I’m a carnivore, but a guilty one. That is, I appreciate that, in order for me to enjoy my sauted chicken breast or grilled burger, some animal had to die. Long ago, as a result of an article I read (New Yorker? New Republic?), I decided to aim for meat that came from animals that had been humanely raised and humanely dispatched. The theory behind this approach is that animals, unlike humans, do not suffer from existential anxiety. The cow doesn’t interrupt its cud chewing periodically to bemoan its imminent journey to the stockyard, nor is the chicken too worried about decapitation to peck and scratch in the farm yard. Animals live in the moment. However, any given moment in the animal’s life shouldn’t be a moment of pain or fear — emotions we know all mammals experience. That is, chickens and pigs shouldn’t be confined to cages only inches larger than their bodies, nor should cows got to slaughterhouses awash in the blood and echoing with the cries of those who preceded them into death.
With that philosophy in mind, I was actually pleased to hear about Whole Foods’ new philosophy regarding lobsters — even though I don’t eat lobster myself (too rich):
SOON the Supreme Court may be forced to consider a thorny question it has hidden from for too long: Does the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment protect shellfish?
Okay, perhaps not “soon.” The issue hasn’t gone to appeal. And, it’s not–yet–technically the subject of any state or federal litigation. But last month the Bobo supermarket chain Whole Foods announced that it would no longer be selling live lobsters or soft shell crabs from in-store tanks. They concluded that the practice was inhumane.
The company’s press release was quick to point out that it would still be retailing frozen lobster and crab products (products–as in flesh.)
Whole Foods based its decision partly on the dubious conclusion of a 2005 European Union report that found lobsters feel pain and learn. The rest of the equation was their finding (noticing, really) that when sold live, lobsters–natural loners among decapod crustaceans–can be transported and stored one on top of another in cramped tanks for up to six months before final purchase. Earlier this year Whole Foods’ Northeast and Atlanta stores briefly installed “condos” in their lobster tanks: short sections of PVC pipe that the lobsters could snuggle up inside of in privacy. But it wasn’t a comprehensively humane solution. Dropping live sales, the company switched to a vendor that dispatches the creatures right off the boat, in just seconds, with a pressurized metal tube.
Amy Schaefer, a Whole Foods spokesperson, summed up the corporate thinking: “Lobsters are going to be caught and going to be eaten . . . [what we’re] trying to do is create a supply chain that treats the animals with respect and minimizes unnecessary pain.” [Emphasis mine.]
Just call me Ms. BoBo — ’cause I agree with the Whole Foods’ approach to raising and slaughtering animals. And for those in touch with their Bible, in which God gives man dominion over the animals (Genesis 1:26), I think with that God-given power goes a responsibility to act as humanely towards the animals as possible.