People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals exaggerated its role in the Portland Sea Dogs’ decision to stop selling Linda Bean lobster rolls, according to officials from the team and the food company.

PETA issued a statement Monday that suggested the baseball team’s decision to switch lobster suppliers at Hadlock Field was linked to the organization’s persuasiveness in pushing its allegations that Bean’s lobster company uses “crude and cruel” methods at its Rockland processing plant. But the Sea Dogs said Tuesday that their decision was based on “business reasons, not in response to pressure from PETA.”

David Byer, the PETA spokesman who put out Monday’s statement, said the team never told PETA that it was switching suppliers because of the group’s concerns, but he “put two and two together” in suggesting that PETA played a major role in the Sea Dogs’ decision. He said PETA had been in touch with Sea Dogs officials since July, urging the team to stop using lobster supplied by Bean’s company in the rolls sold at its concession stands.

The Sea Dogs told PETA of their decision to drop the lobster brand a few weeks ago, Byer said.

On Monday, PETA said the Sea Dogs had made “a smart, ethical business decision … since consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about animal welfare issues.”

But the Sea Dogs said PETA issued that release without their knowledge and overstated its role in the decision.

“We listened to their concerns and had a couple of conversations based on that,” Sea Dogs General Manager Geoff Iacuessa said Tuesday. But suggesting that was the basis for the decision to seek a new supplier “was a big leap,” he said.

CONTRACTS WITH TEAM NOT LUCRATIVE

A lawyer for the lobster company, Stephen Hayes, said the situation was complicated by two separate contracts it had with the Sea Dogs. One contract dealt with team sponsorship and the other was a vendor contract to supply lobster.

Hayes said the company decided last fall to drop its sponsorship of the Sea Dogs. The sponsorship – which supplied the lobster company with advertising at Hadlock Field and allowed lobster rolls to be sold under the Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine Lobster name – and the vendor contract had not been especially lucrative for the company. Hayes said Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine lobster sold “only a couple of hundred pounds of lobster meat” to the team during the year and only made about $1 a pound on the sales.

The vendor contract to supply lobster meat is typically decided in the early spring, and Iacuessa said the team started searching for a new supplier this year. He said the team’s main concerns are that suppliers provide a good product at a reasonable price and be from Maine.

Hayes disputed PETA’s allegations against the company, saying it follows state and federal law and “common industry practices.” Only PETA has characterized the company as “cruel,” he said.

Hayes said he wasn’t surprised that the group tried to take credit for the Sea Dogs’ decision to switch suppliers.

“It’s not the first time and probably not the last time that PETA will take credit for something they had nothing to do with,” he said.

PETA TO KEEP MONITORING COMPANY

The company will continue to sponsor the Maine Red Claws, which “is a natural” connection, Hayes said. The NBA Development League team plays at the Portland Expo.

He said the lobster company also explored the possibility of a sponsorship with the Boston Red Sox, but “it’s a little rich for our blood.”

Byer said PETA will continue to monitor Bean’s company. Although the group promotes a vegan diet, he said PETA recognizes that people are going to eat lobster and the organization wants to discourage consumers from supporting a company that he said engages in “the worst practices” in the industry.

Linda Bean is a granddaughter of the founder of Maine retailer L.L. Bean and one of the state’s leading figures in the lobster industry. She owns restaurants in Freeport, at the Maine Mall in South Portland and in Port Clyde, and licenses her business name to a restaurant at the Portland International Jetport.


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