BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Languages
Last Updated: Friday, 11 May 2007, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
Vultures pick off human body farm
American black vulture, which is native to the US
Vultures are native to much of the US, especially in open areas
Plans by a US university to build a human "body farm" have been set back amid fears of vultures flocking towards the whiff of decomposing corpses.

A nearby airport said the scavenging birds could endanger low-flying aircraft as they circled the body farm.

Residents were also said to be unhappy with plans to keep up to nine cadavers at the facility at any one time.

Texas State University had wanted to use the site to study how humans decompose under a range of conditions.

Forensic scientists use data from body farms to learn about how the human body decomposes in a range of controlled situations, to aid criminal investigations.

Two other body farms are already operational in the US, one established at the University of Tennessee in 1971, and the other in 2006 in North Carolina.

Shallow grave

Texas State researchers had planned to begin using a site near Texas' San Marcos Municipal Airport later this year.

There's a lot of people who don't want it their backyard
Mark Hendricks
Texas State University
Up to nine bodies would be kept on site, some buried underground, others in shallow graves, and some even left in the open.

Most bodies used by the scientists are made available for medical research by prior consent.

But the plans fell foul of the vultures - known locally as buzzards - which frequent the skies and feed on dead animals and other carrion on the ground.

Plans for the site included a razor-wire fence around the property, vulture-proof cages to protect exposed bodies and a 70ft (21.3m) grass buffer around the site to absorb rainwater as it runs away.

However, airport officials and local residents felt the risks - both to pilots and to public health - remained too high, forcing officials to bury their plans.

"There's a lot of people who don't want it their backyard, and that's certainly understandable," said Mark Hendricks, a university spokesman.

"It's a controversial project, there's no doubt about it."




RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific