Or I have worried about a moral problem of this sort : I had heard it said that crab meat is at its best if the live crab is put in cold water that is brought slowly to a boil. In great moral indignation I put forth a protest: "Can't people at least renounce the slightly additional modicum of gustatory pleasure that would be lost if the victim were spared such slow torture by being killed suddenly, through immersion in boiling water ?" Whereat a man with a wholly different view of the situation told me: " If you put the crab in cold water which you bring slowly to a boil, it shows no agitation whatever. But if you drop it into boiling water, for a time it flails about piteously." According to this notion, my method would be the crueller one.
For possibly the crab might somehow adapt itself to the slow development of its condition from cold to hot, by going into a kind of protective trance.
Then, moving to another level, I wondered : "Suppose that, which- ever way I chose, when using it I thought about it and in a sense became fascinated with the thought, differentiating my position from that of the sacrificial victim, even while imaginatively putting myself in its place." The situation would now be somewhat analogous to the distinction between a child thoughtlessly tearing apart the wings of a butterfly and a child who might do so with the deliberate intention of making the creature suffer, possibly to compensate for some punish- ment or disappointment that the child itself had suffered. I can't readily think of cases in which a child would tear apart the wings neither thoughtlessly nor as compensation, but to the ends of monetary profit. But I can imagine the fantasy of an adult who, if the market conditions were favorable, might patent a mechanical "educational" contrivance by which children could "have fun" tearing apart the wings of butterflies. His interest would be not in the sufferering, but solely in the profit.
Not being scientifically informed as to just how a crab does behave when being brought slowly to a boil, or how good the market might be for a mechanical toy designed to rip butterflies, I offer these specula- tions purely as a kind of Aesop's fable.
My main point is that we have this much to build on: Organisms live by killing.
From COMMUNICATION AND THE HUMAN CONDITION edited by Lee Thayer.