The town of Skowhegan, Maine has an old jail to sell. They’re building a new jail, and they figure maybe some developer will be able to make use of the old one. But it wasn’t a developer who answered the call, no no – it was PETA! Yes, that’s right, the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals want lease the jail so they can build a Lobster Empathy Center.
From the letter they sent to the Skowhegan commissioner in charge of this stuff:
The center will also feature interactive exhibits that will give visitors the opportunity to experience the horrors inflicted on lobsters caught by humans. The first room that visitors enter will be a large replica of a lobster trap. Visitors can have their fingers wrapped in large rubber bands, which will be left on for the rest of their visit. At that point, they can be moved to a small, filth-strewn glass tank where they will be crammed together and confined for up to an hour. (Lobsters, by contrast, are often confined to supermarket tanks for weeks before being killed.)
The interactive experience won’t be completely realistic–visitors won’t be boiled alive, of course.
Wait, what? They won’t put the visitors into boiling water? Seems kind of half-assed to me. I sent this story to Miriam, and she had a number of suggestions for how PETA could make the experience more detailed:
Will they feed their visitors tasty rock crab for total reality? (Rock crab is a common bait, but is also good to eat for people, just a lot of work.) Will there be an escape hatch for children? Will they notch the ears of pregnant women? Can people “molt” by taking off their clothes and putting on bigger ones, then gaining a lot of weight so they fit?
Myself, I noticed that Skowhegan is near the geographic center of Maine, a good 50 miles (and 90 minutes driving) from the coast. The people who do most of the lobster catching don’t live there, and the people who do most of the eating live far, far away (like Bristol Rhode Island, say, or San Diego) and are unlikely to experience the pains of lobster catching via the Lobster Empathy Center.
Of course, I recognize that the center will probably never come into being. PETA likes to scare up a lot of publicity by making these ridiculous proposals, and far be it from The Oyster’s Garter not to give to them. But it’s also important to be aware that in fact, lobsters seem to be one of the most environmentally sound fisheries in the world. Lobstermen notch the females and throw them back in, so they can keep reproducing, and the traps are designed to let small ones escape. Heck, University of New Hampshire researchers have found that lobsters like the traps so much, trapped big ones keep out the small ones.
Lobsters are most decidedly food, not friends. If a person-sized lobster ever found me scuttling along the ocean bottom, it would eat me in a second.
[Major shout out to the Lunch Bunch List, who pretty much supplied all these links]