Submitted By Simon Hardy Butler, May 25, 2017

Long ago, my parents took my sister and me to Norway, Denmark and Sweden for summer vacation. While in Oslo, we went to a very fine restaurant that was decorated in the grand style. It was plush. It was elegant. It was glamorous.

It also had seal and whale on the menu.

I, a budding gourmet who was out to try every exotic foodstuff I could, wanted to order them. I looked at my mother. Her reaction said it all.


Needless to say, I didn’t eat seal and whale there … or, for that matter, anywhere else. But every so often I recall that day with curiosity. In the United States of America, where I reside, there are a lot of social and potentially legal questions that may arise out of any expressed desire to munch on meats derived from those animals. Whales and seals are beautiful. Some species are endangered. We don’t consume them like we do chicken.

Yet we do consume chicken like chicken. And beef like beef. And pork like pork. Are those creatures any less socially awkward to nosh on than our friendly neighborhood mammals of the sea?

Look, I’m not necessarily advocating seal or whale—least of all the endangered species. That’s a no-no. I do wonder, however, why I was allowed to eat reindeer and elk in a different restaurant in Norway, while seal and whale were right out. Was it that those four-legged beasties were “less cute”? Less intelligent? They certainly weren’t familiar to me as proteins; in New York City, where I’ve lived for my entire life, those meats aren’t common on restaurant menus.

So what’s the reason here? Where do we draw the line?

I’d just like to think about this for a second. No, chickens, cows and pigs aren’t rare or exotic … at least as dinner fare. They are still animals, though. They feel pain.

Again, I ask: Where do we draw the line?

I’m not sure I have an answer. I have eaten much game during my existence, and such feasts have included everything from rabbit to venison. Seal or whale, though? Right out. Thoughts of the fashion in which they have been dispatched over the years come to the fore, and that’s disturbing, to be sure.

Are we to think, then, that offing farm animals for our appetites isn’t?

I’d just like to reflect on this for a bit. This is a complex issue without, for me, a solution. Maybe that’s the same way for you.

Just remember: I wouldn’t think any less of you for it. As I wouldn’t think the same of myself.

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