An Ethical Dinner Dilemma

Listen to Evan Yee read his story:

D., a boy of thirteen with curly brown hair and eager hazel eyes, stood in front of the glass tank. His face radiated excitement, as if something unexpected were about to happen. K., his blond-haired friend, did not share his eagerness; he wore an expression of somber boredom. Within the tank a variety of two-pound lobsters climbed atop one another.

“So,” D. began, “which one do you want to eat?”

“To eat?” K. replied. “Why do we have to pick?”

“Because my dad said we could. I wanna choose the best-tasting lobster.”

K. pouted slightly. Finally, he spoke. “Don’t you feel like choosing which lobster to eat means we are killing the lobster?”

A pause while his friend pondered. “It’s not the same as us killing the lobster. We’re not the ones boiling it alive.”

“Okay, but because we are responsible for its death, we’d be the murderers.”

“If we’re murderers by picking a lobster from a tank, then what would the chefs be?”

“Our weapons of murder.”

“No, the weapons of murder would be the stove and the pot of boiling water.”

Another pause. “Two of these lobsters are gonna have to die regardless. So it’s more like we’re choosing which lobsters get to live. It’s like we’re saving them,” D. said enthusiastically.

“I think it’s more like we’re the mob bosses who are calling a hit on innocent civilians. Even though we aren’t carrying out the deed, we are the most responsible.”

“I’d say we’re more of the judge and jury who give the sentence. We don’t carry out the sentence. We’re just doing our job.”

“But these lobsters aren’t criminals. They didn’t do anything wrong. And it isn’t our job to pick which lobster to kill. We aren’t being paid.”

“To eat, not kill. And yes, we are being paid: with delicious lobster.”

“It’s not the same.”

“And I would argue that these lobsters did something wrong by being dumb enough to be caught. If they were smarter they wouldn’t be here.”

“I think a fisherman could catch even the smartest lobster.”

“Maybe. But now that you bring it up, the fisherman bears more responsibility for the lobster’s death than we do. He’s the one who selected which lobsters in the ocean to catch. We’re only selecting which lobsters in the tank to cook and eat.”

“If he’s a fisherman, then by your judge-jury argument it’s not his fault because it’s his job to catch lobsters. That means the people who catch, sell, transport, and cook the lobsters are all innocent. That leaves only us to bear the blame.”

“Not us. We didn’t pick the restaurant. Our parents decided to have lobster. No lobsters would be dying if it wasn’t for them.”

“But something has to die to feed us. We’re still the ones picking exactly which lobster dies.”

“Exactly, we all have to eat. The fisherman, the vendor, the shipper, and the cook are all absolved from responsibility for this lobster’s death. Our parents have to order something. They picked lobster because it tastes good. So I guess this really is god’s fault for making lobsters so damn delicious.”

There was a moment of silence as both boys stared into the tank. The lobsters swam in slow motion.

“I want that one. He seems the least happy.”

“It’s really like we’re doing him a service.”

Read the other prize-winning works from the Fifth Annual “Tell Me a Story” High School Contest:

My Rickshaw” by Anna Buryachenko
A Numbers Game” by Samina Kaushek
The Black Hole” by Patience Wallace

Additional Information:

Narrative in the Schools | For Teachers | For Students |
“Tell Me a Story” High School Contest | Video Tutorials with
Carol Edgarian
| A Great Reading List