When a man has pity on all living creatures then only he is noble.
As an adventurous “foodie”, there was a time when I was on a quest to find the very best escargot. In my travels, I ordered the delicacy at every restaurant I visited which had it on the menu. I tasted it in all manner of its various preparations: in garlic butter, in cream sauce, en croute, bourguignon, stuffed in mushrooms… While many people cringe at the thought of having the common gastropod in their mouth, imagining it to be anywhere from slimy to rubbery, I enjoyed the sublime texture, and the flavor imparted by whatever ingredients the particular recipe employed. I did give a little thought to the fact that I was eating a creature who would’ve preferred to have lived, but managed to not let that thought trouble me much. And then I saw the film, “Microcosmos”.
I watched the award-winning documentary, mouth agape, as remarkably close-up footage of a variety of insects and other tiny inhabitants of a French field held me mesmerized. What is known as the “snail love scene” opened my eyes to the natural sensuality of snails. Set to a hauntingly beautiful musical score, it depicts in glorious detail two snails mating. But to refer to their act as mere “mating” is to not do justice to the exquisite tenderness displayed in their nearly erotic union. Seeing the obvious sensitivity they possess for tactile sensation, it was hard not to interpret their undulations as providing pleasure. The love scene was so intimate and emotionally provocative, as to almost cause one to blush at witnessing what would seem to be a very private interaction. Sure, you can charge me with anthropomorphism, but I’d argue that those snails experienced some form of pleasure derived from the highly sensitive neurons that were firing by the thousands. And if they could experience pleasure, couldn’t they then also experience pain? I felt some stirrings of compassion…
I examined my eating of escargot, and determined that my newly awakened empathy with snails could no longer allow me, in good conscience, to partake. I haven’t eaten escargot since seeing “Microcosmos” in 1996, and have actually observed, awestruck, snail love-making in my own backyard on two occasions .
View the snail love scene on youtube.com here.
You can watch “Microcosmos” in its entirety (about an hour) on youtube.com here. Better yet, get it on DVD or from a cable/satellite/online source, and watch it on your big screen TV. I think you’ll be riveted, and will likely gain a whole new appreciation for some of our smaller, often overlooked fellow Earthlings.