Britain has such high standards of animal welfare in general, so it’s perhaps surprising that when it comes to seafood the rules are so different. Now more than 50 high-profile campaigners including Chris Packham and RSPCA representatives have signed a letter to stop lobsters and crabs being cooked alive.
The letter is being send to Environment Secretary Michael Gove to change the categorisation of crustaceans such as crabs, lobsters, prawns and crayfish to ‘sentient organisms’ in a new Animal Welfare Bill. They highlight mounting scientific evidence that suggests that the animals can feel pain.
At the moment their classification means there is, according to the letter: ‘no legal requirement for food processors, supermarkets or restaurants to consider their welfare during storage, handling or killing.’
There has been lots of research conducted on decapods (the group that includes lobsters and crabs) since Parliament passed the Animal Welfare Act in 2006, and campaigners feel it’s time for an update.
The letter adds: "In the UK, decapods fall outside of the legal definition of 'animal' in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and so there is currently no legal requirement for food processors, supermarkets or restaurants to consider their welfare during storage, handling or killing."
Currently crabs or lobsters are cooked or frozen quickly after catching, because their meat doesn’t keep well. The letter has been organised by campaign group Crustacean Compassion, who argue more humane killing methods could be used, or at least stunning the animals into unconsciousness.
The campaign group say decapods fit 14 measures for experiencing pain, and not enough studies had been done on the further two. A study from 2010 found that an edible crab boiled alive could remain conscious for three minutes.
Almost 24,000 have signed a petition to back the campaign. Switzerland have already banned the live boiling of lobsters and crabs, and we think it’s high time for our nation of animal-lovers to do the same.