Treatment of Animal in article “Consider the Lobster”

Updated April 19, 2022

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Treatment of Animal in article “Consider the Lobster” essay

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David Foster Wallace’s 2004 Gourmet magazine article ‘Consider the Lobster’ investigates a topic not covered by too many publications – the treatment of an animal which eventually will become your meal. In the essay, Wallace has set up his readers to reflect not just on the lobster but on the larger moral questions behind their carnivorous lifestyle, eating these meats “without having to consider that they were once conscious, sentient creatures to whom horrible things were done. (358)” He asks “a question that’s all but unavoidable” not just surrounding the (now) 70 year tradition of the Maine Lobster Festival, but across kitchens in general: “Is it all right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure? (354)”

Wallace explicates, in grand detail, the process in which the lobsters are prepared for boiling (“ten minutes for the first pound of lobster, then three minutes for each pound after that (353)”), and the ensuing pain they must endure (“the cover rattling and clanking as the lobster tries to push it off…claws scraping the sides of the kettle as it thrashes around…(359)”) at the hands of their consumer. His reason for this equates to being uncomfortable, not only his personal beliefs but for everyone who “does not want to see herself as cruel or unfeeling. (358)” According to the article “Some Animals Are More Equal than Others” by Leslie Pickering Francis and Richard Norman, all human beings “possess the capacity for suffering and/or enjoyment or happiness. But animals too can suffer or be happy, and therefore they are entitled to the same consideration. And this, Singer thinks, renders morally indefensible such practices as rearing and killing (even painlessly) other animals in order to eat them, and most of the laboratory experiments which are performed on animals. (Francis 508)” Wallace reminds readers that “lobsters are maybe even more vulnerable to pain” than other animals since they lack natural opioids (built-in painkillers) (362).

Wallace’s purpose in writing this essay is to show that equal consideration of interests is different than equal treatment: children have an interest in being educated; pigs, in rooting around in the dirt. Peter Singer (briefly mentioned in “Some Animals Are More Equal than Others”), stated that “Women have a right to vote, for instance, because they are just as capable of making rational decisions as men are; dogs, on the other hand, are incapable of understanding the significance of voting, so they cannot have the right to vote. (Singer 104)” Wallace fully believes that “animals are less morally important than human beings” and continues to “eat certain kinds of animals”, but he ponders “whether the reader can identify with any of these reactions and acknowledgements and discomforts. (365)” While he is not trying to “give you a PETA-like screed here”, he is simply attempting to “work out and articulate some of the troubling questions that arise amid the laughter and saltation. (364)” Do the festival goers understand or care of the suffering which takes on “aspects of something like a Roman circus or medieval torture-fest? (364)” Are they cowardice when it comes to “throwing a creature into boiling water and then fleeing the room? (361)”

In conclusion, I leave you with a passage from Elizabeth Harman, an associate professor of philosophy in human values at Princeton, in what can best sum up Wallace’s argument and those incorporated: ‘If you buy or eat meat, you’re doing something that plays some kind of causal role in meat production, but it’s a very removed causal role, so it’s not plausible that any particular animal suffering depends on whether you make a particular purchase. So in that way you don’t have any particular bit of animal suffering or death on your head for that instance of meat eating. What you’re doing is participating [in] the continuation of meat production. (BBC News)”

Treatment of Animal in article “Consider the Lobster” essay

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Treatment of Animal in article “Consider the Lobster”. (2022, Apr 19). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/treatment-of-animal-in-article-consider-the-lobster/


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