Linda Bean has spoken up about the latest allegations by an animal rights group that criticized how her company processes live lobsters, reportedly saying that the group has launched a full-scale attack against the lobster industry.
Her statement is the latest round of an ongoing skirmish between Bean, a granddaughter of legendary retailer L.L. Bean and a major player in Maine’s lobster industry, and PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, over allegedly cruel methods used by Bean’s company to kill lobsters.
On Tuesday, officials from Delaware North Cos., which oversees concessions at Boston’s TD Garden and other ballparks, stadiums and venues, confirmed that the company would no longer purchase lobster from Linda Bean’s Maine Lobster.
PETA issued a press release, saying that the company’s decision was the result of video footage the group shot of lobsters and other crustaceans being processed at Bean’s Rockland processing plant.
But on Thursday, Delaware North officials would not say whether their decision to stop working with Bean was a direct result of the PETA video, or related to it at all.
“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,” said Glenn White, a spokesman for the Buffalo, New York-based company.
On Thursday, the Bangor Daily News reported that Bean said in an email that PETA was launching a “full scale attack” on the lobster industry, and maintained that her plant in Rockland processes lobsters virtually the same way as most other plants in Maine and Canada.
“The lobster industry is too important a pillar in Maine’s economy to allow this to continue. Thousands of Maine jobs are affected in key industries including our fisheries, maritime businesses, wholesale and retail markets, tourism, and Maine’s very active restaurant industry. Maine would not be the same if it lost this vital industry that supports and sustains so many jobs and families” she said in her email.
PETA officials said Thursday that they were just trying to get Bean to change the way her company processes lobsters.
“We’re not focused on the whole lobster industry,” said David Byer, senior corporate liaison for PETA. “We’re focused on Linda Bean because she’s using these extremely cruel, worst practices when more humane practices are available. We’re focused on a very specific practice that can be remedied here.”
He said PETA wants Bean to switch to Hydrostatic Pressure Processing, a method of processing that more quickly kills a lobster, or to otherwise make the process more humane.
“We’re just asking Linda Bean to reduce the suffering that we documented,” Byer added. “We want her to switch to a means of slaughtering lobsters and crabs that rapidly stuns and kills them. Technologies are expanding throughout Maine, North America and Europe. We’re focused on Linda Bean falling behind while others are finding alternatives. And we’re asking that she follow suit.”
He also stressed that PETA approached Bean about the issue before going public.
“We do have a history of working with different industries to eliminate worst practices,” he said. “She needs to drop this gruesome practice.”
Bean did not respond to calls and emails requesting comment, nor did her attorney, Stephen Hayes.
PETA’s 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 had asked the Knox County District Attorney’s Office to charge Linda Bean’s Maine Lobster with animal cruelty, but Distract Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau declined.
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 told the Press Herald at the time.
“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 Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative issued a statement saying that experts in science, regulation and law have concluded that Maine’s lobster processors do not violate Maine’s animal-welfare statute.
“Through strict adherence to the laws and regulations, Maine’s lobster processors consistently demonstrate a commitment to quality practices” the statement said, adding that Maine Lobster is one of only 10 percent of the fisheries in the world to be certified by the Marine Stewardship Council for sustainability.
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.
In addition to the processing facility, Bean owns restaurants in Freeport, South Portland and Port Clyde.
The turmoil comes as industry officials are engaged in a major effort to promote the Maine lobster brand to chefs and consumers around the globe.
Some lobster industry players said that the negative publicity is never good, especially at a time when they are engaged in such a large marketing effort.
“When something like this happens, the negative publicity isn’t a good thing for anyone in the industry, but I hope it doesn’t have a huge impact,” said Frank Gotwals, a Stonington-based lobsterman who is chairman of the board of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, an 11-member board made up of lobstermen, lobster dealers, members of the public and state agency representatives.
“But as we’re going forward with our marketing, it’s something we need to be aware of in terms of the image of the brand.”
Emily Lane, vice president of sales of the Calendar Islands Maine Lobster, said she’s hoping to focus on the positive.
“Let’s talk about the positive attributes of Maine lobster, the traceability and the conservation efforts by our lobstermen, who have protected the species for more than 100 years,” said Lane, who is also a member of the collaborative.
Staff Writer Eric Russell contributed to this report.
Staff Writer Jennifer Van Allen can be contacted at 791-6313 or at: