The Justification of Posh Delicacy in Consider the Lobster, an Essay by David Foster Wallace
In David Foster Wallace’s, Consider The Lobster, he questions the justification of eating not only lobster but animals all together. Raising questions on the morals, escapades, and activities we use and participate in. While also considering how we interpret pain and suffering as a species. Within that he discusses the history of lobster and how it became the “posh delicacy”(Wallace 461) it is today. Beginning with the original uses for lobster, Wallace points out that up until the eighteen-hundreds lobster was a considered a poor mans meal. In early American colonies there had even been laws forbidding the feeding of lobster to prisoners more than once per week because it had been sought to be “cruel and unusual” and even comparable to “making people eat rats” (Wallace 460). Back in this time the number of lobsters available in the New England waters was far more substantial than the amount seen today. Because of this lobster was seen as something anyone could eat and or use, especially lower class citizens. The rise in popularity first only began on the terms that lobster at the time was affordable for anyone and high in protein.
So why is lobster now seen, in modern times, as a status symbol? As time continued the popularity of lobster began to grow for other reasons besides its affordability. The population of lobster began to decline just as the middle class was in search for a meal that could evolve into a comparable circumstance to that of champagne (Champagne was the seventeen-eighties royals beverage that could be waved above the lower class’ heads). Back into the early eighteen hundreds the abundance of lobster sparked chefs, particularly on trains, to market the lobster as an exotic meal causing people to request it more and more outside of the transportation networks. With the increase in popularity a decrease in abundance occurred only making lobster that much more desirable. Prices began to rise and lobster went from a meal “eaten only by the poor and institutionalized” (Wallace 460) to “the seafood analog to steak”(Wallace 461).
Similarly, in Jay Bost’s, Sometimes It’s More Ethical to Eat Meat Than Vegetables, Bost discusses his own reasoning behind his decision to return to meat-eating simply stating “eating meat in specific circumstances is ethical” (Bost 1). Based on Bost’s own research and understanding eating of animals can be considered the most ethical option depending on each individual’s location. For example, in areas of Arizona, Bost mentions that the proper care of cattle can ultimately result in the consumption of proper “condensed calories and protein with the aid of the microorganisms in its gut.”(Bost 2) Taking a slightly alternate perspective on the topic there’s is also the idea that in areas, like the “scrubby grasslands”(Bost 2) of Arizona, there may be an overuse of natural resources resulting in land degradation. Meaning that when a certain plot of land is used repeatedly for the same crop type the soil begins to degrade over time preventing the crops from receiving the proper nutrients to grow, as well as simply destroying the soil. With the raising of animals the soil has a higher chance of avoiding degradation and intaking the proper nutrients it would need to flourish. The animals, that are ultimately fed to people, are able to consume the plants that have been properly grown and are able to give those who eat meat the proper proteins, calories, and nutrients humans need to survive. As Bost mentions this outlook on meat-eating “looks much cleaner than the fossil-soaked scheme..” (Bost 2). Taking an alternate route into modern day meat production can be a ecological and ethically positive endeavor just in the simple cases that, when done correctly, “are able to to cycle nutrients, aid in land management, and convert sun to food in ways that are nearly impossible for us to do without fossil fuel” (Bost 3).
Bost concludes his writings with what he believes is the three reasons meat eating can be ethical so long as “you accept the biological reality that death begets life on this planet and that all life (including us!) is really just solar energy temporarily stored in an impermanent form. Second, you combine realization with that cherished human trait of compassion and choose ethically raised food, vegetable, grain and/or meat. And third, you give thanks” (Bost 5). The problem with these statements is the fact that not all people are going to agree with Bost’s ideology on why meat eating is ethical. Bost believes that if the things mentioned above are done then meat eating can be ethical. Others, such as an animal advocate, may feel that even though you are choosing to consume animals that were raised in good conditions, realizing that in the grand scheme of things all living things eventually die, and giving thanks, that it is still in the wrong to consume animal at all. In some sense it isn’t just about the way in which the animals are raised but the basis of eating them in general others may deem as unethical. As David Foster Wallace discusses in Consider The Lobster, if lobsters are able to feel pain and humans are capable of acknowledging the pain that animals feel then would it still be considered ethical to eat them?
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