UPDATE: The result of Defra’s independent review of decapod sentience is due imminently, and the outcome will be crucial for moving towards legislation. Crustacean Compassion are working hard to prepare. The best thing you can do right now is make sure you’re following their social media channels, like and share their posts (Crustacean Compassion Facebook and @crab_welfare Twitter) and are subscribed to their emails (sign up via their website) so that as soon as they release their action you are ready to take part! Keep an eye out as once Defra release their outcome, they’ll need you immediately!
Download and colour these lovely pictures of crustaceans and then scroll down to see how you can protect them in real life 😀
Crustacean Compassion is an award-winning animal welfare organisation dedicated to the humane treatment of decapod crustaceans. They are a group of animal welfare professionals who are shocked by the inhumane treatment of crabs, lobsters, prawns and crayfish, particularly in the food industry, given what is now known about their sentience. They founded the organisation when they heard that crabs were being sold alive fully immobilised in shrinkwrap in UK supermarkets, and that the RSPCA were powerless to act as the animals are not covered by the Animal Welfare Act 2006. It is also legal, and commonplace, in the UK for crustaceans to be boiled or dismembered/cut while still alive.
Inhumane Slaughter Methods
All of the following methods have been described as inhumane by the EU’s Animal Health and Welfare Scientific Panel:
- Live boiling. During this process lobsters and crabs thrash, try to escape, and shed their limbs, known to be a sign of stress. Crustaceans, unlike us and other animals, are not able to go into shock and lose consciousness to protect themselves from extreme pain. A crab can take 3 minutes to die in boiling water.
- Chilling in the freezer/ice slurry before live boiling. There is no evidence to suggest that this induces anaesthesia rather than just paralysis. Roth and Øines find that chilling is often slow and ineffective. Keeping live lobsters on ice has been banned in Switzerland and Italy. (Roth, B. and Øines, S., 2010. Stunning and killing of edible crabs (Cancer pagurus), Animal Welfare, Volume 19, Number 3, August 2010 , pp. 287-294(8). Universities Federation for Animal Welfare)
- Live carving / dismemberment. Whilst some uses of the knife may be more humane than others (see the RSPCA’s guide), it is vital that the correct nerve chains are severed quickly. In particular, lobsters must be severed lengthways all the way down the body. All too often this is not the case, with chefs claiming splitting the head of a chilled lobster kills him instantly. This method is highly likely to cause pain – even if the animals have been previously chilled to a torpor.
Crustacean Compassion engage with legislators and policy makers to strengthen and enforce animal welfare law and policy. They work to persuade and enable companies to sell higher welfare products across their shellfish product ranges. And they seek to educate both the public and policy makers on the science of decapod crustacean sentience and on their humane treatment and care.
Sign Crustacean Compassion’s petition to get crustaceans included in the Animal Welfare Act 2006! This would mean that anyone farming them, storing them or slaughtering them must abide by basic animal welfare rules – providing enough food, decent water quality, protection from pain and suffering, and humane slaughter methods.
Other countries including New Zealand, Austria, Norway and Switzerland include decapod crustaceans in their animal welfare legislation in the food preparation and restaurant trade. Their decisions are based on scientific evidence of the animals’ ability to feel pain and suffer, dating as far back as the 1990s; and they have largely taken a common sense approach to prevent unnecessary suffering where doubt still exists. For example:
- the sale of live creatures to the general public is prohibited
- chefs or other slaughterers must have a certificate of competence and prevent unnecessary suffering
- decapods must be appropriately housed, in good quality water
- they must be cared for in a way which prevents injuries and disease
- their conditions must allow for ‘species-specific behaviour’
Until decapod crustaceans are included under the definition of ‘animal’ in welfare legislation, the UK government is not obliged to draw up guidelines for their humane slaughter. This means that even where restaurants and supermarkets want to do the right thing*, it’s not easy to find guidance.
That’s why Crustacean Compassion points to guidance from RSPCA Australia who recommend electrical stunning/slaughter (using special equipment) as the quickest and most humane method. The Crustastun renders the animals unconscious in half a second, killing them in less than ten. It is available for restaurants and for larger volume shellfish processors.
Maybe you could share this information with your local restaurant or supermarket? Thank you ❤
*the right thing is of course to go fully vegan but in the context of Crustacean Compassion‘s campaign it means ‘to kill quickly and humanely’.