Whole Foods, the upscale supermarket chain, has announced it will stop selling live lobsters and soft-shell crabs.
Customers craving fresh crustaceans will have to look beyond Whole Foods Market Inc. after the natural-foods grocery chain decided Thursday to stop selling live lobsters and crabs on the grounds that it's inhumane.

The Austin-based grocer spent seven months studying the sale of live lobsters from ship to supermarket aisle, trying to determine whether the creatures suffer along the way.

In some stores, they experimented with "lobster condos," filling tanks with stacks of large pipes the critters can crawl inside. And they moved the tanks behind seafood counters and away from children's tapping fingers.

Ultimately, Whole Foods management decided to immediately stop selling live lobsters and soft-shell crabs, saying they could not ensure the creatures are treated with respect and compassion.

"We place as much emphasis on the importance of humane treatment and quality of life for all animals as we do on the expectations for quality and flavor," John Mackey, Whole Foods' co-founder and chief executive, said in a statement.

Animal rights activities were thrilled with the decision, not just because of the way lobsters are harvested, shipped and stored but because of the fate that awaits many of them — being dropped alive into a pot of boiling water.
Although I am no longer a vegetarian, I have serious ethical discomfort with the way the animals I eat are turned into food. Allan (who has never been a vegetarian, and never will be) and I have both stopped eating certain foods because of the extreme cruelty involved in the processing. Veal and lobsters are two such animals. I'll add that I adore lobster; it's one of my very favourite foods. However, I've eaten quite a bit of it in my life and I'm sure I will live quite nicely without ever eating another.

I applaud Whole Foods's decision to "consider the lobster".


allan said...

If anyone is curious about what lobsters go through when they are killed -- and wants to read one writer's thought process about it -- click here for a PDF of David Foster Wallace's essay "Consider The Lobster" which was published in Gourmnet magazine in August 2004.

The maagzine editors were undoubtedly shocked at what he turned in -- and more than a few readers were not pleased.

From that link:

For Wallace, the Maine Lobster Festival inspires an unflinching inquiry into the ethics of boiling an animal alive. His article highlights two specific coping mechanisms that people adopt when confronted with the reality of animal suffering—avoidance and denial. Wallace admits that his "own main way of dealing with this conflict has been to avoid thinking about the whole unpleasant thing." However, upon arrival at the Maine Lobster Festival, he found that "there is no honest way to avoid certain moral questions."

Wallace's article explores the excruciating pain that lobsters feel when they are boiled alive, taking both scientific evidence and his own observations into account. He expands his analysis to consider the question of eating meat in general, as well as the deeper question of how humans relate to other animals.

It's really a brilliant piece of writing, as is most of what Wallace does. I know Laura put off reading this essay for awhile. Maybe she'll check it out now.

laura k said...

I will - eventually. For now, I've given up eating them, and that will have to do.

And btw, thanks to Redsock for the Whole Foods news item. We'd both be more true to our own ethics if we gave up animal flesh entirely... but we choose to live with a little cognitive dissoance instead.

Wrye said...

I suppose frozen Lobstaers or Crabs would be OK-unless they're cooked first, I guess. Drat.