false
, after all. Since the story broke, no evidence has been uncovered to support the gruesome tale of murder and body fat sales, and the anti-kidnapping investigator at the origin of the story has been suspended. The story seems to have been a recycled version of the old Peruvian myth about Pichtacos --
a kind of South American vampire/cannibal. Rumor has it that the police authorities told the story just to distract the Peruvian public from real social problems. But who knows if we will ever get to the bottom of this one.
Labels: bioethics, body fat, cosmetics, gangsters, Peru