Maine DOT says no to roadside memorial for lobsters

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State officials are throwing cold water on the idea of putting up a 5-foot tall granite tombstone at the site of a lobster truck crash in Brunswick – but animal rights activists behind the idea say they aren’t giving up.

People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals, known for attention-getting publicity stunts, wanted to put the tombstone on the side of Route 1 near Cook’s Corner, but Maine Department of Transportation officials rejected the idea within 24 hours citing safety concerns.

PETA officials responded Thursday by asking the department for the closest possible location – because they plan to put up that tombstone. It’s not the first time the group has created roadside memorials for animals killed in transportation crashes, a spokeswoman said.

“We have placed a number of billboards proclaiming “I’m Me, Not Meat” showing chickens, pigs, cows, and other animals near the sites of other transport crashes. Since Maine does not allow billboards, we proposed a tombstone instead to remind drivers that they can help prevent more accidents like this, and spare lobsters and other sensitive, intelligent animals from abuse and a violent, painful death by eating vegan,” Audrey Shircliff said in an email.

“After being informed this morning that our request has been denied by MDOT because that specific portion of the highway prohibits any signage due to safety reasons, we’ve asked MDOT to give us the nearest permissible location for the memorial, which we still plan to place.”

DOT chief counsel Jim Billings sent a letter to PETA Thursday saying that no signs are allowed along Route 1 in Brunswick.

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“(These types of roadways) have a very high volume of car and truck traffic as well as a high speed limit that could create a potential hazard to motorists should development and signs be allowed in these sections,” he wrote. 

PETA said the would-be memorial would have had a large image of a lobster and the words: “In memory of the lobsters who suffered and died at this spot August 2018, Try Vegan, PETA.”

PETA has tried for years to get similar granite memorials placed near the site of other road accidents involving animals, according to local news coverage. Among them was a 2012 request in Irvine, California, for a sign reading “In memory of hundreds of fish who suffered and died at this spot,” a 2014 request for a 10-foot high granite marker in Sioux City, Iowa, for the “hundreds of terrified turkeys” killed in a crash, and a 2016 request for a 5-foot granite marker honoring a truckload of hogs killed in a crash near Blair, Nebraska, as they were headed for slaughter.

Nebraska officials said they could put the marker on private property nearby, but PETA dropped the matter, according to local news accounts.

Shircliff said Thursday that the group has never been successful in placing a granite tombstone near a crash site.

PETA is known for its efforts to raise awareness of its mission, sometimes in provocative ways. On its website, it explains why it employs “controversial tactics,” which has included using nudity in anti-fur campaigns or showing obese people on “save the whale” billboards. 

The group also targeted Maine lobsters earlier this summer, buying a month’s worth of ads posted at the Portland International Jetport in August featuring a lobster holding a sign proclaiming, “I’m ME, Not Meat. See the individual. Go Vegan.” A similar campaign starring a crab ran in Maryland, home to signature blue crab dishes.

This image is from the PETA website and is included in a news release in which the organization says it has asked state officials permission to erect a 5-foot tombstone memorial near the site of a crash in Brunswick on Aug. 22 in which a load of lobsters was dumped on the road. (Image from PETA.org)

A box truck carrying live lobster rolled over Aug. 22 along Route 1 in the Cook’s Corner area of Brunswick. (Brunswick Police Department photo)

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