September 19, 2013

Group rejects PETA lobster claims

Morning Sentinel Staff

(Continued from page 1)

Kyle Murdock, owner of Sea Hag Seafood in Tenants Harbor, declined to discuss company practices, saying he didn't want negative publicity. The processors do not have an industry group that represents them.

The Maine Lobster Council, whose role is to market Maine lobster globally, is funded through fees from lobstermen, dealers and processors. A law passed earlier this year raised its budget from $350,000 to $2 million. Representatives did not return calls or emails seeking comment.

It's not clear whether the process shown in the video is an accepted industry standard. PETA has argued that it doesn't matter whether the process is limited to one facility.

"There are more-humane alternatives," Paden said.

He said PETA repeatedly approached Linda Bean's company before releasing the video to discuss "alternative slaughtering methods" but was unsuccessful.

The group said humane ways to kill lobster include stunning them, which kills any nerves and any ability to feel pain. A less common method is "high-pressure processing," which kills and cooks the lobster within seconds. One Maine processor, Richmond-based Shucks Maine Lobster, uses that method. Shucks owner John Hathaway said high-pressure processing is expensive but is considered by some to be a more humane method. He thinks using that process gives the company the opportunity to be innovative.

McCarron said the lobster industry has not discussed alternative processing methods because research indicates that lobsters cannot feel pain.

"Our customers should feel confident that our industry operates through the highest quality and food safety standards," she said.

The research on whether crustaceans feel pain is inconclusive. Some European researchers cited by PETA have found that lobsters exhibit behaviors consistent with response to painful stimuli, while other research has classified crustaceans as arthropods that do not have a centralized nervous system.

This is not the first time PETA has targeted the lobster industry. In 2008, the organization tried to open a "lobster empathy center" at an abandoned jail in Skowhegan to depict what a lobster goes through after it's caught.

McCarron also said PETA should not cast stones, given its own history on animal rights. She cited allegations that the organization has killed thousands of animals despite its mission advocating "total animal liberation." The claim is based on records obtained from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Hayes, in an emailed statement, said Bean's Rockland facility may have been targeted by PETA because of her public profile and because the facility supplies lobster to the Maine Lobster Festival.

Asked whether Linda Bean was targeted specifically, Paden said Bean's public profile is coincidental and the organization's intent is to shed light on industry practices.

Dick Grotton of the Maine Restaurant Association said he doesn't think PETA's claim will have much short-term effect.

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