An Act Of Harming Animals in an Article By David Foster Wallace

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

Consider the Lobster

David Foster Wallace is a well-known American writer, that discreetly challenges reader’s moral view points in the article “Consider the Lobster”. Through his creative writing style and his structure of the article, one can assume his stance on the moral issue if boiling a lobster alive is just or not, but one could argue both sides of the debate. The Maine Lobster Festival is a yearly tradition that receives a lot of attention, some bad, some good. The Maine Lobster Festival was once a huge celebration until the group PETA came to bring awareness to the inhumane actions of boiling a lobster. After reading “Consider the Lobster” I was compelled to agree with the underlying thesis, questioning the inhumane actions of boiling a lobster when concrete evidence shows that lobsters indeed feel pain, and from their behavior it proves that lobster do suffer.

Lobster is a species that are a delicacy to have eaten. What if people knew that this delicacy caused pain to the creature, and what if you were the one that directly had to inflict this pain and torturous death? It’s easy for some individuals to eat food and mentally block out how this tasty lobster roll ended up in their hand, but they may be ignoring an inhumane action. Human species should question whether what we are doing is humane or not. “The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals thinks that the morality of lobster-boiling is not just a matter of individual conscience” (Wallace 60). First, one must acknowledge that we are only able to feel the pain we receive; we can’t feel the pain our friends or family or other species feel, so we should not be so quick to assume and act on our assumptions. Pain is a subjective mental experience, and from this experience we can tell what is painful to us and from observation we can tell what is painful for others. When a chef puts a live lobster into a pot with boiling water and hears scratching and sees that the lobster is clinging to the top and a chef must leave the kitchen it’s clear that the chef is uncomfortable. This uncomfortableness is a sign that boiling a live lobster is wrong, and to deal with this one tends to avoid thinking about what is truly happening. If the chef that must leave the kitchen had to do a self-examination of his or her actions, it would be clear that they conflict with their actions. This proves that boiling a lobster is not natural, and it causes conflict with one’s morality creating this uncomfortable feeling. Imagine going to a festival but rather than eating lobster there was cat and dog being served. Most likely more people would have a problem with physically having to boiling a cat or dog and couldn’t bar the sight of it. How is boiling a lobster any different? Therefore, the only way people can justify boiling a lobster alive is just for their own enjoyment and gustatory experience. This is not a moral justification to dismiss the cruel and immoral actions of boiling a lobster.

Lobsters are a part of the aquatic arthropod within the Crustacea family which comes from the phylum Arthropoda. The species in this phylum lack a centralized brain and spine assemble. They have an exoskeleton composed of segments similar to a giant insect. “The nervous system of a lobster is very simple, and is in fact most similar to the nervous system of a grasshopper” (Wallace 62). Lobsters and grasshoppers are similar because the both lack a centralized brain like humans. Creating the argument that they do not have a nervous system similar to humans is a difficult and not relatable comparison being that we come from different species. A lobster’s nervous system operates from multiple ganglia making them extremely sensitive to touch especially along their underbelly. The Maine Lobster Promotional Council tried claiming that there is no cerebral cortex in lobster, which in humans is the area of the brain that gives the experience of pain. Later this claim was proven to be “fuzzy or false”(Wallace 62), creating no evidence that lobsters have no nervous system or a sense of pain. Lobsters do indeed have a nervous system and are highly sensitive creatures that can detect change. Since they have clusters of ganglia it actually makes then more sensitive in certain areas than humans. In order to keep a large amount of lobsters in a tank they have to be tied up and bandaged to keep them from hurting themselves or other lobsters in a tank due to the stress of captivity. If lobsters didn’t have a nervous system, they wouldn’t’ t be able to detect a stressful situation therefore supporting that lobster have a nervous system.

A clear assessment to determine whether an animal is capable of suffering is observing the animal’s behavior to see if it has any association with pain. When a lobster is trying to be placed in a steaming kettle, it first tries to attach its claws onto the rim of the kettle to try and prevent being placed in boiling water. The lobster then tries to cling onto the containers’ sides- trying to escape. A chef can hear the lobster rattling around, creating a lot of unsettling motion indicating that they are in tremendous pain. Lobsters can also detect change in temperature, because they migrate out into deeper water for warmth in autumn. This is a clear indication from their behavior that a lobster can feel pain and do suffer. David Foster Wallace gives the comparison that lobsters react very similar to if a human were to be placed in a pot of boiling water. Therefore, one can conclude that lobster do indeed experience suffering.

Finally, from the arguments of David Foster Wallace regarding whether boiling lobster alive is morally wrong are proven through not only the actions of a lobster and the biological evidence from their nervous system but from the natural uncomfortable response from humans. Overall, David Foster Wallace has the reader consider moral choices, and with the information provided, it is hard to argue against the fact that killing a lobster is humane. If one believes that killing a lobster by boiling it alive is humane, then they must apply this belief to all species, and ask themselves if it is okay to kill any innocent animal this way. This is a larger ethical question our society has proposed multiple times, as arguments for vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise. As a society, we do not have the right to dictate another species life and end innocent animals lives simply for the pleasure of our own.


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