It’s a misconception we hear all the time: Lobsters and crabs don’t feel pain. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. And sadly, these poor animals pay the price for this misguided thinking. So to debunk the myth that crustaceans don’t feel pain, here are some facts.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology reveals that European shore crabs experience pain. Queen’s University Belfast professor Bob Elwood, who conducted the study, notes that the crabs’ response to adverse stimuli “fits all the criteria of pain.”
In a recent interview with the CBC, Professor Elwood said:
We can’t prove pain in any animal species. You can only do studies and if they’re consistent with the idea of pain, you begin to think perhaps we should give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s what we call the precautionary principle and [it] gives them some protection in case they do feel pain.
The researchers’ previous work also found that hermit crabs and prawns exhibited similar pain-avoidance behaviors indicative of sentience and feeling. They now believe that all decapod crustaceans, a group that includes lobsters and crayfish, feel pain. This has prompted Professor Elwood to seriously question the absence of laws protecting their welfare.
Sadly, in the United States these animals are denied even the most basic legal protections. Not a single federal animal welfare law protects crustaceans or fish. As a result, the seafood industry subjects countless animals to lives of unimaginable pain and slow, cruel deaths.
But recently the Swiss government passed a new measure requiring lobsters to be made unconscious—either by electric shock or “mechanical destruction” of the brain—before boiling them. Additionally, boiling lobsters alive is illegal in New Zealand and Reggio Emilia, a city in northern Italy.
Like lobsters, crabs, and crayfish, other marine animals feel pain. In fact, fish are similar to dogs and cats in their experience of pain and pleasure.
In 2011 Mercy For Animals conducted an undercover investigation at a fish slaughter facility and exposed fish being skinned alive. They thrashed and fought to escape the workers’ knives. As the fish gasped for oxygen, workers ripped off their skin with pliers.
Sounds horrifying, right? See for yourself.
Fortunately, you don’t have to wait another minute to help stop the needless suffering of these sensitive animals. By choosing healthy plant-based meals, you can ensure that lobsters, crabs, fish, and other aquatic animals are spared senseless cruelty.