Lobster trap

Whole Foods in June announced it would stop selling live lobsters and crabs because of what some say is the unethical way they are typically...

Whole Foods in June announced it would stop selling live lobsters and crabs because of what some say is the unethical way they are typically stored live in tanks, crowded together, and the way they are typically killed – boiled alive.

But now the company says it’s making an exception in Maine, which has more than 7,000 commercial “lobster harvesters” (lobstermen to you and me) and accounts for close to half of the more than $300 million in annual US lobster exports, according to the Maine Lobster Promotion Council.

Whole Foods says the new supplier to its Maine stores (a New Hampshire company, which doesn’t sit well with the Council), will keep the lobster in individual compartments for a less stressful life, and use a zapper to kill them instead of boiling them. Is a zapper really any better than boiling? Do lobsters have feelings?

Expect these questions and more as Whole Foods continues to try to navigate a tricky PR situation involving, among others, national animal rights groups and local customers to whom the lobster is not just a tasty entrée but an age-old livelihood.

[ED NOTE: Re: the question of lobster feelings, if you have a month, I suggest this David Foster Wallace essay from the August 2004 issue of Gourmet].

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