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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Guest Blogger: A Hundred Dollar Death by Fredrick Nwosu

                To understand Plato’s allegory of the cave we must all have a clear mental picture of it. That simple portrait of people looking at their shadows while chained to a bench with a fire burning behind them has a lot of meaning to it. I would want to believe that the fire represents the truth about what goes on in the world, the chains represent the rules set by higher powers to guide us or to make us live according to the ways that they think are optimum or beneficial to them while the shadows represent what the higher powers want us to see and finally the cave itself represents man’s ignorance to what actually happens in the world around them. This ignorance can be related to the mass ignorance exhibited in the lobster festival that is held in Maine. 

                      I am going to use Plato’s allegory of the cave as a lens to see through the norm that has become cooking lobsters while they are still alive, write about and hopefully tackle some of the main issues in David Foster Wallace's 'Consider the lobster' such as: the mass killing of the lobsters at the festival, the reason why large numbers or people would congregate yearly in one place for this pointless ritual, the evolution of lobster consumption and the storage methods used by the restaurants and convenience stores.

                                The cooks at the festival cook these animals at such a morbidly large scale just to please the spectators and this is not a situation that the lobsters are killed in a humane way. Experiments have shown that lobsters can detect a degree change in the temperature of the waters they swim in which is one of the known reasons for their migratory cycle to look for water temperature that best suits them but they are killed in one of the least humane ways out there in regard to their sense of thermal change; they are boiled alive. They are thrown into already boiling hot water, a lid is put over the kettle or pot and afterwards they start to hit and scratch against the sides of the pot, sometimes to the point that they break their claws in a futile attempt at escaping, some are microwaved alive after holes have been punctured through them while others are sometimes slow cooked and if there was a crueler way of killing lobsters it would be this way, then a sign that the lobster has been well prepared is when the cook pulls on the antenna of the lobsters it should be relatively easy to pull out of it’s head. After you watch such an exhibition of agony one can only wonder where Dick (page 4) got his idea that lobsters do not feel pain because they do not have the part of the brain that makes other animals to feel pain when in fact, there is strong evidence that shows that lobsters feel pain. If an experienced cook has to leave the kitchen in order to not watch an animal die a painful death, there has to be something wrong with the killing method. Some cooks split their lobsters into two or stab their heads before they cook them in order to avoid the lobsters from feeling that much pain or maybe it is just to save them from feeling the guilt developed when you know an innocent animal is struggling for it’s life in your pot but all the same it has to be one of the most humane way of killing lobsters for our consumption. 

                       While some enlightened people are traveling for smart and economically beneficial causes such as the Nobel peace prize and Car conventions where technological innovations are shared some are coming together to watch hundreds of lobsters being boiled alive for their consumption. Thousands of people congregate together to eat this tortured delicacy of theirs, sometimes bringing their own chairs and beer so they would not be subjected to the poor quality drinks served at the festival in very unimaginably small portions. Might I add that the setting is not five star at all, the attendees eat in tents with tables so close together, the walkways are often blocked off by coolers used to smuggle beer and because all kinds of people come to the festivals some people might be subjected to sitting beside some unruly kids and so on. Why would thousands of educated people attend these events when it is obviously uncomfortable? Are lobsters so tasty that it is celebrated so largely and cannot be passed up for a simple salad? The people from the past would probably find it ironic that eating lobster is seen as posh in present times being what it was considered as in the past.  

                       Eating lobsters used to be considered as almost a taboo, it was almost like eating rats because of the number of them that flooded the old New England beaches and bays after hard storms. "Unbelievable abundance" is what a source(page 2) used to describe the situation. It was fed to inmates in prison and even at that the amount served to them had to be reduced because of how lowly the crustacean was considered. It was considered as maltreating when they were served that much lobster. The fact that eating these animals is now considered as posh and only a step or two down from caviar, the sea food equivalent of steak and richer than most fish as the article say in page 2,this goes only to show how deep in the cave that humans are; sorry to say but the priorities of humans are pretty jumbled up.

                      The methods of storing the captured lobsters are also cruel. The lobsters are put all together in containers and either because some people were smart enough or humane enough to peg their claws together to prevent them from tearing themselves apart from the frustration of being clustered up the container is not filled up with dead lobsters and there is evidence that the lobsters do get frustrated. These lobsters must feel like tons of  inmates locked in a very small room. In most of the grocery stores the lobsters are put into transparent containers to be pointed out for someones supper in the future. After watching the lobsters pile over one another, impotently wave their claws, huddle in corners of the containers and frantically move back and forth from the glass because someone is approaching them, it becomes obvious to an observant person that they are exhibiting signs of fear and unhappiness in a very basic way because of their lack in the ability to use language to communicate.

                      After being enlightened about how these lobsters feel physically and emotionally and after most people know that these creatures are boiled while they are still alive is it not meant to appeal to our consciences as the more intellectually and technologically advanced ones and make us change our eating habits? That was not the main point of the write up, the main message that can be brought out after the reading of the article and looking at it through using Plato’s allegory of the cave is that basically we all can do better than torturing an animal before it is eaten. We can always come up with easier and more humane ways of killing the lobsters while at the same time keeping the meat as fresh as possible. Also we can realize that coming out to travel in large groups just to watch hundreds of lobsters being slaughtered in a large cooker is not worth the time and effort better things could be done or achieved in the time that you spend trying to set up a place for your family to eat, setting your own table because of the poor hygiene levels of the place, trying to pass through walkways that have been blocked off by smuggled drinks and definitely something better can be done with the twenty dollars that one might spend on a foldable chair.  

NOTE: A Guest Blog Feature doesn't necessarily reflect my views. 


  1. I'm never eating lobster again. :(

  2. I really appreciate this Mayowa.

  3. Awesome Piece.I'm still eating lobster,only now i'd just have a moment of silence for it.

  4. Never had a lobster...most likely never will.


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