Although most people love it and would never give it up, few people want to think about the pain that lobsters (or crabs) endure when plunged into a bubbling bath of boiling water. Well, for those of you lobster (eating) lovers out there, maybe your conscious will never be taxed again…
According to a new study, lobsters feel no pain due to a primitive insect-like nervous system. Yah, you betcha, the good Norwegians have concluded that lobsters’ reaction to stimuli are escape mechanisms, not conscious responses.
Of course the PETA people aren’t happy… one (Karin Robertson) dismisses the study as a ploy to protect Norwegian (and other) fishing industries, likening the claim to the tobacco industry’s mantra that smoking doesn’t cause cancer.
While I am a strong believer in the rightful treatment of all living beings, I do think there is a utilitarian line to be drawn when it comes to killing animals for food. I suppose there are more “humane” (why we base treatment off of humans escapes me, I would advocate for a “living entity” standard as I believe all living things should be afforded the same consideration – which reminds me, Larry over at Dingletters has an interesting post on this topic) ways of killing animal. I would like to think that any one faced with actually killing animal for food does not take the task lightly, no matter how frequent the act.
In fact, of the people I know who do hunt and kill and prepare their own food, it seems they have a higher standard and regard in treating and disposing of the creatures they kill. One of the most beautiful reflections I have read about this was an interview with Thomas Keller of the French Laundry written by Michael Ruhlman in his book Soul of a Chef. (I believe interview is duplicated in the French Laundry Cookbook). Keller felt the need to understand the animal he was going to eat – to break down the barrier between living breathing being and the impersonality of a piece of meat on a plate. The chef recounts the first time he kills a rabbit. It was such a horrible experience for Keller that he came to fully appreciate the animal and of its parts – careful to use every bit of it to avoid waste.
Yet, paradoxically, Keller is a devotee of foie gras (he has a whole section devoted to it in his cookbook), a product that many criticize as the booty of cruelty. Harvesting the duck/goose liver involves force-feeding the birds until their livers engorge with fat. In fact, California has contemplated banning the lucious foie altogether. Proponents of foie gras, like the famed Hudson Valley Foie Gras company hold that their practice isn’t that inhumane, and that the forced-feeding causes no real “harm” to the birds. The French have been doing it for centuries (I don’t know how that makes a difference – but I’ll bet that those ducks in the Loire/Hudson Valley are being treated far better than the vast majority of the chickens that are raised by large industry “chicken farms.” Those birds are shot up with horomones and live in filthy overcrowded cages.
I don’t know how I fall on this issue. For someone who likes food as much as I do, it’s tough… I know this must be an odd thing for one to struggle with, but I do. I enjoy my pates and lobsters and rarely (like to) think about the process the animals and harvesters had to endure.
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In other lobster news… Edna K. Morris, former president of Red Lobster restaurant chain has been selected as the new Executive Director of the James Beard Foundation. Her installation follows the unfortunate and ugly demise of the former executive director, Leonard F. Pickell, who pleaded guilty of stealing more than $50,000 from the organization…