COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Gary Patry accepted a flier from students from the Coalition for Animal Rights who were protesting the boiling of lobsters. But on the one night each year that the University of Maryland’s Dining Services served up the tasty crustacean, Patry went ahead and bought one anyhow.
“The people [protesting] outside don’t affect me,” said Patry, a first-year M.B.A. student.
Most other students seemed to agree Wednesday evening, walking past the protesters and inside to buy lobster dinners. More than 2,000 were served – and every last of them eaten – for $10.95 apiece.
“It’s a nice change from the usual service,” Patry said.
But members of the coalition, a student group advocating animal rights, were not happy with the seafood feast. A half dozen of them approached students entering the main dining hall and urged them not to eat the lobsters because of how they are prepared.
Lobsters, like crabs and other seafood, are boiled alive. Wednesday night’s lobsters came from Maine and were boiled in the dining hall’s kitchen.
“They have a sophisticated central nervous system, so they feel pain,” said Elizabeth Hobbs, vice president of the coalition.
Coalition President Stephanie Sarkis said the group is concerned about how the lobsters are prepared and that their 145- year-life span is cut short.
“We tell people they are steamed alive, that lobster night here is a lot of hype, and that the dining halls charge a lot of money,” Sarkis said.
Mike Kruczynski, an M.B.A. student, was unfazed. “We’re carnivores,” he said.
“Why protest the killing of lobsters and not the killing of cows?” asked Sennen Quigly, a senior psychology major.
The coalition has made an appearance on campus not only for previous lobster nights but on rare occasions when Dining Services serves veal.
“If we can stop lobster night, that’s good. But they serve hamburgers every day, and we can’t be here every day,” Sarkis said.
Although most of their protests are ignored, Sarkis said some students actually have thrown lobster or veal at the group. “If we can stir up any emotion, our work is done,” she said.
Jeffrey Smith, Dining Services coordinator for campus affairs, said serving lobster simply follows the economic principle of supply and demand.
“We meet the customers’ needs, and the customer wants lobster,” Smith said. “If one day the protests are so successful that no one buys lobster, then we won’t sell it.”
Smith added that selling every lobster is a “clear indication that students want lobster.”
Coalition member Paul Petersan said he disagrees with Dining Services trying to cater to the student market.
“The market a few 100 years ago was to bring slaves here,” Petersan said. “Maybe in 100 years, people will realize that killing animals is wrong.” -30-