People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals made headlines in the past few weeks after posting a video showing lobsters and crabs being dismembered while still alive in a processing plant.
The organization, which fights to protect animals from cruelty at human hands, claims to have conducted a hidden-camera investigation inside Linda Bean's lobster processing plant in Rockland.
PETA has even gone so far as to call on the Rockland Police Department and the district attorney's office to investigate the practices. PETA argues the lobsters and crabs are subjected to pain and suffering as they are torn apart in the plant.
This is not the first time PETA has targeted the lobster industry. Many locals remember its colorful protests at the Maine Lobster Festival in the past.
Following the most recent protest, the Maine Lobstermen's Association and the Maine Department of Marine Resources have publicly denounced PETA's complaints, calling this a bid for publicity and a chance to advance the organization's agenda.
Most of the comments we have heard in the community are dismissive, and that's to be expected. For one thing, this is the lobster capital of the world. A lot money is made locally on buying, selling and serving Maine lobster.
Aside from that, the vast majority of us grew up eating lobsters, learning that it was safest to have them still twisting and moving around when you drop them in the pot. If a lobster dies before you cook it, toxins are released, we have been taught.
Finally, the lobster simply is not a sympathetic character. Its appearance, all claws and feelers and bio-mechanical legs, is alien to us. It has no more appeal to us than a spider crawling down the bathroom wall.
If they were processing puppies and kittens in that plant, the populace would rise up in force to stop them. The very fact that PETA does not differentiate between large sea bugs and puppies leads many to dismiss them as radical.
However, the question has been raised, do lobsters and crabs feel pain? Do they suffer in the face of cruelty and, if so, should we care?
"The lobster's nervous system is very primitive," the University of Maine's Lobster Institute website tells us. "In fact it is most similar to the nervous system of an insect. Neither insects nor lobsters have brains. Further, lobsters and other invertebrates have only approximately 100,000 neurons while humans have over 100 billion."
Diane Cowan of the Lobster Conservancy in Friendship explained lobsters can lose a limb and grow it back. When a claw or limb is taken from them, nerves and blood flow to the limb are shut down immediately. They sometimes amputate their own limbs to escape danger.
In addition, each body segment has its own nerve system. That is why you can see badly dismembered lobsters still crawling around in the video.
Cowan pointed out, however, that what a lobster actually experiences or feels is not known. It cannot be known.
To put it in human terms, when a person dies and his or her heart is donated to another person, that organ continues to move, to live. Even so, few would argue that it suffers.
We would argue that no crime has been committed and further, the investigation is a waste of time for police and the district attorney's office.
However, this could be a worthwhile community discussion and a learning opportunity. If there is a more humane way to treat these creatures while maintaining an industry the area relies on, we should be open to that.
We welcome readers to write letters and emails expressing their views.
Courier Publications changes size
Faithful readers may have noticed something different about the look or feel of their newspapers this week.
Courier Publications' three weekly newspapers, The Courier-Gazette, The Camden Herald and The Republican Journal, have changed in size beginning Sept. 26.
The change was driven, in part, by a shift in the newspaper industry and necessitated by our printer, which prints not only our publications, but other newspapers across the state. Several other newspapers in the state have made a similar change with a small reduction in the width of their pages, and this is becoming an industry standard as the Lewiston Sun Journal, Bangor Daily News, The Times-Record in Brunswick, and now Courier Publications have adopted this new, more cost-effective size or plan to in the near future.
The efficiency this size brings will also help Courier newspapers keep subscription and newsstand prices static as well as allow us not to increase the cost we charge our advertisers as we move into the final quarter of the year.
What has not changed is our commitment to our content. We will still deliver all of the weekly news, editorials, letters, obituaries, sports, arts and entertainment and classifieds our readers have come to expect with the commitment that we will continue to grow and serve our communities with more, not less, in the future.
We thank the readers for their continued support of Courier newspapers and VillageSoup online.