Dutch TV presenters who ate their own flesh to escape prosecution

Wed, Feb 8, 2012, 00:00

TWO DUTCH TV presenters who had pieces of their flesh surgically removed, and later cooked and ate them before a live studio audience, have been told they will not be prosecuted for cannibalism.

The programme, Proefkonijnen, which translates as “guinea pigs”, showed Dennis Storm and Valerio Zeno sitting down by candlelight to eat the little portions of flesh, which had been lightly sauteed in sunflower oil with the help of a professional chef.

For the sake of authenticity, the show began with a filmed insert which followed the two men while they had the muscle removed in the operating theatre of a private clinic. The flesh was frozen until the night of the programme, which was aired at Christmas.

Storm contributed a piece of buttock, while Zeno sacrificed a sliver of his abdomen.

“There’s really nothing at all special about human meat,” Storm told the audience afterwards.

“Sure, it’s weird to look into the eyes of your friend while you’re chewing on his belly. But it was just a few centimetres – and now I have a good story about the scar.”

The show was made by public broadcaster BNN (Bart’s Neverending Network), founded by Bart de Graaff and previously called Bart’s News Network, a pun on CNN. The network targets teenage and young-adult audiences by tackling controversial issues.

Critics said it broke new ground in bad taste. Some called for the presenters to be charged with cannibalism, while others said that was exactly the disproportionate response they wanted.

The show’s defenders said that, while it was essentially harmless, it did stretch the boundaries of what was acceptable on reality TV.

This week, after the row was raised in parliament by the Christian Democrats, Dutch justice minister Ivo Opstelten said the presenters would not be charged because cannibalism was not illegal in the Netherlands.

In cases of cannibalism, there could, of course, be legal issues about where the flesh was sourced. But in this case, it was clear that the two individuals involved were consenting adults.