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Lobsters Feel Pain, Too

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Switzerland has banned the practice of cooking lobsters from a live state. Almost all recipes instruct to plunge still-living lobsters head-first into boiling water before continuing with dressings or such.

A growing body of scientific evidence states that lobsters and other crustaceans like crabs or crayfish can actually feel pain, the BBC reports. Switzerland thus decreed that lobsters should be stunned first before dunking them in hot water to avoid unnecessary suffering.

According to Jonathan Birch, assistant professor in philosophy at the London School of Economics, animal welfare scientists define pain as “an aversive sensation and feeling associated with actual or potential tissue damage.” Using this definition means crustaceans do feel pain. Birch adds in an article,

Crabs and lobsters deserve protection from being cooked alive.

At Queen’s University in Belfast, scientists found that crabs gave up important hiding place after repeatedly being given electric shocks in that particular location. Robert Elwood, who led the team carrying out the experiments, said, “They were willing to give up their hideaway in order to avoid the source of their probable pain.” These experiments show that “rapid avoidance learning, and [crustaceans] giving up highly valuable resources to avoid certain noxious stimuli” are consistent with pain.

Activists say that lobsters and other invertebrates should therefore be killed humanely, either by putting them in a state of unconsciousness or killing them immediately.

But crustaceans have decentralized nervous systems, meaning it takes more than one blow to the head to stun them, unlike fish. Methods of carrying this out include stunning the lobster or crab electronically, chilling the animal in cold air or an ice slurry for 20 minutes, and other devices, RSPCA Australia advises.

Elwood says that the most concerning thing are not home cooks or even restaurant kitchens, but large food processing plants where animals are generally dismembered without first killing them or rendering them unconscious.

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