In England, lobsters and other molluscs legally have feelings, meaning that they should be killed more humanely.
According to new legislation, molluscs such as lobsters, crabs, octopuses, and squid will be recognised as sentient animals capable of feeling pain, and therefore, must be treated thus. The changes will be made to the existing Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill.
Previously, the bill only applied to vertebrates. However, revisions to the law would require chefs and fishmongers to kill molluscs promptly and humanely by stunning them rather than plunging them into boiling water.
According to the Evening Standard, encasing a live crab in shrink-wrap or shipping crustaceans by mail will also be prohibited.
The House of Lords is now debating new laws that would allow molluscs additional rights.
According to the British news site The Independent, the restrictions were enacted after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that his administration will consider the feelings and well-being of animals when developing new legislation.
However, the notion that lobsters may be subjected to unnecessary pain while being cooked is not new. Crustaceans, too, are “sentient animals with the potential to suffer,” according to a report published by the Humane Society of the United States in 2008. The crabs do not die immediately after being slaughtered with a knife through the skull, according to the study, because they lack a centralized nervous system.
Animal welfare campaigner Maisie Tomlinson, the director of UK charity Crustacean Compassion, told the British daily newspaper The Times that the best way to gently kill a lobster is to electrically shock it.
“Electrically shocked crabs, lobsters, shrimp, and crayfish should be rendered unconscious within a second,” Tomlinson told The New York Times. “You must next ensure that its nervous system is destroyed in a matter of minutes.”
A few nations, like Switzerland and New Zealand, have made it illegal to boil crabs alive.
Crustaceans have long been thought to have reflexes that do not induce internal suffering, implying that they are not genuinely aware of pain (as noted by Elwood 2019). A reflex is characterised by firing a small number of neurons, resulting in a rapid reaction to stimuli.
The neurotransmitters implicated in pain, on the other hand, are slower and linger behind the reflex response. This lag period is recognizable to anybody who has stubbed their toe and relished the few pain-free seconds before the tsunami of anguish arrives.
The ‘pain’ signal never reaches the brain in certain animals. Thus the reflex reaction is maintained distinct from a pain-induced reaction. The key difference is that, unlike a reflex, pain is felt in the brain rather than in the body.