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Mary­lan­ders have crabby re­ac­tion to PETA billboard

CHESAPEAKE

Bubby Powley, 68, tosses over small crabs from his catch on the Honga River off Hoopers Island, Md.

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BY Dana Hedg­peth
The Wash­ing­ton Post

Monday, August 27, 2018

In a state known for its delicacy of crabs, the huge billboards got a crabby reaction.

Animal rights group PETA put up large billboards in parts of Baltimore urging Marylanders not to eat crabs. The state is well-known for its crabs, often served with Old Bay seasoning.

One of the billboards said, “I’m ME, Not MEAT,” alongside a picture of a crab. It goes on to say, “See the Individual. Go Vegan” and has PETA’s name in the lower right corner.

The signs got plenty of reaction on social media.

A man who goes by @iSingForTheKing on Twitter wrote, “Y’all tripping’ ...” Another Twitter user, @LaurenMcIntyre, wrote “Bushel of crabs with Old Bay, some Natty Boh’s! Let’s get to pickin! These people @peta don’t know what they just did!”

Another message on Twitter from @taytwofeathers read, “You going to ask Philly to stop eating Cheesesteaks? ... Give me a break. ...CRABCAKES AND FOOTBALL THAT’S WHAT MARYLAND DOES!!!!”

Crabs are a popular summertime treat in the Washington region.

They are often cooked by putting live crabs in a pot of boiling water and steaming them. They usually are seasoned with Old Bay, which is reddish and slightly spicy. People spend hours at crab feasts picking them. The meat tastes sweet and is sometimes compared to lobster.

Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, which has slightly salty water, is a perfect habitat for blue crabs and generations of families have harvested them. There are regulations on harvesting male crabs, which have to be a certain size and are often called “jimmies,” but there’s no size limit for a mature female, which is called a “sook.”

The scientific name of the blue crabs — Callinectes sapidus Rathbun — translates to “beautiful swimmer that is savory,” according to Maryland’s government website.

Commercially, picking crab meat served or sold to restaurants is a tedious job and many crab houses depend on seasonal foreign workers to do the labor. But this year, many companies along Maryland’s Eastern Shore have not been able to fill jobs that involve picking crabs because of changes by the Trump administration in the visa program.

Instead of giving the popular H-2B visas on a first-come, first-served system, as has been done in the past, the Trump administration said this past winter that it would give out temporary visas for foreign workers through a lottery. That’s left about a third of crab-picking jobs empty along the Eastern Shore.

Worries about the worker shortage could be fueling, in part, the reactions to PETA’s recent no-crab-eating billboard campaign.

Eric Hatcher, who goes by @Hatcher1ET on Twitter, wrote, “I didn’t spend 200,000+ years climbing up the food chain to be a vegetarian! #OldBay #NattyBoh #MarylandCrabs.”

A PETA spokesperson told The Baltimore Sun that the group launched the billboard campaign in that city ahead of the annual Baltimore Seafood Festival, which is in September.

“We want people to look up and hopefully change what’s on their plate that day,” Amber Canavan, a PETA spokesperson, said to The Sun. “Our ad, it reminds people that crabs are not inanimate objects. They’re living, feeling individuals.”

In a statement, Tracy Reiman, PETA’s executive vice president, explained the group’s reasoning. According to The Sun, it said, “PETA’s billboard aims to give Charm City residents some food for thought about sparing sensitive marine animals the agony of being boiled alive or crushed to death in fishing nets simply by going vegan.”

The group has also launched similar campaigns on seafood. It put up billboards in parts of Maine to encourage people to give up eating lobster.

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