We really shouldn't be boiling shellfish

Science confirms what every five-year-old knows intuitively — crab and lobsters feel pain and we probably shouldn’t eat them

Also known as Cromer crab.
Digital Zoo/DigitalVision/Getty Images

It feels like invertebrates are finally getting the love they deserve. There is strong evidence that most crabs and octopods do things that all sentient beings do — like learn and try to protect themselves from harm, CNN reported. Researchers used eight different ways of measuring sentience in these animals, and it turns out that crabs and lobsters met many of the scientific criteria. Does that mean that we’ll finally establish a more human way to eat them? Or could they even get banned as menu options in the future?

Researchers at the London School of Economics released a report earlier in the month that analyzed 300 scientific studies of cephalopod molluscs (like squid and octopuses) and decapod crustaceans (like lobsters, crawfish, and crabs). What they found was that cephalopods and decapods are sentient creatures and they can definitely feel pain. If you’re kind of like “duh obviously,” right now, well, me too. But this research is important because the people who make laws about animal welfare are paying attention.

After a review of the report, the UK government and some legislators are trying to pass a bill that would create an Animal Sentience Committee that will ensure the protection of animals considered to be sentient, reported CNN. No one is exactly sure what kinds of laws will be enacted to protect crustaceans — they will likely include humane ways to prepare them — but these lawmakers are trying to organize on behalf of beings who cannot organize for themselves and it’s making me hopeful about life again.

"The Animal Welfare Sentience Bill provides a crucial assurance that animal wellbeing is rightly considered when developing new laws,” the UK’s Animal Welfare Minister Lord Zac Goldsmith said in a statement released Friday. “The science is now clear that decapods and cephalopods can feel pain and therefore it is only right they are covered by this vital piece of legislation."

When I was a kid, I used to cry in the meat department of the grocery store and beg my grandma to let me take a lobster home as a pet. They looked like they were scared and in pain and I wanted to help. My grandma tried to tell me that the lobsters didn’t know what was happening to them, but I never believed her. Now, science has finally confirmed what every five-year-old knows intuitively and, hopefully, lawmakers will respond accordingly.