A New York-based food service company that oversees concessions at Boston’s TD Garden and Minneapolis’ Target Field, among other places, will no longer purchase lobster from Linda Bean’s Maine Lobster, a well-known processor.
The decision by Delaware North Companies Sportservice of Buffalo, New York, was made after the animal rights group PETA released secret video footage last September of lobsters and other crustaceans being processed at the Rockland facility.
That video, taken undercover by a PETA investigator who worked briefly at Linda Bean’s Maine Lobster, shows, among other things, live lobsters being ripped apart by hand.
PETA – which stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – claimed the processing method shown was cruel and inhumane.
Wendy Watkins, vice president of corporate communications for Delaware North Companies, confirmed Tuesday that the company is no longer doing business with the Maine company but did not address the PETA video.
“Delaware North has a longstanding commitment to sustainable and responsible practices in food purchasing, and we do our best to maintain very high standards with our vendors,” she said in an email.
PETA praised the firm for dropping Linda Bean’s Maine Lobster.
“Smart companies know that consumers object to the unnecessary suffering of animals killed for food, so Bean should be prepared to lose even more customers as word gets out,” PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said in a statement.
Linda Bean is a granddaughter of the legendary Maine retailer L.L. Bean and a major player in the state’s lobster industry. In addition to the processing facility, she owns restaurants in Freeport, South Portland and Port Clyde.
Bean’s attorney, Stephen Hayes, said Tuesday he couldn’t comment on Delaware North Companies’ decision or its effect on business.
When the PETA video was released last year, Hayes defended the company’s processing practices.
“Our practices do not violate Maine’s laws on cruelty to animals because lobsters do not come within the covered definition,” he said in an email.
“Simply put, lobsters are not ‘sentient creatures,’ a position supported by long-standing and oft-repeated scientific and governmental studies.”
Maine’s top fisheries official and others in the industry also defended the Rockland processor.
The research on whether crustaceans feel pain is inconclusive. Some European researchers cited by PETA have found that lobsters exhibit behavior consistent with response to painful stimuli.
PETA said it repeatedly approached Bean’s company before releasing the video to discuss “alternative slaughtering methods,” but was unsuccessful.
The group said humane ways to kill lobsters include stunning them, which kills any nerves and any ability to feel pain.
A less common method is “high-pressure processing,” which kills and cooks lobsters in seconds, but it’s expensive.
PETA had asked the Knox County District Attorney’s Office to charge Linda Bean’s Maine Lobster with animal cruelty, but DA Geoffrey Rushlau declined.
Linda Bean’s Maine Lobster is among more than a dozen processors licensed by the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Collectively, they process 10 million to 12 million pounds of lobster a year, or about 10 percent of the state’s catch.