Non-vegans (#notallnonvegans) are obsessed with hypothetical situations. What if you get a vitamin deficiency, what if you had a pet hen, what if we could grow meat in a lab, etc etc. Their all time favourite hypothetical situation is this: What if you were stranded on a desert island with only a pig for company? Would you eat the pig?
I usually shrug this off with the stock answer of “if I only had a pig for company I’d still be having a more sensible conversation than this” but today, for one day only, because the sun is shining and I’m in a good mood, I’m going to humour them and give the question a full answer.
To do this, I’m first of all going to have to suspend my disbelief that somehow I’ve managed to fund a private jet trip across a tropical paradise, because on my wages I can barely afford a Waitrose lentil ragu. Or perhaps I’ve been the sole survivor of an Easy Jet crash over Canvey Island, which has also destroyed any possible means of getting off Canvey Island. Whatever. It’s just me and the pig now. Of course, if this pig has been living there quite happily prior to my arrival, it must be eating something, so I’d just eat what the pig has been eating. Desert islands tend to be quite good for pineapples. Canvey Island has a Tesco’s I can loot. Okay, let’s say this pig isn’t native, it landed with me on the plane, and there’s nothing for it to eat here. This is really weird now because why the fuck would I be going on holiday with a pig? I’m an animal lover and everything, but there are limits. Do they even allow pigs on planes?
I still don’t think I’m going to eat the pig at this point because once I’ve eaten it there will be nothing left for me to eat and I’m going to die anyway so why prolong the agony and spend my precious last hours killing a pig when I could be going for a run or something?
What they are really asking, I think, is not whether you would eat the pig in this utterly ridiculous hypothetical scenario, but whether you prioritise the lives of animals over your own. I am only speaking for myself here, but no, I do not value the life of a pig over my own, or any other human. If a pig had to die for me to continue living, then sorry pig, but I choose me. But here’s the thing: this is not a choice I have to make. It is not a choice anyone has to make. We can all live our lives without ever harming another pig. There are plenty of other things we can eat. When I choose not to eat a pig, I am not putting the pig’s life over my own. I am putting the pig’s need to avoid pain and suffering and desire to live over my own desire to spend five minutes eating a tasty snack.
So I’m going to turn this question back round now. You’re stuck on an island. It’s not a desert island, just an ordinary island. It has pretty much unlimited supplies of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, avocado sandwiches and vegan sausage rolls. You can get all the nutrients you need from these foods and never go hungry. It’s also got a few pigs, many of which are being kept in horrible conditions, pumped full of hormones and all of which are dying a horrific premature death. Do you still eat the pig? This isn’t a hypothetical question. This is the actual choice we have to make.