I wandered into a seafood restaurant to make a call when I looked into an aquarium. There was a large lobster (and since lobsters continue to grow with age, this large one was perhaps 50 years old), waving its tentacles at me, looking through the glass, his or her big black eye stems seemingly staring at me. Of course I anthropomorphized: “What am I doing here,” the lobster seemed to be saying. “Get me out!” But while I knew I was engaging in a kind of fantasy, at the same time, there is no good scientific reason to believe that lobsters are indifferent to their surroundings. This was not home, and she was definitely trying to get out. The lobster may not have appealed to me personally, but certainly the desire for escape was real and urgent. He wanted, as every creature in such a situation would, to live, not to die. Could he anticipate the agony that awaited him? Perhaps not. But of what significance is this to his very real suffering?
I was struck by his beauty, the gorgeous symmetry of his limbs, and
the magnificent colors of his body. All of this to be sacrificed to the next diner who asked for him by name, as it were? “I will take that one.” Out he is hauled, thrown into boiling water, torn to pieces, and then devoured. What sense does this make? How can we do this? Even more depressing, to me, is that this is done, routinely, thousands of times every hour around the world without the slightest hesitation or doubt.
Had I attempted to make the lobster’s case to the diner, I would undoubtedly have been thrown out of the restaurant as a crank and a nuisance, and other diners would have thought me bananas. Is it
loopy to care about somebody so beautiful being considered merely as a meal?? Is there something wrong with me? Why do I see what others do not? It just struck me, on a visceral level, as so wrong as to be beyond any kind of rational thought. Either you saw this right away, or there was no way it could be argued. But if this is true, how do we ever change minds?
Accepting “reality” as we find it is the default position. “Grow up,” I was urged, when as a boy I did not want to see animals killed and refused to eat them. “Face reality,” I was admonished. I was not old enough to say “what reality?” Or even “whose reality?” Why should my desire for a taste of the lobster’s flesh trump his desire to live the life he had been living for the last 50 years? Think of all that accumulated experience (and why should a lobster not have memories?) all to be snuffed out in a hideous restaurant ritual of human barbarity. No thanks.
I did nothing to save that lobsters life, and it bothers me. If even one person reads this and decides to forego even a single lobster, I have made a difference! And if that is true, then when we decide to stop eating lobsters (or any other animal) we too make a definite difference to the lives of the animals we are no longer killing or eating.