12 April 2017
Essay 3 Draft 1
Everything we say or do is based on the laws and codes society has created for us. Unquestioning, we continue on day by day, living life the way we were told to, the way we believe we must. To take a closer look at our moral codes is to shed light upon the controversy of our actions. So that we may live the easy life, the comfortable life, we refuse to acknowledge the truth of our actions, the controversy we’ve created in our moral codes. Our values and customs that have been in place, unchallenged, for decades allow us to continue on in ignorant bliss, allowing us to truly believe we are doing the right thing. But in a constantly changed world, we cannot be tied down to the past. We must adapt along with the world, including our long upheld morals and values.
Several authors offer works that expose several of the controversial systems we’ve allowed to grow within society. David Foster Wallace uses the lobster as the backbone of his argument on moral ambiguity in cooking this sea creature alive in his piece “Consider the Lobster.” In Jessica Mitford’s script “The Story of Service” an unrestricted view of the funeral industry is explored, along with an extensive trip through the embalming process. Hal Herzog uses anecdotes to explore man’s complex relationship with all animals, and sheds some light on the moral ambiguity of these interactions in “Animals Like Us.”
Emotions are a complex, intangible force ruling over us every day. They tend to override logic in our lives. As Mitford points out, about 120 “man-hours” of labor are spent during the embalming process, along with thousands of dollars. All of this to prepare a body for burial, to place what is arguably now just a chunk of dead meat into the ground. Logical? Of course not. Boil down a burial funeral and it can be defined as the act of putting a hunk of flesh into the ground and covering it with dirt. But of course, things are never that simple. We have emotional attachments to those we are burying, a connection that was all too soon severed by death. In respect for that emotional connection, and for the lost life, we feel obliged to spend that time and money to ensure a proper, respectful delivery back to the earth. Our emotions prohibit us from taking a logical outlook on death.
It seems that emotions trump logic in many aspects of our lives. Herzog presents a logical use for the two million euthanized cats that are cremated each year: give the carcasses to snake owners. Yet this idea is appalling, even to myself. How could one feed the bodies of poor little kittens to reptiles? Yet as Herzog points out, we prefer to feed pet snakes live rodents instead. As logical as it would be to make use of the millions of euthanized cats, our emotions prohibit us from taking that idea any further.
Humans have complex relationships with animals. Two of the most important ones are food or pet. Dogs, as Herzog notes, are considered as family members by half of all dog owners. Man’s best friend, as the saying goes. As a family pet, it’s horrifying to think that in Korea dogs “can be a pet or an item on the menu.” Truly horrifying to think of eating one of the family. Animals are meant to be in one category or the other, not both. One of the more suitable choices for a meal are lobsters. “Bugs of the sea” as Wallace says, we have no objections to cooking them up for dinner. Cooking them alive, even, is often preferred to get fresh meat. Since we consider the lobster to be strictly and irrevocably in the “food” category, it’s no wonder we can easily stick them in a boiling pot while still alive.
The industries around the world even promotes convoluted ways of thinking. The Maine Lobster Festival kills and cooks and devours “something over 25,000 pounds of fresh-caught Maine lobster.” Stop and listen, there is no cry of outrage or horror as over 100,000 people consume this animal. After all, “lobsters are basically giant sea insects.” We value lobsters much less than cats or dogs. But why? Is it simply our emotional attachments spanning back dozens of years to where we have these relationships already established? Are we trained to think this way? Is it part of the industry’s plan to continue promoting certain ways of thinking?
I think the industries play a much larger role in our life than we think. They have commercialized the most basic parts of life… and death. When a loved one dies we usher them to a professional, who primps, plucks, pickles our loved ones to perfection before presenting the finished product, a caricature of our the one we lost. In providing a service for us, and in us presenting this body during our moral required ceremonies we unwittingly advertise the mortician’s work. And if the service is held in the funeral director’s home, “it is more convenient for him… it affords him the opportunity to show off his beautiful facilities to the gathered mourners.” It is an unwittingly promotional avenue for the funeral director to show off his work, in the face of sorrow and grief to accumulate even more money. Money hungry industries milking every opportunity they can.
Society is terrified of death, yet constantly exposes itself to the concept. We convince ourselves that death is far off in the distance, when yet, it appears in our dietary minds constantly. We are told about how normal and acceptable it is to cook lobster, while it’s still alive. We are excited by the idea of food, salivate over our live ingredients in preparation for a delectable meal. Wallace talks about how we have accepted the fact that lobsters are to be killed alive, because, of course, that’s what makes the meat taste the best. We take time to content our gustatory needs instead of ponder the morality of our actions when it comes to the bugs of the sea.
Yet we take huge pains to obscure death in regards to those we love. We spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to capture the life of a person who is dead and gone from the world. We’ve established an industry specifically designed to hide death in the face of death. The embalming process, the language the professionals use, the act of any funeral, we have allowed ourselves to remain in denial about our inevitable fate by refusing to face it. Unless its in the kitchen.
But event then, we have moral obligations to consider the life of the lobster. How it prefers to not be boiled alive. Of course, survival instinct keeps us alive, like any other organism on this planet—survive. We can’t empathize with a creature we have little to no experience with. Cats, dogs, cows, at least we have some deeper knowledge and connection to them in our everyday lives, to whatever extent that may be, its larger than the one we have with lobsters.
And then most of the time the food we eat is so different from the looks of the actual animal
Horrified by death and try to disguise it with Mitford
Take pleasure in death when making a lobster, we boil them alive by the thousands
Allow mice and rabbits to die for cancer but are appalled by feeding cats to snakes