Boiled Lobsters, Eating Oysters Alive, Suffocating Fish
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.