Cruel and controversial lobster "game" - photo courtesy of Cynthia Enciso (flickr.com)
A group of animal rights activists, led by members of the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF), staged a peaceful demonstration in Royal Palm Beach, FL to protest a cruel contraption that makes a "game" out of catching live lobsters.
ARFF received several phone calls in the past month from people who noticed a coin-operated machine containing live lobsters at the Royal Palm Ale House. The object of the game is to maneuver a mechanical claw to "catch" a lobster from the tank. The restaurant will boil the lobster alive and serve it to the "winner" for dinner.
ARFF's website states, "Lobsters suffer tremendously when they are relegated to tiny tanks and subjected to loud noises, prodding and pulling by a mechanical claw, and prolonged starvation. Supported by scientific evidence that confirms that lobsters feel pain—just as all other animals with sophisticated nervous systems do—ARFF has requested that the Royal Palm Ale House remove this atrocity from its otherwise reputable business immediately."
The dozen or so demonstrators, including myself, met outside the restaurant early Friday evening, May 22, and were heckled by beer drinking, bib-wearing patrons who made lobster jokes and otherwise taunted the activists. The Palm Beach Post reports, "Two men waved the live critters over their heads, prompting the foundation's managing director to file animal cruelty charges against Norman Little of Royal Palm Beach." Mr. Little denied the allegation, stating,"The whole thing is ridiculous. It was a lobster we caught. I was holding it up for people to see." One demonstrator commented, "If he were shaking a puppy or kitten like that, people would be outraged, especially if he was going to have it killed and cooked for him to eat."
Melissa Gates, ARFF's Managing Director, reports that her initial effort to file an animal cruelty complaint against Mr. Little was met with resistance by a Palm Beach County Sheriff's officer who argued that the lobster was the man's "property." A second call to the Sheriff's Office resulted in the officer being relieved of duty and a complaint being filed against Mr. Little. In the interim, Mr. Little re-entered the restaurant, then returned to the demonstration area eating the same lobster he had spent 20 minutes shaking violently in the air.
Some demonstrators traveled from Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton to attend the protest. The activists carried signs saying "Lobsters Are Not Toys" and "Cruelty Is Not Entertainment."
Photos of the demonstration can be viewed here.
In addition to the demonstration, ARFF has coordinated a letter-writing campaign in an effort to convince the owners of the restaurant, John & Cheryl Baker, to remove the game from their place of business, reminding them that "games are supposed to be about skill, fun, and prizes… not suffering." If you would like to send your own letter in support of this cause, please address comments to John & Cheryl Baker, 1136 Royal Palm Beach Blvd., Royal Palm Beach 33411. The Royal Palm Ale House can be reached by phone at 561-753-3779.