ROCKLAND – The Knox County District Attorney’s Office has decided not to file animal cruelty charges against a well-known Maine lobster processor.

District Attorney Geoffrey A. Rushlau sent a letter Monday afternoon to officials at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, saying he did a legal analysis and determined the state statute only applies to sentient beings, and does not apply to invertebrates.

Search photos available for purchase: Photo Store →

“It’s not clear at all that this law (adopted in 1973) applies to lobster and crabs,” Rushlau said in a telephone interview.

Earlier this month, PETA presented Rushlau and the Rockland Police Department with a video the organization alleges shows a worker at Linda Bean’s Maine Lobster processing plant in Rockland ripping off a lobster’s claws before driving its body against a sharp stake mounted to a machine.

The lobster twitches after its limbs have been taken off.

“PETA appreciates District Attorney Rushlau’s thoughtful review of the evidence that the law covers sentient animals, which would include live, fully conscious lobsters and crabs that are ripped apart at Linda Bean’s factory, but we disagree with his decision not to prosecute because the tortured animals happened to be invertebrates,” Shakira Croce, a PETA spokeswoman, said in a news release.

Croce said her organization will call on Linda Bean’s to end “the live dismemberment of animals and switch to more humane available slaughter methods.”