Is It Wrong To Eat Octopus?

Gwyneth Paltrow, the she-wolf who ripped out the bleeding heart of all-round gentle weeper Chris Martin, is certainly no moral exemplar. Like, she named her kid Apple– possibly after the fruit but also probably almost definitely after the tyrannical super-corporation that controls the modern world. She also called lube “toxic” and thus forced thousands of naïve individuals into having unnecessarily dry and uncomfortable sex with each other. Mother Teresa she is not.

But when it comes to carnivorous ethics, old Gwyn might actually be ahead of the curve.

In a classic case of workplace banter gone viral, a recently Tweeted conversation between the soul-harvesting succubus and her peers shed some interesting light on her stance towards eating certain animals: in particular, octopus.

“Octopus are too smart to be food,” she wrote. “They have more neurons in their brains than we do. I had to stop eating them because I was so freaked out by it. They can escape from sea world and shit by unscrewing drains and going out to sea.”

Her anecdotal logic is a little askew– she’s presumably referring to the case of Inky, the eight-armed escape artist who legged it not from Sea World, but from the National Aquarium of New Zealand when he slunk out of his tank, slithered across the floor and vanished down a fifty-metre-long pipe to the sea. It also turns out humans have about 200 times the neurons of an octopus. But her sentiment is pretty sound.

Guidelines for the ethical treatment of animals already rate octopuses as a ‘higher order animal’, and protect them against mistreatment in certain experiments where they are, more or less, deemed too intelligent. PETA are against eating the cephalopods for much the same reason, pointing out that these “eight-legged Einsteins of the deep” are astonishingly “self-aware.”

“Scientists have verified that octopuses are capable of experiencing pain,” said PETA president Ingrid Newkirk in an interview with The Huffington Post. “Like humans, dogs, and pigs, octopuses have well-developed nervous systems, try to escape painful stimuli, and nurse their wounds.”

Paltrow’s philosophy turns out to be a rare moment of clarity from the ignoramus that once told women to put rocks in their vaginas, and whom just this week announced a multi-vitamin cure for fatigue called ‘Why am I so effing tired?’ On a level that is bigger than Gwyneth Paltrow, though– and yes, I’m willing to go on the record as saying that this story is in fact bigger than Gwyneth Paltrow, the holier-than-thou muppet that she is. The idea raises an interesting question about the way we value animal life, and the metrics that we use to determine which creatures deserve moral rights.

Pescetarians, for example, might find the notion of ethically entitled octopuses a tad problematic. I certainly don’t want to suggest that reasons for adopting a pescetarian diet are one-size-fits-all: the rationale used to justify these decisions is multifaceted and complex. But a common thread at least seems to be the ethical mistreatment of factory-farmed animals, such as battery chickens, and slaughterhouses.

If we apply the metric of intelligence to assess the ‘worth’ of animals– as does Gwyneth and, to some extent, PETA, then calamari starts looking a lot more morally abhorrent than steak and chips. Octopuses are smarter than cows, chickens and pigs. So why eat the former and save the latter?

Dare I advance another theory: that, for many people, what makes certain meats “cruel” and others okay ultimately comes down to how cute, or ugly, the animal in question is. Cows and pigs are heaps bloody cute, for example: ask any human being with the slightest skerrick of a soul to watch a video of an operational slaughterhouse and they’ll break down out of sheer empathy for the poor, adorable creatures. Walk through a fish-market with the same person and nine out of ten won’t even blink. Fish aren’t cute; crabs aren’t cute; and not even Pixar could make a fucking octopus cute.

(Except for this guy right here, who literally no one has the audacity to eat:)

So how can we be expected to really feel for these alien creatures of the deep? You can tell me that an octopus knows what pain is and that will register with me, I’ll believe it– but it won’t resonate on the same emotional level as when I see a cow getting jabbed with a cattle prod. It requires more thought than feeling: and, as we all know, feeling is one of the best reasons to decide to do anything.

If this is true, and I think it is of at least a certain percentage of people, then what we have here is a pretty interesting disconnect between the ways in which certain people value the lives of animals.*

On one hand there are the Gwyneth Paltrows of the world, who judge a creature’s moral rights by its intelligence, its self-awareness and its capacity to comprehend the pain that’s being inflicted upon it. On another: the sentimental pescetarians, for lack of a batter name, who judge a creature’s moral rights on how cute they are and how easy it is to feel sorry them. If you belong to the latter, then I will definitely see you in the comments section.

Obviously it’s a controversial topic, and one could spend a thousand TED talks deep diving into this can of ethically mistreated worms. In its cheapest form, this article is just fodder for more ~provocative~ workplace banter. But at the very least, it is worth remarking that what Gwyneth ‘the Harpie’ Paltrow said is (kind of) true, and it might be time to start thinking about the poor, hideous, but also really really smart, octopuses of the world.

*again, without speaking for everyone

 

Feature image: Pinterest
Image: GrindTV

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