Two 20-something female volunteers stood topless, wilted and all red, their eyes closed, their arms and rubber lobster claw gloves hanging over the sides of a fake lobster pot — like cooked lobsters who had just been boiled to death.
The front of the cloth pot, which had fake flames around the bottom, read, “Put yourself in their place.”
Twenty-year-old Bangor native Bianca Giron and Mary Ann Persad, 25, of Brooklyn, New York, were volunteers through the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) organization to oppose the boiling alive of millions of crustaceans every year. They had positioned themselves on the corner of Main and Park streets, near the entrance of the 70th annual Rockland Lobster Festival, which runs from Aug. 2 through Aug. 6.
Giron and Persad were topless, save for small pieces of red tape that covered their nipples.
Some people who walked past spectacle at the corner of Main Street and Park Drive gawked and took pictures. One man whistled loudly. Someone gasped, “they’re naked!” At one point, two women with polystyrene containers bulging with cooked lobsters red like Giron and Persad walked by in a hurry.
Topless women painted red like lobsters turn heads and get people to notice them, PETA campaigner Katerina Davidovich, 27, said Wednesday. Last year, one PETA protester lay topless on a giant dinner plate, positioned on the same corner as this year’s protest.
“It’s pretty exciting to have two naked body-painted lobsters in a town like this,” she said. “I think people are kind of excited to see something so eye-catching.”
Some claim it’s not feminist, but Davidovich disagrees. “Telling people what they can’t do with their bodies isn’t very feminist. These people chose to be here,” she said of Giron and Persad.
Technically, Davidovich said, they’re not even required to cover their nipples — only public displays of genitals in Maine are illegal. But, “I want my activists to be as comfortable as possible,” she said, so there was no pressure to display their nipples, too.
Giron, who has participated in partially nude protests with PETA before, said for her, “it’s really freeing.”
“I feel like a lot of people don’t usually even notice,” she said of her exposed breasts. “They think I’m wearing a shirt or something.”
This way, it “catches people’s attention, as opposed to if we were here just holding signs,” Giron said.
“Bianca, can I have you move your claw a little bit?” Davidovich, who was handing out glossy pieces of paper to spectators that read, “Sea life not seafood.” Giron’s claw had slightly obscured some of the lettering on the pot.
A woman who lives in Maine half the year asked Davidovich why she should stop eating lobsters.
“Lobsters are very misunderstood creatures,” Davidovich told her. “They have a long childhood and awkward adolescence. They are sensitive, intelligent animals.”
Because the bottom-dwelling crustaceans don’t have a central nervous system, Davidovich said, “they feel every moment of their slow and painful deaths.”
“Most people would never dream of boiling a cat or a dog to death,” she told another inquiring person. “Lobsters really are individuals who have a will to live.”
At last year’s Lobster Festival, 19,000 pounds of lobster was served to festival goers. This year being the 70th anniversary of the event, it’s likely even more lobsters will be eaten this year.
Rockland resident Paul Collins said he thinks there are far greater threats than boiling live lobsters, like the overall decline of the fishing industry.
But, he said, with the “nudity factor” included, “I think it’s a cool outfit.”