I like to play this little “what if?” game with my meat-eating friends from time to time. (Those of you who have read The Sparrow, that most disturbing and exquisite novel by Mary Doria Russell, will see how it inspired me to come up with this.)
Imagine the aliens have landed. Cue dramatic invasion sequence, press conferences in which world leaders pretend to know what is going on, people panicking in the streets, et cetera, et cetera. By whatever means they are able to communicate with us, the aliens announce that they are now at the top of our food chain. After all, they have vastly superior technology, to have come all this way to “visit” us when we’ve only managed a silly little foray to the Earth moon; and vastly superior technology must mean they are vastly more intelligent.
Yes oh yes, the aliens say. We will eat some of you now, and save some of you for breeding. We’ll need lots of females but only a few males. (We haven’t yet decided what we’ll do with the surplus.)
You can’t do that! we cry. Our technology might be inferior to yours, but we are a sentient race! We are intelligent! We are CIVILIZED!!!
The aliens just laugh at us. You call this mess a “civilization”? Pah! And without further ado, they begin rounding us up in pens and sharpening their weird-looking alien cutting implements. They don’t react to our cries and pleas for mercy. Our feelings don’t matter to them because they don’t see us as individuals, as beings with minds and wants of our own. They don’t care that we have nervous systems—that we will suffer. Because human is going to taste so, so delicious.
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Not a subtle analogy, I’ll grant you. But it’s something to think about, and I hope you will. How does contemplating this scenario make you feel?