The Third Leader: Lobster surprise

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Another day, another tricky little moral question: the time has come, it seems, to decide, finally, about lobsters. In America, a large chain has stopped selling them live; there are also fears over their declining numbers. Now you might be exasperated by this worrying about the lobster's feelings, rather than, say, those of the poor old trout. You might also think the United States has more important things to worry about. I welcome any evidence of its sensitivity.

Besides, it has been the experience of many, including the lobster and the trout, that humanity exercises small logic where its stomach is involved. And there is something about the lobster, not least its customary fate - a choice between decapitation or being boiled alive - which excites our Hobbesian sympathies and fellow feeling.

Choose your study, and it hurts or it doesn't. Add to that a large, dependent industry, including the chap I saw dressed as one outside a restaurant in Maine, waving at potential clientele, and the complexity is compounded, especially if you don't subscribe to my easy food philosophy, in which pleasure is inverse to the tools required.

Let us seek guidance from our chief consolation, literature. The poet De Nerval famously took one for a walk on a lead, but as that almost certainly killed it, his claim to be a fan is questionable. Beckett, in his short story, "Dante and the Lobster", concludes that they do feel pain, and he was an expert. You might feel this, too, from the Mock Turtle to the Gryphon, apropos the Quadrille, worthy of digestion re digestion: "We can do without lobsters, you know."

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