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It’s a long simmering debate and people on both sides of it can get pretty steamed up about it.
But at this time of year, in Maine, we like things that steam and simmer. The question? Do lobsters feel pain when they are steamed in a pot as they are here in Maine, especially each summer at Rockland’s famous Maine Lobster Festival.
Millions of lobster lovers– like me – say “NoThey don’t! Cook‘um up and pass the melted butter, please.’”
Busybodies who don’t want you to enjoy steamed lobster dinner say, “Let them live!”
Judging by the number of people who flock to Maine each summer to enjoy Maine lobster, the anecdotal evidence has been clear for a long time. Just check out the crowds at the annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland where the good people of of that shire town gather at the public landing to have a wonderful time steaming about fifty thousand pounds of live lobsters for tens of thousands of hungry people.
But years ago a Virginia-based group called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA, arrived in Rockland to protest the festival and, as such groups are wont to do, try to make everyone feel guilty. For several years PETA members walk around Rockland’s downtown protesting the steaming ing and eating of lobsters. To show people that there was “another way” they passed out brochures with recipes for yummy items like “Seaweed Supreme” and “Dulce Delight.” I’m serious.
Some PETA people even marched up and down Main Street in bright red lobster costumes handing out informational brochures. It’s not hard to judge how effective the protest was. Happy, hungry customers standing in line for lobster dinners mostly just waved at the demonstrators thinking they were from Maine’s Lobster Promotion Council. After all, everyone knows that red is the color of a cooked lobster!
But at long last, a fancy scientific study funded by the Norwegian government has finally concluded that the old saying —“No brain, no pain”— is true. Lobsters have brains the size of a grain of sand- and those are the smart ones. Therefore they don’t have the necessary equipment to feel something as complex as pain. A lobster might feel uncomfortable, like people on a hot, crowded bus, but not pain.
The long simmering argument is over. Those of us in the ‘No’ group were right all along.
Not only did the Norwegian study say lobsters feel nothing when boiled alive, but neither do crabs.
But, John, what about live worms put on a hook for bait? They must feel pain, you say. Again, the answer is “no,” according to this Norwegian study.
Professor Wenche Farstad, who chaired the panel that drew up the report, said the common earthworm or the ordinary night crawler have very simple nervous systems (like some numb people I know).
Farstad said the common worm can be cut in two and continue on with its business. I have no proof but I’d imagine they’d get twice as much done to boot.
Norway undertook this study of pain, discomfort and stress in the world of invertebrates to help develop a planned revision of its animal protection laws. Invertebrates cover a range of creatures from insects and spiders to lobsters, crabs and mollusks.
Those killjoys at PETA are trying to deny science however. According to the Associated Press, PETA responded to the study by saying: "This is exactly like the tobacco industry claiming that smoking doesn't cause cancer." Ummm, sure it is.
I can only imagine what PETA would say about people who eat smoked mussels?

John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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