Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Boiled Lobsters, Eating Oysters Alive, Suffocating Fish

I mentioned on Friday that Whole Foods would no longer sell live lobsters because of concern for the way lobsters were treated after they were caught. As an aside I asked whether it was odd that the company was concerned with the way lobsters were treated after they were caught but apparently less so with the fact that these sentient creatures are cooked by boiling them alive.

A couple of years ago Gourmet magazine sent writer David Foster Wallace to Maine to cover a lobster festival. Much to Gourmet’s surprise, he returned with a piece about the moral and ethical implications of boiling a live animal. This PETA website, which is devoted to lobster liberation, scanned the article and has a link to a PDF.

Is it so terrible to boil a lobster alive? Mark Kurlansky, in his oyster book, notes that when we eat raw oysters, we’re eating them alive. When fishermen catch a striped bass or flounder, and put it on ice, the fish suffocates to death (although I think someone told me that when you catch a bluefish you need to whack it sharply in the head to kill it before it bites you).

Predators catch and eat their prey. It’s the way the world works. I’m not a vegetarian, and I’m not an ethicist or a philosopher (no surprise there). I suppose it’s no odder to be concerned about the welfare of lobsters before we cook them than it is to be concerned about the welfare of chickens crammed into inhumane coops or of cattle living in filth in western feedlots. I’ll still eat lobster once or twice a year, and it would be terrific if Whole Foods' decision resulted in improved conditions.

Here’s the original post, with some interesting comments, including one that came in this morning.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Mike said...

The problem is that once you become concerned with the conditions and welfare of the animals you eat, it becomes harder and harder to reconcile being a part of that suffering when dietary alteratives exist. One day, you wake up and you're a vegetarian. I know because it happened to me.

I really miss beef, pork, poultry, etc. but can rarely (once or twice a year) bring myself to eat it because I know better. Working my way down the food chain, I've even eliminated fish and shellfish, even though I love it. That's where this kind of thinking gets you.

11:10 AM  
Blogger sandy said...

First lobsters, now "Yogurt Cultures Unite Against Whole Foods Lobster Ban". In an exclusive interview "Communicating through a voice synthesis box, the bacteria spokesman called Aci Dophilus said, “You really have to nip this “don’t eat live stuff” idea in the bud. First they ban live lobsters, the next thing you know it will be anything that has live critters in it. Who thinks up this crap anyway?”

Silly? yes? True? Unfortunately not if your Whole Foods. Silliness from href="http://www.thespoof.com/news/spoof.cfm?headline=s5i10913"

3:22 PM  
Blogger MojoMan said...

Alex Beam, a columnist at the Boston Globe had an intersting take on this. He noted that Whole Foods and the people who typically shop there are usually located in communities that care so little about low-income PEOPLE that they fight every attempt to build affordable housing, but will fight to ensure quality housing for lobsters.

6:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Nothing will benefit health and increase the chances for survival of life on earth as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."


Einstein

4:42 AM  
Blogger Catherine said...

Even if you don't care about possible shellfish suffering, people who cook know that if you put a shellfish into boiling water alive, the muscles tense up completely, and you end up with tough, inedible and not even good-tasting food. Real cooks kill the creatures as quickly and painlessly with a fast, clean cut of the spinal cord with a very sharp knife. Most of us will not get off so easily when our times come.

1:44 PM  

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