Is Which killing method of the lobster would cause the least pain and distress? on topic?

It's clearly related to cooking, but:

  • the subject matter is far from normal cooking expertise (actually knowing what the lobster experiences requires a lot more than just visual observation)
  • the answer doesn't seem to have any bearing on the resulting food, and the question doesn't ask about the resulting food anyway
  • the topic makes it prone to strongly-opinionated debates

We of course take questions about aspects of the cooking process that do affect the resulting food, including the scientific reasons behind all of it, as well as things that affect the cook (e.g. safety). This question is a step further removed, though. Is it still within the scope of the site?

  • 1
    In case this comes up later: this question was linked from a hot network question, so it likely attracted some non-regular voters who could vote up but not down, so the voting may be skewed from normal.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Dec 15, 2017 at 7:59

2 Answers 2


For me, this is still on topic. Our help center states:

  • Cooking & food preparation methods
  • Food handling and storage

I would argue that it can even fall into both categories.

We cooks buy lobsters as live animals and storing and ultimately killing them is actually part of the food preparation process. Another example are mussles.

While most of us would buy their steak from a butcher who performed the whole slaughtering, ripening and portioning process, the above mentioned examples are cases where this usually or at least sometimes happens in the cooks' kitchens, something we are doing ourselves.

Killing the lobster is a kitchen technique - and "doing it correctly" may as well include the question of how this is done in a way that minimizes "suffering", not just how to get the best meat quality. (For the beef example, a responsible butcher will also use the appropriate technique.)

So yes, I think this question is on topic.

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    Without weighing in on the actual decision, I'm curious what you'd think if the question instead asked about how to kill the lobster so that it's correct by some sort of religious standards.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Dec 14, 2017 at 18:53
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    @Jefromi then I would suggest moving the post to the corresponding religion's SE site.
    – Stephie Mod
    Dec 14, 2017 at 19:00
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    Migration generally suggests thinking that it's off topic - do you have a handy reason why religious reasons would be off-topic here but suffering isn't? One of the reasons I'm asking is that some religious standards (e.g. halal) are theoretically about preventing suffering.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Dec 14, 2017 at 19:03
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    @Jefromi Because for the "suffering" there is scientific data about the neural system available - there is a study mentioned in the context of the question - and the results have been included in modern cooking literature. Religious aspects may have the same intent, but in practice, the rules are often more complicated. I would say those additional aspects need knowledge about the religion, which we don't have.
    – Stephie Mod
    Dec 14, 2017 at 19:10
  • Okay, so: it's done in the kitchen, it's theoretically answerable with science and reasoning (I have to say, a lot of the science looks very hand-wavy, but point is it's possible), and the cook has some plausible reason to care about it even if it doesn't affect the end result. I think that seems pretty consistent with what we've done in the past, and the risks (silly debates) are manageable with careful moderation, so... seems good to me!
    – Cascabel Mod
    Dec 14, 2017 at 19:44
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    @Jefromi: In my opinion, that would be on topic, whilst the question talked about here is not. This question is not a question about food preservation it is a question about animal welfare and a philosophical question about how much animals suffer; the religiously motivated question, on the other hand, is a question about food preparation. Preparing food suitable for a specific audience is still food preparation, and a religious cause makes it no more off-topic than asking how to bake a gluten-free cake for a Coeliac sufferer. Dec 15, 2017 at 13:23
  • @JackAidley what would be on topic? Religion? I kind of doubt it. But I don't understand entirely understand how your arguments reach the conclusion that this question is off-topic given that; it too is about food preparation, and the cause is people who believe that animal suffering should be minimized - another strong personal belief, like religion. Anyway, if you think the question discussed here is off-topic, maybe just write an answer explaining why?
    – Cascabel Mod
    Dec 15, 2017 at 16:13
  • @Jefromi A question about preparing a Lobster to religious standard X is a question about preparing food; whereas the Lobster suffering question is a question about Lobster physiology. Dec 15, 2017 at 16:53
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    @JackAidley I see. Unfortunately, that logic doesn't really hold up. Both are questions about preparing food. One uses religious standards as the criteria, the other uses lobster pain as the criteria. You're saying that religious standards are reasonable criteria to include in the scope of the site, but lobster pain isn't, and that is something that needs justification - especially since we have not generally accepted questions that will need answers purely based on religion. (Note that stating an objective requirement and asking how to meet it is still fine.)
    – Cascabel Mod
    Dec 15, 2017 at 16:56
  • There also seems to be some empirical evidence suggesting the suffering a lobster feels before death may affect the flavor profile of the meat. So ignoring moral/ethical issues, it is theoretically possible to target a certain flavor by increasing/reducing suffering before death.
    – Netduke
    Dec 15, 2017 at 17:26
  • @Jefromi: I'm lost at how you just 'naturally' decided "science" should be the decision boundary. This is Cooking.SE, not Science.SE... and questions on the site range from how to peel garlic to how to find tasty substitutes... establishing science as a criterion for making it on-topic here seems a pretty arbitrary decision on your end? The whole thing seems off-topic to me regardless of whether it's based on science or pseudoscience.
    – user541686
    Dec 17, 2017 at 7:03
  • @Mehrdad The point is that if answers couldn't be based on science (or in general, something solid, rather than just speculation and opinions), it would be off-topic. This isn't arbitrary; "primarily opinion-based" is a standard close reason, and requiring the potential for science-based (or objective reality-based) answers means avoiding the area where opinions would naturally dominate. Of course, that's not the only decision boundary. It also matters that this is asking about something that'd a direct part of a normal cooking process.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Dec 17, 2017 at 7:08
  • @Jefromi: I get the feeling cooking is inherently opinion-based a lot of the time. Like for example, consider this question. Are you saying it fell through the cracks and should've been closed? But in any case, my point is that the decision boundary is farther out: the question is off-topic either way. Just ask random coworkers whether they think a question about how to painlessly kill a lobster falls under cooking, biology, or {another site's topic}. I would be be surprised if many (if any) of them picked cooking.
    – user541686
    Dec 17, 2017 at 8:24
  • @Mehrdad I don't really think polling coworkers is a good way to decide site scope. Killing the lobster is fundamentally part of the cooking process, and your coworkers might even agree. And yes, maybe it would also be on topic on biology. Site scopes are allowed to overlap. As for what you said about opinion, there's a difference between good subjective and bad subjective, and "answers will be primarily based on uninformed speculation and pseudoscience" is the latter. It sounds like you're not that familiar with our site and its scope; try Seasoned Advice Chat if you want to learn, perhaps.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Dec 17, 2017 at 16:32

If how to kill a lobster is in scope then how to harvest grain or slaughter a cow should be in scope. Way to broad and outside scope of cooking in my opinion.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – rumtscho Mod
    Dec 15, 2017 at 19:42

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