Trevor Corson's (old) Lobster Blog

This is the old Lobster Blog of Trevor Corson, author of the worldwide pop-science bestseller The Secret Life of Lobsters. This blog is no longer active; it serves as an archive of Trevor's posts on lobsters from 2004-2006. Visit Trevor at his new website,

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Name: Trevor Corson
Location: New York, NY, United States

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Trevor's Top-Five Reasons Why the Decision by Whole Foods to Ban Live Lobsters Runs Counter to the Philosophy of Whole Foods

Okay, I'm definitely beating a dead lobster now . . . but my cover story in Boston magazine on Whole Foods' decision to ban live lobster has been getting some press (it's now on newsstands, in the July issue) -- and I want to sum up my additional thoughts since it was published. Here are my top-five reasons why the decision by Whole Foods to ban live lobsters runs counter to the philosophy of Whole Foods:
1. We lose the last living connection we had to animals as food, which reminded us of where our dinner comes from.

2. The lobsters will now die inside a massive, automated crushing machine in an anonymous factory. While probably more humane than boiling them alive, it's not more humane than pithing them in your kitchen prior to cooking, and we lose our personal recognition of them as living creatures whose deaths sustain and enliven us.

3. Whole Foods will now get all its lobsters from one corporatized operation in Canada, which catches lobsters with its own corporatized factory boats. Whole Foods is turning its back on the independent, small-scale, owner-operator lobstermen of Maine, who have a strong tradition of conservation and stewardship, and whose communities constitute one of the last significant fisheries that has yet to be consolidated into an impersonal industrialized system.

4. The Canadian corporate boats catch and keep large broodstock lobsters -- the mother and father lobsters. The lobstermen of Maine return these lobsters to the sea to help repopulate the lobster population, and have fought long and hard to convince other lobster-fishing regions to protect these broodstock lobsters as well. Unless Whole Foods exerts pressure on the Canadian operations to institute broodstock protections, Whole Foods will be party to the gradual decimation of the big lobsters that make the babies that keep the fishery going.

5. The development of a vast new market for processed, packaged lobster meat could, in the long run, exert the same kind of demand-driven pressures on the lobster fishery that have contributed to the destruction, from overfishing, of other marine species.
The conclusion? Whole Foods should be applauded for taking animal welfare seriously, but this decision seems to have been less about ethics than economics. Whole Foods can sell far more processed lobster meat than they could ever sell in the way of live lobsters, and at much less expense.

P.S. Whole Foods could rectify problems 3 & 4 by buying its processed lobster meat from a supplier in Maine, like Shucks Maine Lobster, instead of from Clearwater Seafoods.


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