‘Julie & Julia’, The Lobster Killers

In the movie ‘Julie And Julia’, Julie (Powell) got nervous about preparing a ‘lobster thermidor’ dish, by following Julia Child’s recipe in her cookbook. She lamented that Child made killing sound so easy, saying, ‘I am going to have to murder and dismember a crustacean. How will I ever do this?’ She also blogs about being repeatedly ‘haunted’ with the name ‘lobster killer’ by her sleep machine (for drowning outside noise).  This is of course meant for comedic effect – but is it even funny in the slightest?

One reader suggests putting the lobsters in the freezer to ‘sort of numb them’ first. But is that not a cold hell? Another says, ‘Man up, kill the damn lobsters. Just take a knife and do it!’ She retorts, ‘It’s alive!’ Now… they all made it seem as if her life depended absolutely on the dish, that she must kill lobsters, even with them having agonising deaths and her agonising over killing them. Nothing is further from the truth. Why not forgo the dish and cook a kinder dish without the taking of sentient lives?

Struggling between plunging the point of a knife between their eyes or boiling them alive, she chooses the latter – not because she thinks it is more humane, but because she figured she will be less squeamish about it. It was a matter of ‘drop, cover and wait’, as if cruelty out of sight, cruelty out of mind. This is classic bad faith. Is this not precisely why most indirectly pay desensitised butchers to slaughter animals on their behalf, so that they can savour their carcasses craved for with ‘minimal’ guilt and sleep easier?

A lobster pushes the lid of the pot to escape the fiery hell, but Eric, her husband drops him back in and slams the lid shut. Julie exclaims, ‘You’re a saint!’ What saint? Did ‘Saint Eric’ save her or the lobster from anguish? Again, no anguish was necessary for anyone in the first place. There was an earlier scene of Julie shopping for the live lobsters, showing her looking regretfully at them in a bag. I almost believed compassion would kick in, that she would set them free. But alas! Her greed for taste conquered her. Difficult as it is to kill any sentient being at first, to finally make someone die, something in you also ‘dies’, when it did not have to. Something goes numb, goes to sleep – your natural perfect conscience. Why not resurrect it now?

The First Precept in Buddhism is to abstain from killing, out of respect for all sentient beings’ lives. All crave to live and fear death. Killing and eating of animals are related but not exactly the same though. While the basic (five) precepts in Buddhism do not require vegetarianism (or veganism), the Bodhisattva Precepts necessitate them, for how can you truly want to save all beings when you want to exploit and devour some at the same time? That said, anyone not committed to any precepts can go vegan too, or at least reduce consumption of animals and their produce, so as to reduce demand for infliction of suffering.

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