Lobster Cruelty? Activists and Ale House Square Off in the "Lobster Zone"

You know those coin-operated claw games, where a bunch of stuffed animals are piled up behind a glass window and you try to fish one out with the mechanical claw that you operate with a joystick?

Imagine that, except behind the glass window is a fish tank full of water, and inside the tank are about ten lobsters. Pay $2 to play, and if you catch a lobster with the claw hand, a chef will boil the sucker up for your dinner.

That's what's happening at the Royal Palm Ale House in Royal Palm Beach -- and that's why the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida announced today that it intends to stage a protest on May 22. In a news release, ARFF says that the "lobsters suffer tremendously" when they are poked and prodded by the claw and that "lobsters feel pain -- just as all other animals with sophisticated nervous systems do."

Makers of "The Love Maine Lobster Claw Game" place machines in restaurants and send technicians to feed the lobsters and restock the tank twice a week. The restaurant keeps 25 percent of the proceeds while game manufacturer keeps the other 75 percent. (There's a second company called "The Lobster Zone" that makes similar machines.) .

John Baker, who has owned the Ale House for six years, says he got the machine four or six weeks ago.  "There's no trauma or tormenting," he says, dismissing the animal-rights group's concerns. "The lobsters are in a tank just like they would be at a grocery store." Diners play it "constantly," he says, and "the only complaint was that they weren't able to catch the lobster!"  

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