When Christine Loughead saw a lonely lobster sitting in a tank at the grocery store in her Northern Ontario town, she knew she had to save it. What she didn't know yet was that it would take hundreds of dollars, a few thousand kilometres, and an online community of vegans to get it done.
"We're standing in the meat section, which is kind of depressing as vegans to be standing around all these dead bodies of animals," Loughead told BuzzFeed Canada.
"And I look over at the tank and there's one lobster sitting there and I realized he was sitting there waiting for his death to come."
Loughead ended up buying that lobster for $20 and bringing it back to her home in Red Lake, Ontario, where her boyfiend prepared a salt water tank. They dubbed him Lobby Joe.
"Then we said, 'now what?' We had a pet lobster, but I wanted him to go home." That's when they started trying to figure out how to get Joe back to the Atlantic Ocean.
It turned out the nearest place that would ship live animals was a UPS in Winnipeg — six hours away. But they weren't going to let that stop them.
They packed Joe up in a styrofoam container with ice packs and newspaper and hit the road.
The folks at UPS helped Joe get ready for his flight to Halifax. Loughead and her boyfriend ended up spending $225 on shipping on top of $160 in gas for the drive.
When Joe arrived, 72-year-old Beth Kent was there to meet him. Loughead connected with her on a Facebook group for Halifax vegans and vegetarians. Kent made the hour-long drive from her home in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, to pick him up.
"I had a ball with it," Kent, a decades-long vegetarian who went vegan a few years ago, told BuzzFeed Canada.
"God bless [Loughead] for going to that extreme."
Kent was worried Joe wouldn't survive the flight. But when she pried the box open, the little guy was still kicking.
Kent had spent some time scoping out locations — she wanted somewhere rocky and away from fishing boats. "We found this great spot, in a little cove in the ocean," she said.
When Joe was finally set down in the Atlantic, he floated for a few minutes. Then his little legs started moving and he sunk to the bottom before scooting into the seaweed.. Kent then sent word of Joe's safe release to Loughead.
"I totally cried knowing that he had made it," said Loughead. And although some have criticized her for purchasing Joe and potentially adding to the demand for lobster meat, she said it was worth it if it inspires people to stop and think about what they eat. And Kent agrees.