If you were alone on a deserted island with a pig, would you eat the pig or starve to death?
Hmm. If you were not alone, living on a planet with 7 billion people, had access to unlimited fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and other healthy foods, and knew animals suffer and die horrible deaths so you could eat them when you don’t need to eat them to survive, would you continue to eat them? The difference between our questions is that your scenario will never happen and mine is the choice you face right now. Which do you believe is worth answering?
Or, if you’re in the mood to exchange far-fetched scenarios, you might pose the following question as a reply: If you were in a crashing airplane, would you (1) scream, (2) break a window and jump, (3) help others in need, or (4) try to land the plane safely. Nobody knows what they’ll do if faced with a doomsday scenario so it’s nonsensical to speculate. We only know what we do and if you’re eating animals, you’re doing something you shouldn’t do.
To frame the futility of the island and a pig question in its proper context, you might also ask: Why is there anything rather than nothing? Does anything really exist? Are you awake or are you dreaming? If everyone on the planet sneezed at the same time, would it cause an earthquake?
By posing philosophical enigmas, people distract attention from reality. This common defense mechanism is transparent and ineffective unless you entertain it. If you answer the island and the pig question or allow someone to goad you, you allow the person with whom you’re speaking to shift the focus from decisions they’re making to decisions you’ll never have to make. In addition, your answer is immaterial to the questioner. He or she won’t believe anything other than, “I would eat the pig,” therefore answering it is an exercise in futility unless your goal is to simply feel good about your hypothetical compassion. Do not answer the question. Instead, return the focus to the issue. Keep calm. Be patient. Provide useful information succinctly. Hope the person will process it and change. Take pride in the nobility of the cause and the difference you’re making.
Andrew Kirschner, Ed.D., is a volunteer grassroots animal rights advocate and the organizer of the 2013 Florida March Against Cruelty to Animals. He writes a blog, Kirschner’s Korner, to help raise awareness about issues affecting the global community to make the world a more humane place. To receive new articles via email, enter your email in the “Follow Blog Via Email” link at the top right of the blog or join the Kirschner’s Korner Facebook page.