“Today is World Animal Free Research Day. This day highlights the importance of developing animal-free research techniques and protecting animals during scientific studies.
Decapods in Science
Decapods, like crabs and lobsters, are used in science, but because they aren’t protected by laws that monitor experiments, there’s currently no way of ensuring their welfare in labs. They could be used for any experiment, as well as being handled and kept in ways that are harmful to their wellbeing.
We’re working to change this.
Science in Legislation
A law exists called ‘Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act’, also referred to as ‘ASPA’. This piece of legislation regulates the use of animals in science to ensure welfare is considered. Studies using animals that are protected by this law must justify why they are conducting that study, and how they are respecting the welfare of the animals used. It also means the number of animals used must be reported, so there are records to gauge the scale of the issue.
Now that their sentience has been officially recognised, we’re calling for decapods to be added to this law so that they are protected in the same way as other animals during experiments. One of the first things we’ll be doing is arranging a meeting with the Home Office to discuss expanding ASPA to cover decapods too.
We also published a press release with the RSPCA on World Day for Laboratory Animals, calling for the protection of decapods in science. The story was covered by The Guardian and Independent, and Animal Journal.
Make sure to keep up to date with the campaign to see our next steps in getting decapods protected in laws such as ASPA.
“I believe I am not interested to know whether Vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn’t. To know that the results are profitable to the race would not remove my hostility to it. The pains which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity towards it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further.” Mark Twain in a letter to the London Anti-Vivisection Society, May 26, 1899
“We have great news! Government report confirms decapods can feel pain
A year ago, in response to our campaigning, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) commissioned an independent piece of work, looking into whether or not animals like crabs, lobsters and prawns (decapod crustaceans) are sentient animals and can feel pain. After numerous delays, and much chasing by Crustacean Compassion and our wonderful supporters – the report has finally been published! We may have waited a year… but the findings are well worth it! An expert team of scientists, led by Dr Jonathan Birch, at London School of Economics (LSE) reviewed all available evidence, and concluded that decapods are capable of feeling pain and must be protected. The wealth of scientific evidence confirmed what we knew already – these animals are sentient beings! Here’s a quote from the report: “We recommend that all cephalopod molluscs and decapod crustaceans be regarded as sentient animals for the purposes of UK animal welfare law. They should be counted as “animals” for the purposes of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and included in the scope of any future legislation relating to animal sentience”The government’s plan to protect decapods.
In light of this, the UK Government are planning to amend the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill to protect decapod crustaceans alongside vertebrates. The inclusion of decapods in this legislation is ground breaking! The legal recognition of their sentience means their welfare must be considered in policy making decisions and will influence how they are handled and treated. At the moment, decapods have no more protection than vegetables. They are boiled alive, chopped up alive, sent live in the post… This legal protection is long overdue! What happens next?
The Sentience Bill is due to continue its passage through parliament to become law. The next step is Report Stage in the House of Lords, taking place Tuesday 30th November. On this day, we expect the government’s amendment to include decapods to be confirmed and put into print! Make sure to stay tuned as we’ll be sharing updates on our social media, website and by email. Thank you!
It has taken us years of work to get to this point, and we couldn’t have done it without you all. Every action taken has brought us one step closer to protecting these vulnerable and overlooked animals. Thanks to all of you, we are changing animal welfare history. Thank you for your ongoing support.”
Maisie, Claire, Jules, Laura, Ann Crustacean Compassion
Thank you so much to everyone who signed the petition, shared the campaign, wrote to their representatives, and helped make this happen. Thank you so so much. xxxxx
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These things happen legally because crustaceans and molluscs are not included in the Animal Welfare Act.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell the UK government to end these cruel practices and make it mandatory to treat these wild animals humanely – WITHOUT PAIN AND SUFFERING! – it will only take you a couple of minutes and it has to be NOW because they deciding right now whether to include crustaceans in the Sentience Bill and the Animal Welfare Act.
Stop lobsters, crabs and other shellfish being boiled alive by uploading a selfie to show the government you support Crustacean Compassion’s campaign.
The government is still undecided about including crustaceans in the new Sentience Bill, so please, no matter where you’re from, upload a selfie to tell the British government to do the right thing. This is an opportunity we’ve never had before. Thanks to Crustacean Compassion we are closer than ever to getting some protection for these horrifically abused animals. Don’t let it slip through our fingers. Add your picture to Crustacean Compassion’s selfie wall now!
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.