PETA rendering of a proposed lobster tombstone the animal rights group seeks to place along Route 1 in Brunswick.

BRUNSWICK

PETA, an animal rights organization, is asking the Maine Department of Transportation for permission to put a 5-foot tombstone along Route 1 in Brunswick where a truck carrying lobster overturned last week “to honor the lobsters who suffered and died at this spot.”

On Aug. 22, Brunswick police reported a refrigerated box truck belonging to Cozy Harbor Seafood, Inc. of Portland went down the embankment along Route 1 and rolled over. The cargo box broke open, dumping approximately 60-70 crates of crustaceans. The driver suffered minor injures and was taken to Mid Coast Hospital.

PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, say they would pay for all costs associated with the memorial, which would be located near the Cook’s Corner exit.

The organization sent out a press release Wednesday with an image of the proposed stone, which would also urge passersby to “Try Vegan.”

MaineDOT spokesman Ted Talbot confirmed Wednesday the department has received the letter from PETA and said it is under review.

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Generally speaking, Talbot said roadside memorials are handled by state statute the same as temporary signs placed within the public right-of-way, which can remain there a maximum of 12 weeks. A temporary sign can’t exceed 4-feet-by-8-feet in size and must be labeled with the name and address of the individual, entity or organization that placed it there.

“Countless sensitive crustaceans experienced an agonizing death when this truck rolled over and their bodies came crashing down onto the highway,” said PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “PETA hopes to pay tribute to these individuals who didn’t want to die with a memorial urging people to help prevent future suffering by keeping lobsters and all other animals off their plates.”

PETA – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat” – argues that lobsters are intelligent individuals who use complex signals to establish social relationships and can take long-distance seasonal journeys, often traveling up to 100 miles in a year.

PETA Director Danielle Katz argued in the letter to MaineDOT that lobsters have sophisticated nervous system, “and because crustaceans don’t enter a state of shock when injured, they feel every moment of their slow, painful death — whether from being torn limb from limb on the road or at the slaughterhouse or when they’re boiled alive in pots.”

The group states that Switzerland has passed a law making it illegal to cook live lobsters in boiling water without stunning them first.

However the Portland Press Herald reports that Bob Bayer, executive director of the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine, has said the research indicates lobsters have nervous systems on par with insects and likely don’t feel pain. Yet he acknowledged scientists have not been able to definitively conclude whether or not lobsters feel pain, a question that will likely remain unresolved.

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The proposed lobster memorial is also part of a push by PETA to encourage people to switch to a vegan diet.

“PETA’s memorial would remind everyone that the best way to prevent such tragedies is to go vegan and thereby reduce the number of animals killed for food,” Katz adds in her letter.

A BOX TRUCK CARRYING LOBSTER rolled over along Route 1 northbound in Brunswick just beyond Cook’s Corner on Aug. 22. The driver suffered minor injuries and was taken to Mid Coast Hospital. BRUNSWICK POLICE DEPARTMENT PHOTO

Amber Canavan from PETA, a vegan campaigner and spokesperson for PETA, said the group continues to urge people to show compassion for the billions of lobster and sea animals killed every year.

“Of course the whole reason we’re trying to place this memorial is to keep people’s thoughts on the issue and hopefully they’ll think it through and do something about it,” Canavan said.

People are impacted by these accidents, she said, regardless of the species involved.

“Especially in this case,” she said. “There were some photos taken by one of the journalists that were very stark of the lobsters strewn apart in the ditch… These are living, feeling animals and we do know that they feel pain.”

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Public opinion is starting to shift, “and hopefully that will help people leave them off their plates,” Canavan said.

There are alternatives, she said.

“Vegan seafood is just booming,” she said. “There’s a couple companies that are producing vegan lobster, a whole bunch producing vegan fish, vegan crab cakes, and one recent Forbes Magazine said it’s ripe for exponential growth. So not only are we encouraging consumers to look into all these delicious vegan seafood options but any savvy business people would be really smart to get in on the ground floor of the vegan seafood market.”

Just as the Maine Lobster Festival was underway at the start of August, the Portland Press Herald reported that PETA put up an ad for the month at the Portland Jetport featuring a lobster holding a sign proclaiming, “I’m ME, Not MEAT. See the Individual. Go Vegan.”

The group has also been critical of Linda Bean’s Maine Lobster Cafe. A PETA investigation allegedly revealed “that live lobsters were impaled, decapitated, even as their legs continued to move.”

The group said the airport signs would be near the café, which sells live lobsters for passengers to take on flights as carry-on luggage.

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In a similar move, PETA put up a billboard in Baltimore, Maryland earlier this month to dissuade people from eating crabs, just before the Baltimore Seafood Festival in September. The Baltimore Sun reported Aug. 23 that the billboard pictures a crab also with the words, “I’m me, not meat. See the Individual. Go Vegan.”

The message could be a hard sell in Maine, where fisherman landed more than a half-billion dollars worth of marine resources in 2017, according to the Maine Department of Marine Resources. The lobster landings in 2017 were the sixth highest on record at 110,819,760 pounds, with an overall value of $433 million — the fourth highest landed value for Maine’s iconic fishery.

Maine in 2015 enacted legislation designating the American lobster (Homarus americanus), also known as the Maine lobster, as the official state crustacean.

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