ROCKLAND, Maine — Knox County’s top prosecutor said he will not pursue animal cruelty charges in connection with the processing of lobsters at Linda Bean’s plant in Rockland.
District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau issued a statement Monday afternoon in response to a complaint filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA asked that Bean be investigated for possible criminal charges of cruelty to animals for the way her facility processes lobsters.
Rushlau said his research shows that the state’s animal cruelty laws never were intended to cover invertebrate species — animals without backbones.
“Because it is far from clear that the Legislature intended to include lobsters and crabs within this definition, and the opposite intention is more likely, I conclude that the conduct you describe in the materials submitted is not prosecutable under Maine’s cruelty to Animals statute,” Rushlau stated in his response to Dan Paden of PETA. “I will not ask the Rockland Police Department to conduct any additional investigation, nor file a complaint based on your investigation.”
PETA issued a statement later Monday expressing appreciation for Rushlau’s thoughtful review of the issue while disagreeing with his decision.
“We firmly believe that the law affords protection to all sentient animals, and we will be following up with him on that point and others and do not consider the matter closed,” the statement said.
PETA filed its paperwork with Rushlau and the Rockland Police Department two weeks ago.
PETA held a news conference two weeks ago to unveil a video that the organization said had been taken by an operative who obtained a full-time job at the plant and wore a camera. PETA claims the methods used at the plant are illegal because they tear sensitive animals apart while they’re alive and fully conscious. PETA also claimed that the treatment of crabs at the plant was cruel.
Bean’s attorney Stephen Hayes said he was pleased with the public release of the prosecutor’s decision.
“Geoffrey Rushlau is a highly competent and experienced prosecutor. I hope PETA accepts his independent review,” Hayes said.
Hayes reiterated that Bean’s processing plant in Rockland meets or exceeds all industry and government regulations and standards. He said the process used at the Rockland plant is nearly identical to those in all Maine and Canadian plants.
The Maine Department of Marine Resources and the Maine Lobstermen’s Association also have criticized PETA’s attack on Bean’s processing plant.
PETA issued a statement shortly after Rushlau issued his announcement.
“PETA appreciates District Attorney Rushlau’s thoughtful review of the evidence that the law covers sentient animals, which would include live, fully conscious lobsters and crabs who are ripped apart at Linda Bean’s factory, but we disagree with his decision not to prosecute because the tortured animals happen to be invertebrates,” according to the statement.
After promising to follow up, the organization stated, “In the meantime, we hope that the Maine lobster workers who decried the cruel practices caught on PETA’s video will demand quicker, less cruel deaths for these animals, such as with electric stunners, at all lobster factories — and that consumers will refuse to buy meat from animals who were made to suffer so egregiously at Linda Bean’s.”