Skip to comments.Crustacean cruelty? (pro-lobster activists protest inhumane giveaway)
Posted on 05/13/2004 7:13:42 AM PDT by presidio9
Rose McGarry owns a pet dog and 11 ducks. And she adores filet mignon too much to be a vegetarian.
But when she ate lunch recently at J.J. Boomers on Pawtucket Boulevard, she didn't like what she saw.
Near the bar was an arcade-type game featuring a 50-gallon tank with flashy lighting and sound effects. For $2, a customer can operate a miniature crane much like the popular stuffed-animal amusement seen in restaurants and carnivals.
In this case, though, patrons troll the tank for live Maine lobsters.
It's called Lobster Zone, and if the players are skillful enough to grab one, they'll enjoy a hand-picked make that crane-picked boiled lobster dinner for a bargain-basement $2.
"I feel this is extraordinarily cruel," said McGarry, a Tyngsboro resident who works for Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley in Lawrence.
Distressed, she went home and scoured the Internet for news about Lobster Zone. Most accounts were positive. But she also read some critical accounts. One said the lobsters develop a conditioned response, becoming agitated when they hear the game's ominous theme from the shark movie, Jaws.
"The things go crazy when they hear the music," she said. "They're realizing they are going to meet their doom."
Not everyone agrees, of course.
Boomers owner Jimmy Watson said the lobsters in the tank are better off than their captured cousins that await their final bath of boiling water in a cardboard box stacked in a walk-in refrigerator.
He and Michelle Flannery, his sister and Boomers' manager, said the game has been popular with customers ever since they acquired it last summer.
They declined to identify the distributor, except to say she has been diligent about stocking and maintaining the saltwater tank.
The tank holds about a dozen lobsters.
How often do people win?
"She's filling it up every couple of days," Flannery said.
Published reports say the machines generate up to $2,000 a week. If that's so, it doesn't take long for owners to recoup the cost of a tank, said to be under $10,000.
But of the tank at Boomers, Watson said, "It's probably not paid for yet."
Peter Gollub, director of law enforcement at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said he hadn't heard of Lobster Zone and would need details before determining if the game "deserved a closer look."
However, he said Massachusetts has a law that prohibits the giving away of live animals as prizes or awards.
Gollub also recalled a 1981 Supreme Judicial Court case, Knox v. MSPCA, in which the state's highest court ruled that goldfish are protected under animal-cruelty laws.
"If goldfish are animals, it's not a big leap to say lobsters are animals, too," Gollub said.
Bernie Feeney, president of the Massachusetts Lobstermen's Association, hadn't heard about Lobster Zone but believes it's not cruel.
He said life in the tank is far less disruptive than the lives lobsters lead on the ocean floor.
"They are preyed upon by virtually every fish," Feeney said. "Matter of fact, when we catch cod or bluefish, nine times out of 10 we find lobsters in their belly."
McGarry, the unhappy customer, complained to animal health organizations, which expressed "concern" to her but said there's little they can do.
"It seems like it's demeaning to the lobsters, which I hate," said Stan Cobb, a professor of marine biology and a crustacean expert at the University of Rhode Island.
People for the Ethical Treatment Animals, the radical animal-rights group, has denounced Lobster Zone as cruel.
"Lobsters aren't stuffed animals," said William Rivas-Rivas, spokesman for PETA, whose Web site lauds actress Drew Barrymore for her desire to release all lobsters from holding tanks. "Their pain and fear are real."
A few years ago, PETA jousted verbally with Lobster Zone's inventor, J. R. Fishman of Florida, who touted his game as "something different" and a money-maker.
And a spokesman for his company, Advanced Games & Engineering of Fort Lauderdale, said lobsters, being crustaceans and invertebrates, possess a nervous system so unsophisticated that they "do not process pain."
Feeney, the lobsterman, said the game merely marks a better effort at pleasing the customer.
"I guess it's no different than the butcher who points to a piece of fish or meat and the customer says, 'No, the one to the left.' "
How in the hell can a lobster be demeaned?
Oh, and just to tweek some of you, a lobster is an aquatic cockroach.
I am pro-lobster, with drawn butter. Or on a roll. Or in salad. Or, heck just about anyway you want to cook them.
Sure do taste good to be cock roaches. I'd take a chance to get a lobster dinner for $2.00
I know it's un-pc to say, but I find that hilarious.
"It seems like it's demeaning to the lobsters, which I hate," said Stan Cobb, a professor of marine biology and a crustacean expert at the University of Rhode Island.Well at least they didn't throw panties on the lobster's head. Which gives me a great idea for a new carnival game. I could make millions.
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