Robert Louis Stevenson – Questions the Morality of Eating Animals
Born on November 13, 1850, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Robert Louis Stevenson was a prolific writer, essayist and poet, best known for his travel and adventure stories. Some of his best known novels include Treasure Island (1883), Kidnapped (1886), Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), and The Black Arrow (1888).
Stevenson studied law and graduated from law school in 1875, but felt his real calling was writing not the law. He suffered from a serious respiratory illness in his young life that left him bedridden by middle age. But that never deterred Stevenson from writing, which he pursued vigorously and continuously even though he struggled to make a living until his better known novels were published. After his book The Black Arrow was published, Stevenson and his family sailed to the Samoan Islands, where he decided to stay and live and write about life in the South Sea islands. His health improved considerably with the change in climate and he started to lead a more active life as a result, until his sudden and unexpected death in 1894 of a cerebral hemorrhage in Samoa.
From Robert Louis Stevenson’s, In the South Seas, Part 1, Chapter 11 – The Marquesas – Long Pig a Cannibal High Place:
“Nothing more strongly arouses our disgust than cannibalism, nothing so surely unmortars a society; nothing, we might plausibly argue, will so harden and degrade the minds of those that practice it. And yet we ourselves make much the same appearance in the eyes of the Buddhist and the vegetarian.We consume the carcasses of creatures of like appetites, passions, and organs with ourselves; we feed on babes, though not our own; and the slaughter-house resounds daily with screams of pain and fear. We distinguish, indeed; but the unwillingness of many nations to eat the dog, an animal with whom we live on terms of the next intimacy, shows how precariously the distinction is grounded. The pig is the main element of animal food among the islands; and I had many occasions, my mind being quickened by my cannibal surroundings, to observe his character and the manner of his death. Many islanders live with their pigs as we do with our dogs; both crowd around the hearth with equal freedom; and the island pig is a fellow of activity, enterprise, and sense.
One day, on visiting my piggery, I was amazed to see Catholicus draw back from my approach with cries of terror; and if I was amazed at the change, I was truly embarrassed when I learnt its reason. One of the pigs had been that morning killed; Catholicus had seen the murder, he had discovered he was dwelling in the shambles, and from that time his confidence and his delight in life were ended. We still reserved him a long while, but he could not endure the sight of any two-legged creature, nor could we, under the circumstances, encounter his eye without confusion.”