Seafood restaurant wages war with PETA

After People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) targeted Maryland’s blue crab industry in an ad campaign last month, seafood restaurant Jimmy’s Famous Seafood is fighting back to protect its livelihood.

“It’s our livelihood and the Maryland blue crab is the bloodline of Maryland.…Tens of thousands of jobs depend on the Maryland blue crab economy on a daily basis,” John Minadakis, owner of Jimmy’s Famous Seafood in Dundalk, Maryland, told SeafoodSource.

To that end, Jimmy’s launched a scathing Twitter campaign that, in part, accuses PETA of slaughtering kittens and puppies. The restaurant also posted a billboard featuring a photo of its steamed crab with the statement: “SteaMEd crabs. Here to stay. Get Famous.”

In late August, PETA placed a billboard near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, home to several seafood restaurants such as Phillips Seafood, McCormick & Schmick's, and The Oceanaire Seafood Room. The billboard, which includes an image of a Maryland blue crab, states: “I’m me, not meat. See the individual. Go vegan.” 

"Just like humans, crabs feel pain and fear, have unique personalities, and value their own lives," PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said in a statement. "PETA's billboard aims to give Charm City residents some food for thought about sparing sensitive marine animals the agony of being boiled alive or crushed to death in fishing nets simply by going vegan.”

While some Twitter users joked about PETA’s billboard, Minadakis did not take its anti-blue crab sentiment lightly. 

“They are trying to put people on the streets and out of business. We have been doing this for 41 years. We are going to fight back,” he said. 

The Baltimore community “really appreciates someone standing up to PETA for once, and not just taking it lying down,” Minadakis added. “Until they go away, we plan on fighting back.”

Minadakis said he believes PETA’s blue crab campaign could harm the industry. 

“If you look at PETA’s track record, they are pretty successful,” he said. For example, Nabisco recently re-designed its famous Barnum’s Animals Crackers‘ packaging to show uncaged, rather than caged, circus animals at the urging of PETA.

Meanwhile, Jimmy’s tweets include allegations that PETA has euthanized 36,000 kittens and puppies. 

“If there’s one word anyone associated with PETA should never use, [it’s] ‘compassionate.’ Would a compassionate person murder 36,000 innocent animals? … You purchase stock in companies you vilify, such as Sea World & McDonald’s, because it’s really only about the money and publicity for you,” according to a recent tweet.

In fact, PETA has euthanized more than 38,000 dogs and cats since 1998, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

However, Amber Canavan, vegan campaigner for PETA, told SeafoodSource that the majority of animals brought to PETA for care are spayed or neutered, provided with veterinary treatment, or “otherwise cared for before being returned to their guardians,” she said. 

“Our fleet of mobile clinics sterilized more than 13,300 animals last year alone. PETA operates a rescue team – which is on call 24/7 to offer relief to abused and suffering animals – as well as a single ‘shelter of last resort’ that takes in mostly aggressive, sick, elderly, injured, feral, and otherwise unadoptable animals, many of whom have been rejected by shelters with turn-away policies,” Canavan added.

The real reason Jimmy’s issued anti-PETA tweets and the billboard, according to Canavan, is the “realization that the tide is turning, as more people than ever before are going vegan,” she said. “The science is clear that crustaceans have the capacity to feel pain, and it's easier than ever to eat delicious crabless cakes, faux lobster, and other vegan dishes that don't cause any suffering.”

Canavan said she recommends Americans move towards eating a vegan diet.

“PETA would be happy to recommend and promote vegan seafood options at Jimmy's if it's willing to accept the challenge,” Canavan added.

Meanwhile, Minadakis is upset that the Maryland blue crab industry and the larger U.S. seafood industry have yet to issue collective responses to PETA’s blue crab campaign or its anti-lobster campaign, which kicked off in Maine in July

“We don’t know anyone else doing anything about it. Everyone else is sitting on the sidelines,” Minadakis said. “People are scared to offend anybody, so they are going to sit there quietly while they are under attack – and they get bullied into submission.”


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