This is not George - baby lobster photo courtesy of Fred Chosson
Recently, a big crustacean made big headlines.
George, a giant lobster estimated to be 140 years old, was caught off Newfoundland, Canada and languished for ten days in a tank at City Crab and Seafood in New York City. Thanks to the efforts of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the impressive lobster was spared his fate on a plate. George was released into the ocean near Kennebunkport, Maine, in an area where lobster trapping is forbidden, so that “this noble old-timer might live out his days in freedom and peace,” said PETA president Ingrid Newkirk.
Each time I walk through my local supermarket, I am struck by the disturbing sight of innocent non-human animals held hostage in a glass tank waiting to be purchased for slaughter. If such tanks were filled with live pigs or chickens (or perhaps dogs and cats) alongside recipes instructing patrons to take them home and boil them alive, my guess is that customers would feel outraged and disgusted. As it happens, the non-human animals in question are lobsters and many people either walk right by or stop to ponder whether to purchase one for dinner.
"The thinking [person] must oppose all cruel customs no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo. When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another..." - Albert Schweitzer
In my opinion and the opinions of countless others - including nearly 500 people from several nations who have signed an online petition started in South Florida (a friend and I are the petition co-sponsors. Please stop by and add your signature and comments) to stop the sale of live lobsters in supermarkets - lobsters are NOT food; they are living creatures who have as much right to live unmolested in their own habitat as any other animal. Ripped from their natural surroundings, lobsters are trapped, transported and confined to what is essentially Death Row and then knowingly and purposefully sold to those who are going to kill them, all without a second thought. No sane person would drop a live cat or dog into boiling water. Why should it be any different for lobsters? Just because something is socially acceptable doesn’t necessarily make it right.
Fascinating facts about a fascinating animal
• Like all animals (human and non-human alike), lobsters feel pain, and they suffer when they are cut, broiled, or boiled alive. Marine biologists theorize that lobsters feel every second of pain inflicted upon them before their death. According to Dr. Jaren G. Horsley, an invertebrate zoologist at the National Zoo, “The lobster does not have an autonomic nervous system that puts it into a state of shock when it is harmed. It probably feels itself being cut... I think the lobster is in a great deal of pain from being cut open ... [and] feels all the pain until its nervous system is destroyed” during cooking.
• Boiling lobsters alive is illegal in Reggio, Italy. Offenders there face fines of up to $600.
• Studies confirm that lobsters kept in tanks suffer from stress associated with confinement, low oxygen levels, overcrowding and starvation, as well as the terrible stress of being stolen from their homes.
• Lobsters in unattended traps often succumb to death by starvation, dehydration, heat, or fights with other lobsters.
• During transportation and storage, lobsters suffer from dehydration, red-tail bacterial disease, shell disease, and "bumper car" disease as a result of extremely crowded conditions. Rough handing of lobsters, including being thrown, causes open wounds and lesions. They also suffer from an inability to breathe properly in air, which results in acidosis and toxin buildup. A Canadian study found that 19 percent of lobsters had a missing claw when they arrived at factories and packing stations. In Australia's Western rock lobster fishery, an average of 20 percent of the lobsters arrive at the factory too weak to be considered fit for live export. Mortality rates often reach 10 to 15 percent.
• Scientists at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., who have been studying lobsters for more than 20 years, have found them to be unique and fascinating animals. They have found that lobsters use complicated signals to establish social relationships. They take long-distance seasonal journeys, can travel more than 100 miles in a year, and can live to be more than 150 years old if they survive the world's most devastating predator: humans.
• Even under the best of circumstances, eating lobsters can be a public health risk. Seafood is the number one cause of food poisoning in the United States, and shellfish are involved in more than 66 percent of all seafood-related illnesses. In fact, as much as 10 percent of raw shellfish are infected with organisms that can cause hepatitis, salmonella poisoning, cholera, and even death. Mercury, DDT, PCB’s, dioxin, disease-causing bacteria, and other contaminants are commonly found in lobster flesh.
Most people feel uncomfortable about cooking and eating lobsters – and for good reason: lobsters suffer severe and prolonged pain when they are killed by being boiled alive, frozen to death or having their brain severed from their spinal cord. Many professional chefs report needing to leave the kitchen after dropping lobsters in boiling water due to the sounds of the creatures struggling for their lives. Mary Tyler Moore said that a “lobster who is being boiled alive will frantically scrape the sides of the pot trying to escape the pain… To me, eating a lobster is out of the question.”
"Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and it's beauty... Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet" - Albert Einstein
There are many food options available that do not involve the suffering and death of non-human animals. Lobsters are not merely ours to eat. They are sentient beings with as much right to live as the humans with whom they share this planet. Perhaps if we begin thinking of such creatures as “sea life” rather than “sea food”, we will begin treating them in a more humane manner. When we change our thoughts, we change the world.
For more info and to help lobsters: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/5/stop-selling-live-lobsters-at-supermarket