Switzerland has recently banned the practice of boiling lobsters alive, on the grounds that they might feel pain. And while we can easily accuse Switzerland of hypocrisy for being preoccupied with lobsters after they’ve deemed it okay to kill innocent humans through abortion and euthanasia, let’s not be dismissive.
|Fetal development at 20 weeks
No one really knows if crustaceans can perceive pain because their bodies are so different from ours. But there is a possibility that being placed in boiling water will make them suffer. And based on that Swiss lawmakers have decided to spare lobsters their eventual pain – which is how it should be. Just because lobsters can’t communicate what they feel (if anything) doesn’t mean it’s okay to do to them whatever big powerful humans want.
Meanwhile, 46 U.S.A. senators have just voted in favor of keeping abortion legal after 5 months of gestation, when multiple medical doctors think fetuses may be able to feel pain. Because that possibility (which was enough for the lobster-friendly lawmakers) is not important enough for the big powerful politicians committed to ensuring access to abortion. Because they want to believe it doesn’t hurt anybody. This is why the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was met with such strong opposition and failed to pass: it makes people think about the atrocity of abortion. It can make them care. What laws like this one and the ban on boiling lobsters do is create a society where a helpless creature has to be considered with a little bit of kindness.
Kindness for the weak sounds like something we should strive for, doesn’t it? I myself can’t make laws (and never had any contact with lobsters). But here is my writer’s contribution: a poem about what it might mean to be a boiled lobster. Or an aborted human.
We can’t ask lobsters if they feel pain
It’s not screaming, they say, when there are
no vocal cords to scream with.
But sometimes when we can’t hear anything
it’s because we are the kind of planet
where death sounds don’t travel very far.
Every creature’s death sounds differently.
A lobster’s is air escaping a body
that has never learned how to shrink.
Like plants, lobsters always keep growing.
This is not supposed to be relevant.
It’s just that someone’s crustacean is
another one’s human – or was it the other
way around? Yet we can’t put aquatic animals
and humans in the same sentence.
We’ll say this is what our bodies will do
and with her body someone might
choose to boil a lobster.
Because no one knows if lobsters really feel
pain when they die, just because they can live
for almost as long as we do, getting bigger
like trees. Like diligent bodybuilders.
They only stop growing when you kill them.