ROCKLAND, Maine — A woman wearing lobster claws, a bikini bottom, pasties, red body paint and nothing else attracted attention Wednesday afternoon in downtown Rockland during a protest launched by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
The protest action against the annual Maine Lobster Festival event urged festival attendees not to eat the crustacean, which takes top billing during the popular summer festival.
“We’re asking Maine Lobster Fest attendees to consider what they’re eating this weekend — the corpse of an animal that did not want to die,” Katerina Davidovich, a campaigner with PETA, said. “They suffer immensely when they’re boiled to death. They suffer pain and fear, just like us.”
She spoke while PETA intern Mysti Lee, 21, of Chicago lay on a cardboard platter next to a giant plastic sprig of parsley and a bowl of vegan butter. Lee was strategically placed in the pocket park at the corner of Park and Main streets, close to the outside seating for the Brass Compass Cafe, which is known for its lobster dishes. And although the Chicago woman’s efforts drew attention from the crowds of tourists, families, sailors and Marines, she didn’t seem to be deterring anyone from enjoying their lobster.
“I just enjoyed a delicious lobster club sandwich,” Jane Nussbaum of Allentown, Pennsylvania, said. “We look forward to eating our lobster every year on vacations. I have no qualms.”
That response rang true with Chuck Kruger, a member of the board of directors of the Maine Lobster Festival. He said that while he’s not generally in favor of public nudity, the PETA protests do not bother him.
“Overall, we appreciate PETA because they bring attention to our festival,” Kruger said. “We are a celebration of summer and sustainable seafood. We don’t mind them coming and bringing extra attention. That’s fine. I don’t think it’s a terribly effective protest.”
Davidovich said she was pleasantly surprised with the response of bystanders.
“People have been really nice, actually,” she said. “I’m surprised at how friendly everyone has been.”
PETA has protested the festival and lobster eating before. In September 2013, the organization filed a complaint against Linda Bean’s lobster processing plant in Rockland, seeking to have the facility investigated for possible criminal charges of cruelty to animals. Knox County District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau declined to pursue charges against the company.
At the lobster festival on Wednesday, Officer John Bagley of the Rockland Police Department said he had come to the park during the protest just to make sure things stayed peaceful and respectful. The protesters were not doing anything illegal, he said.
“It takes a lot of guts,” Bagley said, gesturing to the nearly naked Lee. “I couldn’t do it.”