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Drugged, then boiled: Lobsters get high for a more ‘humane’ death

IIn this Thursday, July 19, 2018 photo, a cooked lobster is served on a picnic table at McLoon's Lobster Shack in Spruce Head, Maine.
IIn this Thursday, July 19, 2018 photo, a cooked lobster is served on a picnic table at McLoon's Lobster Shack in Spruce Head, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

A Maine eatery is getting lobsters high before cooking them — an attempt to make killing the crustaceans more humane.

The lobster, when cooked, is usually boiled alive, and whether the crustacean feels pain during the process is not fully known. But even the suggestion they might experience pain was enough for the Swiss government to require that chefs stun the lobsters before cooking them.

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“There’s no absolute proof, but you keep running experiments and almost everything I looked at came out consistent with the idea of pain in these animals,” animal behaviour professor Robert Elwood told The New York Times earlier this year.

The decision was based on Elwood’s research, which outlines how crustaceans will guard injured limbs, but other scientists say we don’t know enough about the lobster’s brain to know if it feels pain.

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The lobster is still one of the only animals chefs kill in their kitchens — which raises something of an ethical dilemma, David Foster Wallace pointed out in his 2004 essay Consider the Lobster.

But Maine restaurant owner Charlotte Gill is tackling that ethical dilemma using weed.

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“You get to do such unique things, but at the expense of this little creature. I’ve really been trying to figure out how to make it better,” Gill told the Mount Desert Islander.

“If we’re going to take a life, we have a responsibility to do it as humanely as possible.”

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At Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound, Gill had marijuana smoke blown at the water the lobsters stood in.

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In an initial experiment, Gill — a licensed cannabis caregiver — said a lobster named Roscoe became less aggressive. She kept Roscoe to surveil him for three weeks.

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But does getting high lower their pain? Unclear, Auburn University veterinary pharmacology professor Dawn Booth explained to the Verge.

“Some invertebrates have cannabinoid receptors; some do not,” she said. “And it is not necessarily cannabinoid receptors that are responsible for pain. Other pain receptors are involved and again, it is not clear if lobsters have these receptors.”

Gill plans on serving the sedated lobsters at the restaurant — but that doesn’t mean customers will get high.

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She told the Press Herald that THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, breaks down completely by 392 F.

“Therefore, we will use both steam as well as a heat process that will expose the meat to 420 F extended temperature, in order to ensure there is no possibility of carry over effect,” Gill said.

But she does say it tastes better, because a happier animal makes better meat.

“The difference it makes within the meat itself is unbelievable,” she said. “Everything you put into your body is energy.”

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