Were the men justified in their actions?The basic run-down for our purposes is that three men (including defendants Dudley and Stephens) and a young boy were stranded at sea on a small emergency boat after they were forced to abandon their ship because of a storm. On the 18th day they were stranded at sea, having no food for the previous seven days and no water for the previous five, one of the men (Dudley) thought it a good idea to draw straws to decide which man should give up his life for the sustenance of the others on the raft (yes, that would be cannibalism). As disturbing as that is, Stephens nevertheless agreed to the “drawing,” but the third man refused. Dudley and Stephens noticed that the boy was rather sickly and did not have a family like they did, so they decided that rather than sacrifice the life of a healthy grown man with a family, it would be more prudent to kill the boy and eat him while they awaited their unlikely rescue.
The court’s recitation of the facts states “the boy was then lying at the bottom of the boat quite helpless and extremely weakened by famine and by drinking sea water, and unable to make any resistance, nor did he ever assent to his being killed. [Dudley] offered a prayer asking forgiveness for them all if either of them should be tempted to commit a rash act, and that their souls might be saved. Dudley, with the assent of Stephens, went to the boy, and telling him that his time was come, put a knife into his throat and killed him then and there; … the three men fed upon the body and blood of the boy for four days; … on the fourth day after the act had been committed the boat was picked up by a passing vessel, and the prisoners were rescued…”
After their rescue, Dudley and Stephens were promptly brought back to England to face a trial for the charge of murder. The other man apparently dissented from the killing but participated in the eating of the boy anyway.
Would choosing of the person to be eaten through drawing straws change your opinion?