Jimmy's Famous Seafood escalates billboard battle with PETA over crabs

The battle over Baltimore’s beloved steamed crabs boiled over this weekend as a second billboard adorned the city skyline in the back-and-forth between an animal rights group and a seasoned seafood restaurant.

Jimmy’s Famous Seafood hit back at PETA by taking out a billboard promoting steamed crabs in a way that parodied the message the animal rights group posted on a different billboard in Baltimore last month.

The restaurant’s billboard reads: “SteaMEd crabs. Here to stay. Get Famous.” The Twitter account for Jimmy’s posted the photo of the billboard, located to greet motorists entering Baltimore along I-295, with a short phrase: “Our Yard. #SteamThemAll.”

Last month, PETA’s message emphasized the word “me” on a billboard located above the corner of East Baltimore Street near the Shot Tower. It reads: “I’m ME, Not MEAT. See the individual. Go Vegan.”

A PETA representative said the Norfolk, Va.-based organization wanted to call attention to the way crabs are caught and cooked — especially in the weeks before the Sept. 15 Baltimore Seafood Festival that features Jimmy’s Famous Seafood as a participating restaurant.

“Our ad, it reminds people that crabs are not inanimate objects. They’re living, feeling individuals,” PETA spokesperson Amber Canavan told The Baltimore Sun last month.

Tracy Reiman, PETA executive vice president, was more graphic in her explanation: “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.”

Jimmy’s Famous Seafood, which describes itself on Twitter as “Maryland’s authority on crab cakes & steamed crabs,” was one of the first to speak up once the PETA billboard started to attract attention.

“I thought it was fake, honestly,” said Tony Minadakis, owner of the 44-year-old restaurant that ships crab cakes all across the country. “I was shocked. It was pretty tone-deaf.”

His restaurant’s Twitter account on Aug. 24 posted a photo of a pile of steamed crabs with a message that read: “Good morning, @peta!” The tweet was punctuated by an emoji of a red crab.

And at the start of the Labor Day weekend Friday, the Twitter account took another shot at PETA while subtly ribbing fellow seafood restaurants for not taking Jimmy’s side in the fight.

“As the crab industry continues to come under attack by the hypocrites at PETA, be sure to support your local crab house this Labor Day Weekend! We wish our fellow businesses luck,” the Aug. 31 tweet states. “You didn’t have the [peanut emoji] to push back & stand up for yourselves, but we wish you luck nonetheless.”

ddonovan@baltsun.com

twitter.com/dougdonovan

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