At PETA, we’re always speaking up for animals used for food, whose voices are ignored by those who profit from their deaths. While our work is far from over, we’ve seen major strides in the public’s understanding of land-based animals and their interests as well as calls for their welfare, rights, and liberation. In the case of aquatic animals used for food, though, the picture is grimmer: Crabs and lobsters are regularly boiled alive, fish are suffocated, and others’ bodies are gutted while they choke—they all suffer agonizingly in the moments before their deaths.
In light of this treatment of crabs and other sea life, who have emotions, feel pain, and have memories, we started a nationwide campaign in 2018 to encourage diners to leave them off dinner plates entirely and let them live in peace. Our provocative message has gotten a lot of attention in Baltimore, which is known for its crab industry, so we’ve kept the public conversation going there ever since. Check out the messages we’ve sent and some actions we’ve taken in defense of crabs and other aquatic animals killed for their flesh in Maryland.
I’m ME, Not MEAT
In August 2018, we loudly and proudly put our message on a giant billboard near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The ad was close to several seafood restaurants—including Jimmy’s Famous Seafood, Phillips Seafood, Mo’s Fisherman’s Wharf, McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood & Steaks, The Oceanaire Seafood Room, and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.—and was up for the Baltimore Seafood Festival.
This billboard encouraged viewers to see the individual animals behind the piles of corpses found at “crab feasts,” nets full of fish and other targets (along with “bycatch”), and lobsters killed after being stuck in cramped tanks—and to recognize that each had their own interests, preferences, and unique lives. Workers are paid to kill billions of aquatic individuals every year—a scale of suffering that’s almost incomprehensible. When this billboard stirred up a lot of conversation among individuals and restaurateurs alike, we knew we had to keep going.
Why So Crabby?
Because Baltimore’s seafood industry took our first billboard so personally, we snapped into action and pitched our next billboard in September 2018. It featured a picture of a crab and read, “Why So Crabby? Letting Others Live Might Just Save Your Life!”
This piece references the mercury, PCBs, and other toxins routinely found in the flesh of dead fish, which make their way into the human body when eaten. Despite the health claims made by corporate fishmongers, a healthy vegan diet incorporates all the omega fatty acids found in fish flesh and none of the bad stuff!
Like a Phoenix From the Ashes
After public life got back into swing following the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to resurrect our actions in defense of aquatic animals. PETA rolled up to the Maryland Seafood Festival in September 2022 with a mobile billboard playing a stunning public service announcement featuring Joaquin Phoenix—in the short, he “drowns” on camera to show the agony fish endure when they suffocate to death.
Fish feel pain as acutely as mammals do, have long-term memories, and even sing underwater. Choosing vegan seafood helps prevent fish from being gutted on the decks of fishing boats, live lobsters from being dropped into boiling water, and crabs and octopuses from being cut up while still conscious.
I Never Lent You My Flesh!
In February 2023, just ahead of Lent, we made our latest move. We placed this striking billboard about a block from Jimmy’s Famous Seafood, encouraging viewers to abstain from fish and all other animal-derived foods. Lent is a period of fasting during which many Christians give up all meat—except fish flesh. This distinction is perplexing at best and is based on ancient understandings of animals. PETA asks that Christians practice a more compassionate fast by leaving fish as well as other animals—who can all experience pain, fear, joy, and suffering, just as we do—off their plates for the fast and beyond.
Pope Francis has publicly encouraged people to treat animals as kindred beings. In his encyclical on caring for creation, he wrote, “[W]e must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.”
We’re Not Crabby—We’re Kind
In our latest defense of Baltimore’s local crabs, we’re airing a 30-second ad featuring PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. The ad, playing on local networks, encourages viewers to look at crabs with fresh eyes and teaches people that the crustaceans are intelligent beings who feel pain and fear, just like a dog or cat.
In nature, crabs care attentively for their young, keep their homes clean, and defend neighboring crabs’ burrows against intruders. Captured crabs feel agonizing pain when their legs are damaged or torn off by workers quickly ripping them from fishing nets. Some mutilated crabs—who need their claws to feed and defend themselves—are tossed back into the ocean, where they suffer and die.
The great news is that you can get great “crab” in Baltimore, without hurting anyone! Restaurants known for delicious vegan crab cuisine include Refocused, Dodah’s Kitchen, Liora, and Harmony Bakery.
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If you don’t want to miss the next action we take to prevent marine animals from being killed for their flesh, follow PETA on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. You’ll also see inspiring celebrity appearances, learn how you can protect animals, and much more!