If You Were Alone on a Deserted Island With a Pig, Would You Eat the Pig?


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.


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37 Responses to If You Were Alone on a Deserted Island With a Pig, Would You Eat the Pig?

  1. Julie says:

    I would definitely definitely not eat the pig. I wouldn’t even regard it as food, even if it died of natural causes.

  2. penbeck says:

    I would see what the pig ate and follow his lead ;) ~ really though, when someone asks you this sort of question don’t they always act like its such an original question? Ugh! I hate the “plants have to die for you to eat them” line also.thank you , Andrew!

  3. Jill Fletcher says:

    I am going to commit your response to memory to use in the future. What a perfect reply. And no, I wouldn’t eat the pig.

  4. Leah Jacobson says:

    Thank you Dr. Kirschner. I was asked that question this week in fact.. I said.. the pig and I would comfort each other until we couldn’t any longer.

    Reading Melanie Joy’s book today, you’re spot on in regards to the distraction from what is happening now. It is So hypothetical, its just not worth talking about.

    Why do people even ask that question? It’s really stupid..

    Leah J.

  5. Monica Gilbert says:

    I’d rather the company of a pig than no company at all.

  6. Monica Gilbert says:

    PS In fact, I’d PREFER the company of a pig to the company of a lot of humans.

  7. Mel says:

    Thank you for your down-to-earth, practical and wise answer! As ever inspiring and enlightening, I hope this answers reaches many vegans and non-vegans so that they make the change. I, for one am going to use valuable answer to other non-vegans when they pose that question.,. Seriously, they are so disconnected and ever so defensive! :(

  8. Ryan Brooks says:

    Your question conjures images of Lord of the Flies. Eek.

    Truthfully, on an island, I would eat the pig before starving to death, though only if I had to choose between the two. F

  9. Nancy Tuliszewski says:

    It wouldn’t even dawn on me to eat the pig. I’d be so happy that I had a friend with me.I can also say that I would most definitely make sure that the pig ate before I did. I would keep him/her safe + protected from harm also.

  10. pawsitiveHeather says:

    I don’t think I would even think to eat the pig. I would find other food on the island. Coconuts, plants, leaves, etc. I don’t think I would even consider it.

    • Ryan Brooks says:

      I like the conversation this moral supposition is sparking, but I gotta be a stickler. I hate to be the kid reading the rules off the inside of the board game box (that’s a lie, I love being that kid ;)), but the conditions clearly stipulate that you either eat the pig or die. This is obviously a scenario where it’s you or the pig. Maybe thee pig parachuted in with you, and there’s no sustainable eco system to forage, I don’t know… Let me also say that I’m a vegetarian, and am pro vegan. I’m just a stickler for playing the game as it was intended, otherwise chess becomes checkers, and monopoly becomes the game of life…. eughhh… :)

      • pawsitiveHeather says:

        Alright, I think I might die then. Or if I are the pig…my soul would die a little. Even when I did eat meat, I didn’t eat pork.

      • Ryan Brooks says:

        The gods of board games have been sated through blood sacrifice. Though, on a side note, I was sorry to hear of your hypothetical passing. The hypothetical funeral was lovely. Open-casket, 20-gun salute… Sting sang I Hung My Head while a flock of doves cascaded around him. Very classy. :)

      • pawsitiveHeather says:

        Wow… I’m so happy I had a nice service

  11. Have you ever had a busy day at work? One of those days that makes it very difficult to sit down and have a normal lunch meal? By the time you clock out and get back in your car, all you can think about is getting food. It could be McDonald’s or just a slice of pizza. All your brain wants to do is get you to the nearest source of food. At this point in the day, you will probably start to display some very primal behavior. Let’s pretend that you have not eaten for 6 or 7 hours. You are irritable, hungry, may possibly have a headache, and in some cases may experience some nausea.

    Now, let’s imagine that you’re stuck on a boat in the middle of the ocean with a pig. You and said pig will develop a sense of togetherness. It’s only natural. We are mammals and crave closeness. Yes, it’s a pig, but that pig has just as much ability to feel compassion and love as we do. Sure, it’s not as intelligent as you, but emotions come naturally. So, are you going to attempt to keep the pig alive? You are stranded on this boat for how long before you reach land? Who the hell knows? This is a hypothetical question, as previously stated by Leah Jacobson. I’m ready to strangle my girlfriend by 4pm if we haven’t decided on what to eat. She once told me to “shut the fuck up for five minutes” whilst speeding down Rt. 1 in a rush to get to a McDonald’s because she could no longer hold her bladder.

    All I’m saying is that when instinct kicks in, all that is left is survival. You cannot answer this question. You will not know who you are until the worst happens.

    • Monica Gilbert says:

      I’d be really worried for the pig if you’re ready to strangle your girlfriend by 4pm …. although the pig would have a tougher bladder.

    • Jill Fletcher says:

      And so you just proved Andrew’s point, “By posing philosophical enigmas, people distract attention from reality.” A lot of thought going into something that will probably never happen to any of us. And yet, most people put no thought into the reality of massive animal exploitation that hurts animals, the planet and our health; something that is happening right now, and that they can change within their own lives…right now.

  12. Nancy Tuliszewski says:

    I can answer it yet again-to me the thought of eating the pig wouldn’t dawn on me-why would it ? I wouldn’t want to “survive” or “live” after eating the pig. The pig is not mine to eat.

  13. Barbara McClure says:

    You might respond with the question . . .
    “Well, if you and I were stranded on the deserted island, would you kill and eat me?”
    If the person says yes . . . don’t go on any tropical vacations requiring air travel with them. ;)

  14. cath hurwood says:

    “eat what the pig eats” …they are largely veggie anyway….unless they are being factory farmed and then who knows what they are fed.

  15. If you were on a deserted island with a pig, you wouldn’t be alone! But if you were stranded on a deserted island with a family member, would you eat the family member? Same answer about eating the pig…

  16. Bev Blackburn says:

    If you were with an animal, you’d eat what they eat. No way would I ever eat the animal, anymore than I’d eat a human.

  17. "Butterfly" Suzanne Strachan says:

    It’s a little sad how many of “us” (primarily vegans) have bought into an impossible scenario, to prevent a real discussion. And to people that say that plants are just as alive as animals, I tell them that animals eat a lot more plants & drink much more water than we do…so meat eaters end up using much more in resources.There were about 4 billion humans on the planet when I was a kid. Now there are 7 billion of us. In a couple of short decades there will be 9 billion. A meat/egg/dairy diet is eating us out of house & home. What’s good for the planet is good for humans & animals. BTW I’ve been vegetarian since 1978 & vegan since 1985.

  18. Randy Wright says:

    I can tell you have not been hungry or starving before, in the real world all of you would eat the pig. During the Great depression, people would have to watch their pets and livestock, starving people were eating almost all the dogs, cats, horses, other animals domestic and wild. The’re recorded accounts of people eating their leather shoes. I doubt during that time many were vegan, vegetarian or other wise, they would eat anything, even possums.

    It is sad to say but with as many people who are being thrown out of homes and living on the street we may see the same thing happening shortly.

    • Colin says:

      “in the real world all of you would eat the pig”

      Way to miss the point.

      You are not starving, and it in actual, real reality is immensely better for every living thing on this planet if you don’t eat animal substances. Do you still eat them?

      This is NOT a hypothetical, I’m really asking you, Randy Wright if you still eat animal substances. Are you Vegan?

  19. I would ponder what on earth the point of eating the pig is since I am going to die after that anyway.

    Within the rules of the scenario there is nothing to eat apart from one pig. That means there is no food source for either of us. Therefore, as a Vegan I wouldn’t want my last ever act on the earth to be one of unkindness.

    I may as well spend my last month or so of live (assuming there is a good supply of clean water and shelter from the elements) before we both die of hunger looking for a way to end both our lives as painlessly as possible because as I understand it, dying of hunger is very painful!

  20. eliasbrElias says:

    Too many of you seem to have only read the title… The message is… DON’T ANSWER THAT STUPID QUESTION!!

  21. Ann Randall says:

    Why would one eat the only other being with that see, ears that hear able to speak to , might not be the same language, but what will one do after they eat him.? Inability to intake water will kill both before starving. Dehydration you usually pass out after the pain part.

  22. peter says:

    If people are answering the question posed in the title, then they obviously haven’t read the article. The question is irrelevant. In any number of realistic scenarios where a human is alone on a deserted island, THERE iS NO PIG! The gist of this article is to NOT be sidetracked into answering the question, but to direct the discussion back to relevance.

    • Thank you for understanding Peter. In almost all cases, people who read this article reply by answering the pig question. Unfortunately, most people continue to allow themselves to get sidetracked and goaded.

      • Colin says:

        Nope. No re-wording necessary. Unless the title is “Don’t Ever Answer the Pig Question.”

        And even then, people will probably still answer it. It’s in a human’s nature to attempt to prove how intelligent we are, even when it’s the stupidest thing we could do.

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