Boiling lobsters alive may soon be illegal as report suggests they have feelings

The UK Government-commissioned report recommends against boiling crustaceans alive, as they have been found to have feelings.

The UK may soon ban the boiling of lobsters alive, as a new report commissioned by the government finds that they have feelings. The study was conducted by experts from the London School of Economics and points to crustaceans having the capacity to express pain, distress or harm, just like humans.

Sentient Beings

The report was commissioned following a row over the animal welfare bill, which recognizes all animals with spine as sentient beings. Animal welfare minister, Lord Goldsmith said:

The science is now clear that decapods and cephalopods can feel pain and therefore it is only right they are covered by this vital piece of legislation.

Until now, crustaceans including crabs, lobsters and crayfish, octopuses, squid and cuttlefish were not included in the bill, in spite of them having complex nervous systems - a key determinant of sentience.

The inclusion of invertebrate animals in the bill could protect them from being subjected to painful deaths.

Dr Jonathan Birch, associate professor at LSE’s Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science. He said:

After reviewing over 300 scientific studies, we concluded that cephalopod molluscs and decapod crustaceans should be regarded as sentient, and should therefore be included within the scope of animal welfare law.

What Next?

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will table an amendment to the Bill as it moves through Parliament, to recognize the change.

If approved, the UK will be joining a short list of countries that afford these species protection in animal welfare legislation. They include Norway, New Zealand, Austria and parts of Italy and Germany.

The report has also advised against the sale of live crabs and lobsters to untrained handlers, as well as extreme slaughter methods such as live boiling without stunting.

However, according to Defra, this announcement

...will not affect any existing legislation or industry practices such as fishing. There will be no direct impact on the shellfish catching or restaurant industry. Instead, it is designed to ensure animal welfare is well considered in future decision-making.

If approved by ministers, the bill will allow for the creation of an Animal Sentience Committee, which will publish reports on how well government decisions have taken into account the welfare of sentient animals.

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