By now I am sure that many of you have heard that Whole Foods is no longer going to see live lobsters. Their stated reason is that it’s unethical to keep them out of their environment for an extended length of time.
And yet…something doesn’t sound right about this. To me, this is a decision based off of the worst of information, information that comes from us anthropomorphizing an animal.
Recent information from Norwegian research has shown that Lobsters do not feel pain. Bob Bayer, who heads the Lobster Institute and is a University of Maine professor, has said that “They have no brain, he said. Therefore, they do not feel pain. It’s a judgment based on the anatomy of the nervous system. No brain (means) a lack of processing system”.
As this Norwegian report has been around since a least Feburary of 2005, Whole Foods has most likely been aware of it. So what other motivation could they possibly have in discontinuing lobster sales?
Well, possibly profit margins for one. The sale and upkeep of the lobster tank would eat into the cost of what is arguably a low turnover item. Plus the tanks take up valuable real estate in a grocery store, space that can be used to sell items with larger margins and turn over in sales quicker. The one thing grocery stores are accutely aware of is how much money a foot of space can bring into the store on a daily, quarterly and yearly basis.
Considering the fact that lobsters are still going to be sold in Whole Foods, most likely flash frozen along with hundreds of other packed together brethern. And considering that it will be most likely fish that takes over the space left empty by the departed tanks, fish that are killed by suffocation and in some instances gutted and bled whilst still alive, it’s hard for me to swallow this “ethical treatment of lobsters” argument.