In considering the lobster, PETA only inflicts pain on itself

At least People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) makes things fun for its critics. The pro-vegetarian group yet again proved its incompetence this week by attempting to claim credit for a business decision it had nothing to do with, this one concerning a Minor League baseball team and what’s being served at its concession stands during games.

This blunder started two years ago, when PETA sent a representative to work under cover at Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine Lobster processing facility in Rockland, Maine. Posing as a new employee going through training, this person recorded on video live lobsters being processed for their meat in a way that is “shocking” to PETA and its supporters but is generally the way it’s done in shellfish processing facilities. The group’s frivolous and misplaced outrage on the matter centers on the notion that crustaceans like lobsters can feel pain inflicted by what it calls “crude and cruel” methods.

This week, the Portland Sea Dogs, affiliate of the Boston Red Sox Major League Baseball team, made some changes to its concessions in advance of the upcoming 2015 baseball season, which starts in April. Among the changes at Hadlock Field is the space previously occupied by Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine Lobster will be filled by another vendor (one that will also sell lobster).

PETA quickly claimed that the decision was made because the team doesn’t stand for animal abuse, but according to the team’s assistant general manager and director of media relations, it actually had nothing to do with PETA or its stealthy 2013 sting op.

“Yesterday, without our knowledge or input, PETA issued a press release about the Sea Dogs ending our relationship with Linda Bean's Lobster,” Chris Cameron told SeafoodSource earlier this week. “While it is true that we will no longer be working with Linda Bean’s, we reached this decision based on business reasons, not in response to pressure from PETA. We are also in the process of finalizing a new provider of Maine lobster for this season. While we would normally not comment on a business decision of this sort, we wanted to set the record straight in light of PETA’s misleading press release.”

Stephen Hayes, legal counsel for Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine Lobster, concurred that it was a business matter between the company and the team, adding that PETA’s previous charges were “thoroughly refuted” by state officials.

“Then, as now, the practices that we use in our plants are consistent with Maine and federal law and common industry practices. No one other than PETA has characterized them as ‘cruel.’ As PETA has repeatedly acknowledged, its complaint is not with Linda Bean's Perfect Maine Lobster so much as it is with standard practices used by the entire Maine lobster industry,” said Hayes.

Bob Bayer, executive director of the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine, asked not to be quoted about the group, but was plain in assessing the lobster-pain debate, if it can be called one. He said lobsters may sense heat and pressure, but not pain. Lobsters and other invertebrates have approximately 100,000 neurons while humans have more than 100 billion, he explained.

“There is a debate whether they have a brain or not. I think not,” said Bayer, as I secretly wondered if we were still talking about lobsters.


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