How fast can starving zombies eat?

My husband, a novelist and a zombie enthusiast, has a question he’d like to pose to any and all Dopers who share his love of flesh-eaters:

What do you think? Any comments, thoughts, or answers (even snarky ones)would be appreciated.

It depends- are they planning to run out on the check?

Of course, one must understand that zombies are not constrained by what usually limits “normal” humans. They will not feel pain, so they can bit, pull, lift, chew, hit, etc., much harder than those trapped in a shopping mall fending them off. Just think of all the crazy shit unarmed people have done with their bare hands when they become unhinged; that’s probably comparable to what a zombie could do.

Funny thing about zombies and vampires – they’re practically defined by their appetites, but they never seem to die of starvation; it takes something else to kill them.

Hmmm…interesting question. Another issue is, if zombies are strong enough to do all that flesh tearing, how come they’re so slow? For that matter, they seem a little on the weak side when it comes to moving or breaking non-flesh. What’s up with that? That’s all I have to say, so…hey! Hey! Oh, I get it…you’re trying to distract us from the true issue! Do zombies ever need to take a shit?

Well, I’m not sure what the premise is for these particular zombies, but how about this? Maybe whatever it is that animates them in the first place, also causes near-instant putrefecation of any non-zombified flesh they touch? That way, they wouldn’t need any great strength to rend their victims asunder, since their victims become merely so much rotting meat.

How “starving” are they? Do you mean “ravenously hungry” or “has gone without food for weeks or months”?

The latter would seem to imply that the zombie would be “older” by zombie standards—since he isn’t freshly dead, he’s had more time to decay, or accumulate damage. Not to mention going without food for awhile, and whatever health effects that would have. (Which is another issue in itself, depending on your universe…maybe a zombie could actually starve to (second) death, or maybe it only eats out of instinct, and gains no actual nutrition from eating. Or maybe it doesn’t require food to stay un-alive, but feeding does give it extra power, strength, or mental clarity.)

On that last track, I know a fanfic author who wrote a story where virus-induced zombies were in fact animated corpses, who it turns out were quickly reduced to deranged savagery by hunger. One zombie, who’d been sealed in a house and provided with regular meals (of killed zombies) by a human survivor unexpectedly ended up retaining her intelligence, because she’d never been forced to go more than a few hours without food. Interesting take, I thought.

There’s also the school of thought that says zombies don’t feel hunger or even starve, because their biological processes no longer require food. There’s tales that involve zombies eating just because the urge to consume the flesh is there, but then eventually gorging themselves to the point where their guts rupture and they start overflowing from either end.

I don’t know about tearing flesh with bare fingers, but certainly it’s not terribly difficult to break skin just by biting. Arms, necks and shoulders are pretty much the right shape/size to get a good bite on. Once you’ve got the skin/muscles torn, then fingers could potentially come into play to start pulling at bones and flesh.

I think you’d still be looking at a fair amount of time involved in completely dismembering a person via zombie, but certainly they’d be overwhelmed and injured to the point where it would be hard to move (or they’d be in shock) after a relatively short period of time - say a few minutes. Also, a few dozen zombies would be more likely to crush their prey to death, by piling on top of each other to try and get at the person, with the ones on the bottom biting and scratching and those above them simply adding their weight until the person suffocates or dies of broken bones/ruptured organs. Then the zombies can nosh at their leisure.

Hey. The husband here.

This is helpful.
The “zombie sanity through eating,” and “death by zombie stampede” are especially useful.

Let’s speculate that these zombies are almost identical to a living human in most meaningful ways. We’ll say that they don’t respond to physical exhaustion, but neither do they benefit from an adrenaline rush. And let’s say that they’re eating because they really want flesh, not because they’re malnourished.

I like Sierra Indigo’s suggestion that it would probably only take a few minutes… I guess I’m trying to understand in detail how this would happen and I’m still not convinced by movie depictions.

Would victims pass out from pain? Is that likely under such circumstances?
Assuming the flesh-biting-then-tearing method works, as Sierra Indigo suggested, how long would it take to get the bones (eg. in zombie movies the ribcage is almost never an issue)?
As for the trampling, how much weight and how concentrated, say to the chest or the head, would result in incapacitating damage?

I’m struggling to come up with concrete questions; answers to others might be relevant. Mainly, I just want to envision the most plausble zombie massacre possible.

(Here’s another question: I’ve seen the Romero Dead and the Evil Dead series, and Shaun of the Dead… are there any movies that maybe treat this issue a bit more realistically) (I’m a little doubtful… everyone seems to swear by the Romero movies as the best of their kind, and on that front, I’m convinced).

~ Connor