The Dilemma of the Dean

The Dilemma of the Dean

“If we assume that survival has a value for the brutes, no one has so great an interest in the demand for pork as the pig.”—DEAN INGE (Outspoken Essays. Second Series, p. 56.)

(A Tragedy in one Act.)

Scene: the Dean’s study. The Dean at his desk. The door is opened, and a footman announces, “A Deputation from the Unborn.” Enter several Ante-natal Pigs, with a leader, who bows and addresses the Dean.

The Leader. We have ventured to approach you, Mr. Dean, as representatives of the many Unborn Pigs, on a subject which we know is very near your heart, and we trust that you will kindly spare us a few minutes.
The Dean (Troubled). They must be few, sire, for I am extremely busy: and I own I did not know of your existence—or it seems I should say of your non-existence. Did you say you are Unborn?
The Leader. Can you have forgotten us, Mr. Dean? We represent a class whom you mentioned very specially in your controversy with the Vegetarians; and we come to ask if you will kindly tell us what precisely you meant when you said that the Pig would prefer his present fate “to the alternative doom of not existing at all”?
The Dean (nettled). Well, sir, if I said that, surely my meaning was plain—that unless pork were eaten, pigs would not be bred.
The Leader. But how did you know that we wish to be bred? Where is your proof that, as you have said, we have any “interest” in bacon? May we not content to remain as we are?
The Dean. As you are? But, my friend, you are not. You yourself say you are one of the Unborn, that you are non-existent; and I naturally assumed that existence is a thing to be desired.
The Leader. But in such matters as killing and eating other people. Mr. Dean, it is hardly fair to assume. We need facts; and it does not follow, because men think it nice to eat pigs, that pigs think it nice to be eaten by men.
The Dean. Well, sir, I judged for you to be best of my ability. I thought your race would feel a preference for existence, even if it involved being killed and eaten.
The Leader. But you had no right merely to think. And here is another question to which we would specifically invite your attention. If we, the unborn, were wholly non-existent, in the sense which your assumption implies, how could we possibly have a preference, or (to use your own word) an “interest,” in anything? How could it concern us whether we were bred or not bred? That is one of the things we have called to ask you.
The Dean (tartly). Then I fear it will have to remain unanswered, sir. I cannot go into such abstruse problems as that.
The Leader. Yet you could make, and repeat, a statement which inevitably raises the problem! But will you at least tell us this—why, if you approve of the breeding and killing of pigs for food, you condemn the breeding and killing of foxes for sport? Has not the Fox just the same “interest” in the hunt as the Pig in bacon? He is allowed to be bred only that he may be hunted.
The Dean. Let me mind you, sir, of the difference. Bacon is a necessity for men, but hunting is merely a cruel amusement.
The Leader. The Vegetarians will have something to say to you on that subject, Mr. Dean! But actually, your argument was based, not on the need of bacon, but on the Pig’s own interest in it. We now beg you at least to be candid, and to face the dilemma in which you find yourself.
The Dean (rising). Good afternoon, gentlemen. I must entirely decline to be cross-questioned in this manner. I am quite unaccustomed to it.
The Leader. The I fear this must be the answer we take back to those whom we represent. That the apparent reason why you show such consideration for the Fox, is that you are not yourself a sportsman, and that it is because you are a flesh-eater that you have so little consideration for the Pig.



Henry S. Salt

The Vegetarian News, May 1932, pp. 139-140