Following an appeal from animal rights organization PETA, The Save Mart Cos. has agreed to eliminate live lobsters from its fresh seafood offerings across all of its store banners, which include Save Mart, S-Mart, Luck, Lucky California, FoodMaxx and MaxxValue.
The Modesto, Calif.-based family-owned grocer joins Safeway, Whole Foods Market and Raley’s Supermarkets in ending live lobster programs due to declining consumer interest and customer complaints that the practice is inhumane.
“We’ve seen declining sales of live lobster over the past several years in our stores,” Victoria Castro, public affairs manager for The Save Mart Cos., told WGB. “In fact, out of our 208 stores, only 29 live lobster tanks remained in-stores when PETA asked us to reconsider our approach. The fact of the matter is, our stores aren’t the primary source of live lobster for shoppers. It made business sense to remove the tanks now.”
Live lobsters in any retail food establishment are typically stored in cramped, barren tanks—often vulnerable to torment by children tapping the glass or dunking their hands in the water—and are killed by being cut up or boiled alive, the latter of which can take several minutes for them to die.
Studies show that lobsters have complex emotions, and the European Union has classified them as Category I animals, indicating that there is “no scientific doubt” that they feel pain, according to PETA. Norway, New Zealand and Switzerland are among several European countries that have recently banned the sale of live lobsters on the basis that it is inhumane.
PETA is cheering Save Mart's decision and is calling on other grocery stores to follow suit, noting that the retailer "did the right thing in pledging to toss out its lobster tanks and spare these sensitive sea animals the agony of being boiled alive for dinner,” Anne Brainard, director of corporate affairs for PETA, said in a statement.
On a related note, some foodservice operators are taking an unconventional approach toward treating lobsters more humanely. Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound in Southwest Harbor, Maine, for instance, exposes its lobsters to marijuana smoke to relax them before being boiled alive, according to multiple recent reports. Restaurant owner Charlotte Gill said research suggests lobsters have cannabinoid receptors that make them feel the effects of the drug, according to Bangor Daily News, and may even make the meat taste better because the lobster is not under stress leading up to its death.