Lobster Lib comes to Maine--and Italy
Yesterday and today, PETA comes to New England with its Lobster Lib campaign. By campaigning in Portland and Bar Harbor Maine, PETA has come to the belly of the beast, as it were.
Apparently, according to today's NY Times, the lobster catch in the Gulf of Maine has been inexplicably plentiful recently--record-breaking, in fact--while the lobster population in Cape Cod and to the south of Massachusetts south languishes. So PETA must think, what better place to come to in order to discourage people from eating lobster than Maine? But people here are pretty hard-nosed (have a tough shell?) about their lobster. As long as they can't hear them scream when they die, into the pot they go.
But this doesn't stop the indefatigable PETA. I can't say I understand their need to champion the rights of invertebrates, but obviously PETA has a soft heart even for the lobster. Its "lobster lib" site makes it clear that PETA members are extremely unhappy about boiling lobsters alive--that's no surprise, really. But PETA is even sad about keeping them in tanks.
The site is filled with suggestions for PETA members and their sympathizers to try talk those in charge of lobster tanks into releasing them back to the wild, a plan which seems to have little to no chance of succeeding in New England, where lobster is exceedingly big business and traditional celebratory eating. As far as I can determine, the campaign for tank releases had its origins in an episode of the Ellen De Generes show. I can't imagine that many of the New Englanders I know will be signing up.
But residents of toney Reggio, Italy, seem to feel differently. They've even passed an ordinance banning the practice of boiling lobsters alive. This intrigued me--do the good people of Reggio even have access to lobsters? I looked it up on the map, and Reggio is not a coastal town.
So, what gives with Reggio? Is it the Italian headquarters of PETA? Well, sort of. According to this absolutely riveting article from the Telegraph, it's the town council, not the inhabitants of Reggio, who are the lobster protectors.
And it's not just lobster, either. About a year ago, according to the article, the town council passed, almost unanimously, an ordinance that just might qualify as the most PETA-friendly law on earth, and certainly one of the most absurd.
A few excerpts (but read the whole thing, as Glenn would say):
Under the bylaw, "sociable" birds such as budgerigars and parrots must be kept in pairs. Birdcages must be at least five times the bird's wingspan in width, and three times in height. It also makes it illegal to keep a goldfish in a round glass bowl.
But somehow, this is my favorite part:
Another clause requires owners to ensure that each pet sharing a meal gets an equal portion.
I can envision a certain problem with enforcement. But the councilors of Reggio certainly get the PETA golden leash award for effort.
So, what about it? Do lobsters feel pain in that pot? Unfortunately for the PETA folks (not that they care in the least), the best evidence from scientists indicates that the answer is "no." The study was done in Norway, but scientists in Maine were in agreeement:
The Norwegian report backs up a study in the early 1990s at the University of Maine and reinforces what people in the lobster industry have always contended, said Bob Bayer, executive director of the Lobster Institute, a research and education organization in Orono. "We've maintained all along that the lobster doesn't have the ability to process pain,'' Bayer said.
PETA claims Norwegian bias. What a surprise!
I think the final word on the question is this, from the same article: It's debatable whether the debate will ever be resolved.
Indeed. Until lobsters manage to speak to us in their death throes (or pet psychics channel them from beyond the grave), scientists will claim one thing and PETA folk the other.