Switzerland has followed New Zealand and a few other localities to outlaw boiling live lobsters. It also requires them to be shipped in salt water. Supporters claim that lobsters can feel pain, a dubious prospect, given that they don’t have brains to process stimuli.
But never mind. The Swiss epitomize the world we are creating once we reject human exceptionalism and/or elevate eliminating — as opposed to mitigating — suffering to top societal priority. That can drive policy into surreal regions of misplaced priorities. Consider:
‐ Switzerland has amended its constitution to recognize the individual dignity of plants. Not ecosystems. Individual plant dignity. A big-brained bioethics committee, assigned to explain the reasons for so doing, stated in its report, “The Dignity of Living Beings with Regard to Plants,” that since plants share biochemical traits with us at the cellular level, it is immoral to “decapitate” a wildflower. (I kid you not!)
‐ One canton in Switzerland assigns a lawyer to represent animals. One such lawyer sued a fisherman on behalf of a client that became dinner, for taking to long to reel in the fish.
‐ A GMO researcher, seeking to find a way to prevent fungus from spoiling wheat, could only obtain government financing when he asserted that the research would be beneficial for the wheat.
‐ The country has outlawed flushing a living goldfish down the toilet.
Some might say, what’s wrong with alleviating suffering? Of plants! But again, never mind.
The point is that this great concern does not exist when it comes to protecting the lives of suicidal, sick, disabled, and mentally ill people.
Switzerland allows “suicide tourism,” through which locals and foreigners attend suicide clinics that charge thousands of dollars to make their clients dead — including joint suicides of elderly couples and an Italian elderly woman despairing over lost looks. The Swiss Supreme Court has declared a constitutional right to assisted suicide for the mentally ill.
Switzerland’s enshrining of “plant dignity” into law, its outlawing the boiling of lobsters and the flushing of goldfish, and its blithe abandonment of the despairing to extinction in suicide clinics are symptomatic of our fast-eroding ability in the West to think critically and to distinguish serious from lesser ethical concerns.