We need human body farms, says real-life Dr Bones and forensic expert Anna Williams
THERE are pigs in duvets, pigs in cellophane and even pigs in blankets. Welcome to the pig decomposition “farm”, where forensic anthropologists at Cranfield University in Swindon have been monitoring the creatures’ various stages of decomposition.
The UK is some way behind the US where human body farms are so “popular” that there are waiting lists of people wanting to donate their bodies. In the UK there are no body farms, in part due to the potential public outcry and disputes about where they would be sited.
Indeed there are four such farms in the US including the first, started in 1981, at the University of Tennessee which was founded by one of the most influential forensic anthropologists of our time, William M Bass.
Dr Anna Williams who, when I met her was working her last days at Cranfield University before taking up the post as senior lecturer in forensic science at the University of Huddersfield, is adamant that the UK will eventually get a body farm, or a human taphonomic facility as they are officially known (taphonomy is the study of decaying organisms).
“I think it is only a matter of time,” she says. “Forensic research is getting more recognition but we are also being hindered by the fact that we don’t have a human facility so there is a lot of pressure from academics and quite a few, about 20 or 30, taphonomy researchers want one.
“Quite recently there was a move to get one. A self-made millionaire from Omega Supplies Limited, an embalmer, decided he wanted to put his money towards this and there was a plan made and a proposal for a £1million facility.”
Ultimately a site could not be found, nor enough signatures of support garnered, but it would seem that this is the start of a movement.