Restaurant tries marijuana for lobsters to take the edge off being boiled | US news

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For decades, seafood lovers have struggled with a confounding ethical dilemma: how do you balance out the delight of a lobster dinner with the discomfort of boiling one alive, generally regarded as the proper way to prepare the crustacean delicacy?

That conflict has been compounded in recent years with the surge in relatively ethical means of farming. One enterprising restaurateur in Maine has come up with what seems like a reasonable solution. Why not get the lobsters baked?

No, not baked in the oven, but rather stoned out of their minds. Sedating lobsters by blowing marijuana smoke on to them sounds like the type of idea you might come up with while smoking a bit of grass yourself, but Charlotte Gill, owner of Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound in Southwest Harbor, is convinced it can help to ease the pain lobsters might feel while being boiled alive.

An animal rights supporter who has owned the restaurant for seven years, Gill told the Mount Desert Island publication that she’s long struggled with the ethical implications of her line of work. After conducting an experiment in which she “hot-boxed” a particularly aggressive lobster named Roscoe, she came away convinced the high significantly mellowed him out.

“The animal is already going to be killed,” she said in the interview. “It is far more humane to make it a kinder passage.”

Before and after: live and cooked lobsters.

Before and after: live and cooked lobsters. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

The question of whether or not lobsters or other related species feel pain the way we think of it has intrigued researchers and plain old home kitchen chefs for some time.

As David Foster Wallace wrote in his memorable essay Consider the Lobster, the question is central to the way we think about eating.

“Is it all right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure?” he asked.

Earlier this year a law was passed in Switzerland prohibiting the boiling alive of lobsters.

Dr Robert Elwood, a professor emeritus of animal behavior at Queen’s University Belfast, is one scientist who’s been conducting experiments to that effect for much of his career. Lobsters do move away from pain stimuli, like heat, but it’s unclear if that is merely a reflex; crustaceans’ nervous systems are very different from those of humans.

“We can’t prove pain in any animal species. You can only do studies and if they’re consistent with the idea of pain, you begin to think perhaps we should give them the benefit of the doubt,” Elwood said.

Gill, who holds a medical marijuana caregiver license with the state, is convinced nonetheless that it’s a precaution worth taking. She plans to prepare all of her lobsters with a bit of smoke, but says customers can opt out of it if they prefer things done the old-fashioned way.

A happier animal makes for a better tasting dish, she believes.

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

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