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Animal Rights Activists Claim Maine Lobster Processor's Practices 'Cruel'
09/17/2013   Reported By: Tom Porter

An animal rights activist organization says it has found evidence of animal cruelty at a Maine lobster-processing facility, and it's asking for a criminal investigation. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, released a video which it says was secretly filmed by an undercover worker at Linda Bean's Maine Lobster processing plant in Rockland. Tom Porter has more.

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Dan Paden is an evidence analysis manager with PETA. He says the organization sent an investigator with a hidden camera to work at the plant earlier this year. The four-minute video clip (above) shows workers pulling apart the limbs of lobsters and crabs that are still alive. It also shows a pile of lobsters wriggling in a crate after their shells and limbs have been removed.

"The crustaceans slaughtered at Linda Bean's are sensible to pain," Paden says. "The lobsters' legs are torn off and their bodies are ripped from their heads and their shells."

PETA 5Paden (left) says PETA will ask the Rockland Police Department and the Knox County District Attorney's office to investigate whether this method of killing violates Maine's animal cruelty statute. "Maine law prohibits intentionally mutilating any animal - and animal is defined in a way that includes crustaceans."

Maine law also requires animals to be killed instanteously, something Paden says is not happening in this case. "The animals clearly survive those mutilations, they writhe in agony for minutes," he says. "And we will be asking officials to investigate this horrific cruelty and, if they deem appropriate, file cruelty charges."

PETA suggests that there are other, more humane, methods of killing crustaceans that Linda Bean could use - either by electrically stunning them or subjecting them to extreme water pressure.

Maine's lobster industry has reacted strongly to PETA's actions. Maine Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher put out a statement describing the group's actions as "another disingenuous attempt to advance their agenda and negatively impact Maine's most important coastal industry." Keliher says activities shown in the video are consistent with state and federal regulations.

Patrice McCarron is executive director of the Maine Lobsterman's Association. She describes the PETA video as an extravagant publicity stunt designed to raise money for the group's extremist agenda.

"It is very important for people to know the Maine lobster industry takes great pride in what we do," she says. "We are very highly regulated in numerous areas, from conservation to quality practices to food safety, and we stand by the practices that we follow."

Central to PETA's argument is the assertion that lobsters feel pain and distress. The group says there's scientific opinion behind this claim. An example is a report by a panel of the European Food Safety Authority of the European Commission.
The report concludes that that decapod crustaceans "have a pain system and considerable learning ability."

Other scientists maintain that lobsters are unable to process pain like other creatures do because they have no brain. On its Web site, the University of Maine's Lobster Institute describes the nervous system of a lobster as very primitive, comparable to that of a insect.

Diane Cowan is executive director and senior scientist at the Lobster Conservancy of Maine. "Lobsters don't have a centralized nervous system like us," she says. Cowan says they do have sensory receptors and are able to feel things, but their response to pain and injury is completely different from ours.

"If a lobster loses a claw, loses an eye, loses any part, they have a response where the blood flow and the nervous system, the firing of the nerve cells, stops abruptly," Cowan says. "They don't keep sending pain signals out when they're injured, they stop them. And then they regenerate their missing part."

Linda Bean of Linda Bean's Maine Lobster did not respond to a request for comment for this story by airtime.

Photo:  Tom Porter

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