Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Who can suffer?

Just before I went up to Cambridge in 2003, my girlfriend (now wife) and I had a celebratory meal to say goodbye to my old flat. I like to cook and decided to do a lobster. Getting hold of a fresh lobster in London meant visiting Borough Market where I met Joe. Joe (who might have been male or female) was sitting on a bed of ice waggling its antennae at passers by. It cost me £25 and weighed around 2 kilograms. For the record, a two kilo lobster will feed four people comfortably. The pair of us just pigged out and still couldn't finish it until the next day.

Joe had to be cooked and I followed the standard advice of popping it in the freezer until the cold had caused it to pass out. Then it was dropped into a big pan of boiling water and never knew what had happened to it. There was no struggle and no indication it had suffered at all.

I'm no sentimentalist about animals, especially the ones I eat. But I do strongly object to unnecessary animal suffering and took steps to ensure that Joe's was kept to a minimum. This is despite many scientists claiming that the lobsters' nervous system is not well enough developed to feel pain. I think that if the animal responds to painful stimuli in the same way as creatures that we know feel pain, then we must assume it does. Even with a lobster, I want to play safe and make a small effort for its sake.

Which brings me to this news story: Foetuses 'cannot experience pain'. Let's hear it for Dr Stuart Derbyshire for the most excruciating and dangerous piece of pseudoscience so far this year. At least the story admits that Derbyshire is linked to pro-abortion pressure groups. If we are supposed to assume that lobsters feel pain, surely it is ridiculous to assert that foetuses do not.

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