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Animal Rights Activists Target Long Beach Restaurant over 'Lobster Zone' Game

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One example of the game when someone loses. See a winning attempt below/

Remember claw cranes? Those ubiquitous arcade devices that give you a chance at a free stuffed animal if you lower the claw in the right spot? The concept was eventually expanded in the 1996 to live animals -- specifically lobsters -- and is now known as the Lobster Zone game. Basically, if you catch one, the restaurant will cook it for you.

Heat from animal rights activists about the game is nothing new and this week it's getting local. A number of groups, including PETA, are asking people take action against The Beach Club in Long Beach with a planned protest on Saturday and a letter-writing campaign.

"Lobsters are intelligent animals capable of experiencing fear and pain," explains protest organizers Orange County People for Animals in an event listing. "In the European Union, lobsters are treated as in the same class as dogs and cats with regard to capacity for suffering. Moreover, lobsters are solitary animals who prefer to burrow under sand and do not enjoy socializing with other lobsters. In the Lobster Zone tank, these animals are denied the ability to burrow, forced to interact with other lobsters in close quarters, and subjected to the constant, threatening menace of a huge claw."

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Not so, says Gregg Schaeberle, the president of The California Lobster Zone. “I respect the opinions of PETA, but they are misinformed when it comes to the environment we are providing for these lobster that are being stored for consumption," h said in a statement to LAist. "The fact is, the game was designed specifically to ensure a healthy and safe environment and we go out of our way to provide regulated maintenance for the owners to insure that the standards set in place by the marine biologists are strictly adhered to and we only use factory trained service personnel to maintain the tanks.”

Schaeberle the water in the tanks are always crystal clear and oxygen infused, unlike some found in commercial kitchens where tanks are not kept clean, allowing for bacteria to gather. He said games will soon include educational signage about crustaceans and the environment in which they are living.

Onwers of The Beach Club are also speaking out about the planned events. "While we strive to accommodate everyone, we fully understand this simply is not possible. Some may not care for sports and some don't like alcohol, but we don't remove the TV's or the alcohol," read a statement released to LAist (it was also posted to their website). "We understand Peta followers don't like the lobster machine, and they are certainly entitled to their opinion, but like others that don't like sports or alcohol, they can simply choose to spend their time elsewhere."

Organizers of Saturday's event are calling for the protest to be peaceful. On Facebook, Concerned Citizens for Crustaceans said they had success with another bar "by asking nicely" in a letter-writing campaign.

For The Beach Club, owners are putting the traditional positive spin on the attention they've been given. "We strongly believe that Saturday's events will provide us free exposure and marketing to people that do not know we are there," their statement read.