It’s Saturday night and we’re all going to a specialist Italian restaurant, ‘La Carnivora’. The waiter shows us to our seats, next to another family with two young children. There are printed check tablecloths, olives, breadsticks and flowers on the table. The waiter asks us if we want to see the dish of the day. A cart is wheeled over to our table and lying on it is a large pig.
‘Good Evening’ says the pig , cheerfully.
Ah... The trouble here is that I like to eat meat and, although I occasionally feel guilty about it, it's not enough to make me a vegetarian. And anyway, pigs would end up dead even if we didn’t eat them, so is it really that wrong to bring about the inevitable just a little earlier? The waiter sighs as I deliberate.
And if I can happily eat normal meat, why do I even hesitate when presented with a pig who clearly states that he wants to be eaten? Is it an inexplicable distaste for foods I can socialise with? Is it that I’d rather have the beef? Or are we only happy to eat animals that don’t know we’re eating them?
I think that this seems likely. After all, I wouldn’t feel comfortable spending an evening with someone who I knew knew that I had plans to rob their house later that night, even if I had no guilt otherwise and knew that they wouldn’t take any preventative action. However, this implies that I think killing animals for food is wrong which, as I have already established, I don’t. So could it still be that the pig is aware I’m going to eat it? I look at the pig who is tapping his hoof impatiently. If there was another conscious animal and I snuck up on it, and then ate it when it wasn’t looking, would it be okay?
And supposing it is okay to eat the pig, does that mean it’s fine to eat a human? Supposing an otherwise sane family member wanted to be eaten, could that be justified? Jonathan Swift suggested satirically in ‘A Modest Proposal’ that the population problem in
could be solved by feeding the children of the poor to the rich. Whilst this seems an unorthodox approach to population control, one can’t deny that it has its advantages, an idea I ponder as I survey the table next to us, which contains the irritating but plump children…
…Still I personally would draw the line before eating a child. No matter how plump…
So should I only eat animals that are unaware I’m going to eat them? Although it’s confusing and I can’t decide… I am pretty hungry…
Thank you to Douglas Adams for ruining my meal.
See, also, Should We Stick to Fruit and Veg? by Lucy Cole