September 19, 2013

Group rejects PETA lobster claims

Morning Sentinel Staff

PORTLAND -- Maine's top fisheries official on Tuesday rejected claims by the controversial animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that a Maine lobster processing facility has engaged in cruel mutilation of crustaceans.

Patrick Keliher, commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources, called PETA's claim "nothing more than another disingenuous attempt to advance their agenda and negatively impact Maine's most important coastal industry and the economy it supports," according to a statement.

Keliher said he consulted with his department's lead biologist and concluded, "What is shown in the video is compliant with state and federal laws and regulations, including Maine's animal-welfare statute."

The pushback comes after PETA released an undercover video Tuesday that it claims was shot earlier this year at Linda Bean's Maine Lobster in Rockland. Bean is the granddaughter of the founder of Maine retailer L.L. Bean and a major player in the state's lobster industry. Dan Paden, an evidence analysis manager with PETA, held a news conference Tuesday in Portland during which he screened the four-minute video. The footage shows, among other things, live lobsters being ripped apart by hand.

The Portland Press Herald has not posted the video on its website because it could not independently verify where the video was filmed. The video is posted on PETA's website.

Attorney Stephen Hayes, who represents Linda Bean, said he could not comment on the video because nothing identifies where it was shot. Hayes said the company would "object to publication of any video that depicts any of our employees or our facilities, as that violates their and our right to privacy."

Although no state or federal laws govern how a lobster should be killed during commercial processing, Paden said he would meet with the Knox County District Attorney's Office and the Rockland Police Department to ask for an investigation of Bean under Maine's animal cruelty statute.

Although no state or federal laws govern how a lobster should be killed during commercial processing, Paden said he would meet with the Knox County District Attorney's Office and the Rockland Police Department to ask for an investigation of Bean under Maine's animal cruelty statute.

Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen's Association, also disputed PETA's claims, calling the organization an "extremist group" that should refrain from "casting its judgment on an industry it knows nothing about." McCarron said she has not seen the video. She said that, although her organization does not represent processors, she was troubled by PETA's characterization of lobster processing.

"You can't humanize a lobster," she said. "They are food."

Maine has 14 lobster processors licensed through the Department of Marine Resources that process 10 million to 12 million pounds of lobster annually, representing only about 10 percent of all lobsters caught. Nearly 70 percent is processed in Canada, which has more facilities.

Several Maine processors declined to discuss their methods. In some cases, employees who answered the phone said they were not authorized to talk about operations, while other facilities did not return messages.

John Norton, president of Cozy Harbor Seafood in Portland, declined to discuss his processing methods in detail but said his company processes lobsters differently from the method shown in the video.

"Our lobsters are dispatched before any limbs are removed," he said, but did not elaborate. However, he said he would not disparage the method in the video, which he viewed. "I can't tell you a specific industry standard, because it's highly competitive, so I can't say what others do," he said. He added that he was not impressed by the video, saying he believed PETA was using it to solicit donations and if the group were trying to change the industry, they would have approached lawmakers instead.

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at OnlineSentinel.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)