Lobsters Feel Pain Too

One summer, when Jane and I were dating, we took a trip through Maine. I don't remember why we chose to travel to Maine, but I do remember that it was our goal to eat a lobster for lunch and dinner every day. We missed one lobster, the restaurant we were eating at had "run out" just as we were ordering. Overall, we had a wonderful vacation. Maine is beautiful in the summer, and the lobsters we ate, fresh from the pound, were simply amazing.

When I think back on that aspect of our trip, I am somewhat nauseated. Jane and I ate those lobsters with gusto. We even picked out the animals we were going to eat, specifically, at the lobster pounds we visited. And they may have been the best lobsters we'd ever eaten. Today, I learned that lobsters feel pain, an unpleasant finding considering the lobsters I've eaten in the past have most often been boiled alive.

I also stumbled across an article by David Foster Wallace entitled "Consider the Lobster", in which Wallace poses the question:

"Is it alright to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure?"

Wallace also asks:

"Given the (possible) moral status, and (very possible) physical suffering of the animals involved, what ethical convictions do gourmets evolve that allow them not just to eat but to savor and enjoy flesh-based viands?"

I've been vegan for over nine months now, I never intended to eat lobster, or any animal flesh, again (see our post "Another Reason Not to Eat Meat"). But I'm feeling badly tonight. I enjoyed eating lobster. I caused significant pain and suffering to those animals, and I never gave it a second thought.

addendum 3/14/08 -- For further information on this topic, please see our post Pain and Suffering -- The Lobster Revisited.


  1. In response to Wallace’s question: many don’t think animals have any moral standing. It’s sad, but some people just don’t think animals are more important than our appetites.

  2. I believe there is (coming) a slow paradigm shift in thinking. We have evolved from people who needed to eat whatever was available to them (hunter/gatherer). As our species has and continues to evolve, we will, hopefully, become more compassionate to all beings.
    Compassion aside, global warming could be a good leaping off platform to get people to move away from a meat-based diet. And once that happens, perhaps we can wean ourselves completely from our dependence on animal products.

  3. I’m vegan and believe that when in doubt, assume sentience…but the study about lobsters and pain was actually inconclusive, as you can see if you read the whole article. I don’t like to see bad science used to support a good cause…

  4. Hi Amy,
    Thanks for your comment.
    Actually Jane and I did read the entire article. I started writing a response to your comment, and wound up with too much for this small area. So, I wrote today’s post in response to you.
    But I have to say, I don’t agree that Professor Elwood is using bad science. It is not at all uncommon for different researchers to come up with different conclusions.
    I chose to write my post based on the conclusion I came to after reading a number of different research articles. You could argue that it makes me a poor journalist for not presenting the other side of the argument… but I believe in the results I presented.

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