If you haven’t already, please read Silence of the Lobsters – Part One.
Since lobsters don’t have brains or central nervous systems, the general consensus is that they don’t feel pain. Nor do they actually “scream” when being held over boiling water, since they don’t have vocal cords; instead the high-pitched whistle they make is steam being released from beneath their shells. A 2005 study financed by the Norwegian government (go, you highly-evolved Scandinavians!) reinforced this view. But after reading David Foster Wallace’s phenomenal essay Consider the Lobster (good for Gourmet magazine for having the balls to print his ruminations on comparative neuroanatomy, subjective experience, and sentience), I realize the jury is still out on whether they feel pain.
David Foster Wallace said it in a very David Foster Wallace way (in a footnote, naturally 1):
The scientific and philosophical arguments on either side of the animal-suffering issue are involved, abstruse, technical, often informed by self-interest or ideology, and in the end so totally inconclusive that as a practical matter, in the kitchen or restaurant, it all still seems to come down to individual conscience, going with (no pun) your gut.
My own gut tells me that lobsters suffer. In any event, they’re the only animals we must kill ourselves, if we wish to eat them at home. There’s also the subsequent dismembering.
I used to buy them sometimes, but I always refused to be the one to lower them into the pot. Instead I liked to place them on the kitchen floor and observe them as they shuffled around the linoleum. Like all animals, they fascinated me.
That was long ago. Today I don’t think I could buy another lobster, as much I once loved the taste. Of course, it may be that they were just a butter-delivery mechanism. That’s certainly possible, given my feelings for butter. But in any case, I’ll never miss the sound they make in boiling water. I say this despite knowing that the sound can’t be screaming, since they cannot scream.
- I really wish this man hadn’t offed himself. ↩