60,000 Perish In Blaze

I try to be a compassionate person. Some things push my buttons, but for the most part, I consider myself to be pretty calm and level-headed. As a relatively new vegan (less than a year), I especially try to be compassionate with people who don't understand the cruelty involved in their choice to eat animal product. How can I throw stones? As little as a year ago, I was eating chicken and fish and eggs and milk.

I firmly believe there is a need for reform in the food industry, and I would like to see a shift in the way people think about animals, and how they are treated. We don't need to eat meat to survive, after all. I've been very hopeful that this is beginning to happen. There seem to be more and more stories about veganism, and the negative-environmental impacts of eating meat... "It's just a matter of time," I thought. "We're well on our way..." And then I read this:

60,000 pounds of lobster lost in Boston fire.

That's the title of a CNN story written last night. I understand that this fire is a big deal. The company has been in business since 1925 and the fire caused and estimated $5 million in damages. There were concerns that the pier might have been damaged or might collapse, and that other structures may have been damaged as well. It's a big story for the Boston area.

My objection is to the title. "60,000 pounds of lobster." As I skimmed through the other news sites, most of their titles focused on the loss of the business. CNN, a journalistic source I (mostly) respect, focused on the loss of the food. As if the tragedy here was the loss of the ~ 30,000 lobster dinners. And maybe there was no tragedy. No one was injured. It could have been horrific. Instead it's just sad for the owners. Insurance will probably cover their losses, and since they're an old established business, they can expect to keep most of their customer base. In the end, they'll probably wind up with a better building and very little loss.

But what about the lobsters? If this were a pet store that went up in flames, there would have been discussion of the pain and suffering the dogs and cats endured before they finally expired. If humans had perished in the blaze, I would understand the fact that the author of this article ignored the plight of the lobsters; that would be a true tragedy. But none of that was the case. I don't want to be overly melodramatic here. The only loss of life here was suffered by the lobsters -- but 60,000 pounds of lobsters actually represent a significant number of living beings. Lobsters feel pain too!

We humans claim to be more evolved than the other animals on the planet, perhaps it is time that we start considering the pain and suffering they endure too. It might be time to consider the animals we eat as more than simply food, before its been processed and packaged and pressed into appetizing shapes and pieces. Or, better stated, it might be time to consider the pre-packaged chicken, turkey, beef, etc. we're buying as an animal and not simply an ingredient in the next meal we are preparing.


  1. I tried to send this a few minutes ago, but it doesn’t appear the comment went through…

    Well said. I wrote about this early yesterday afternoon, with similar focus and concerns, as you may have seen given that I linked to your “Pain and Suffering–The Lobster Revisited” post: http://vidadepalabras.blogspot.com/2008/05/pounds-versus-individuals-were-lost.html

    What’s sad is that most people looked at those headlines, looked at the language used and the implications therein, and didn’t blink an eye, so ingrained is humans’ nonconsideration of the experiences and individualness of the animals they eat.

  2. i agree 100%. if this had been about loss of life, it would have been a much more traumatic story. but they’ve put a price on life, and cheapened it.

    so sad. poor lobsters. i really love lobsters.

  3. I am just beginning to look into things vegan. I want to eat vegetarian for my health, to rid myself of migraine headaches and the numerous medications I am taking, and to try and get my family to eat more healthily. I normally would not leave a negative comment on a new site, but it is posts like this one that make me want to not be identified with vegan people. “Poor lobsters” What about the 4,000 babies that die everyday at the hand of abortions because their mothers do not choose life for them. Where is the outrage for them? They cannot speak for themselves.

  4. When I hear of such large numbers of deaths – I shrink.
    My only solace is…
    Perhaps their deaths were faster than the usual inhumane method. (cringe)
    Have you read “Living Among Meat Eaters” yet?
    I can send you my copy when I’m finished.
    It helps.

  5. Hi Stephanie – It appears the first comment got caught in our spam filter… Anyway, great minds 🙂 Sorry I missed your post, I certainly would have linked back to you. I’m following CNN in my news aggregator.
    After talking it over with Jane a bit, we remembered that we’d once heard lobsters are considered insects of the sea by some people. Although we tend to practice catch and release with any bugs we find in the house, if we had termites we’d spray… and kill tens of thousands of insects. So, perhaps it’s just a matter of perspective. Of course, there is a difference between an insects ability to process pain and a lobsters….

    Hi Jennifer (comment 2) – It’s amazing what we, as a species, trivialize. The pain and suffering of other species on our own planet often seems to be immaterial.

    Hi Jennifer (comment 3). In case you missed it, this blog is about being vegan, not abortion. I also haven’t blogged about the earthquake in China. If you’d like to read about those issues, there are many other blogs out there that touch on these topics.
    As I wrote in my article, my point wasn’t to be melodramatic. I did indicate that it wasn’t a tragedy, as it would have been if people had perished in the blaze. My point is that often, as a species, we are incapable of being sympathetic towards the plight of other species.

    Hi Kara,
    Jane is of the same mind. Apparently, lobsters suffer quite a bit of mental distress in those well lighted tanks we see in restaurants and grocery stores.
    I hadn’t heard of that book, but it is in our library and I just requested it. It should be here this weekend. (But when I’ll get around to reading it, well, that’s another issue.) Thank you so much for your kind offer to share, that was very generous of you.

  6. Hi Becky,
    Thanks for the link. I had been reading about the flooding in the mid-west. It’s really sad how much suffering humans inflict on animals.

  7. I just came across your blog today. I’m a new vegan–was vegetarian for about 4 or 5 months in 2007, caved to my husband’s constant nagging and went back to being an omni, and a week ago decided vegan was the right thing for me. And one of the things that helped me make that decision was looking at my dogs. Would I eat them? Would I want them to go through the cruel treatment that cows and pigs and chickens and any other animal receives which is being slaughtered for meat? Do I really need meat? And the answer was no. And apparently my husband’s come a long way since the last attempt, because despite a few jokes and comments about how tuna never made anyone fat, he’s not complaining. Of course, the fresh foods I’m preparing make it hard to complain.

  8. Hi Faith,
    We had that same disconnect too before we went vegan… we doted on our pets, and ate other animals. Now that we’ve been vegan for two years it seems shocking that we never put the two together. (We don’t consider ourselves to be unintelligent.) Now one of Jane’s favorite things to say is that no animal needs to die for us to live. With two years of good health and lots of research behind us, we can say that in good conscience.

  9. Well, I would say that it’s like this…
    People turn away from viewing of the suffering and pain of ANY other sentient being when it is inconvenient to examine such distress…
    This is why any sort of killing is not a crime and is even encouraged for political egoic reasons (war, for example), for cosmetics, for food.

    Amazing that something like a flavor can cause us to discard all notions of kindness or ethics, and that something like an emotion can cause us to justify going to war.

    Hopefully the practice of being vegan or vegetarian can lead us to extend concern to ALL beings who suffer. Hopefully our concern will lead to a decrease of suffering all around.

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