Study finds lobsters feel pain, UK lawmakers expand Animal Welfare Bill to include them

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A report from the London School of Economics found strong scientific evidence showing that crabs, lobsters and octopuses all experience pain.

As a result of this discovery, an amendment has been made to the Animal Welfare (Sensitivity) Bill already in place, which will give greater protection to decapod crustaceans such as prawns and lobsters and cephalopod molluscs, including including squid and octopus.

In 2018, the Swiss government made a similar decision to ban the practice of boiling lobsters alive, although at the time it had no scientific evidence of the pain.

The New York Times reported at the time that the scientist who carried out the basic research behind the government research said he was not 100% sure that shellfish suffered after cooking a live lobster just once it was n had no intention of doing it again.

At the time of Switzerland’s decision, Joseph Ayers, professor of marine and environmental sciences at Northeastern University, said The temperature that lobsters didn’t have “the hardware” to feel pain. He explained that in the wild, these animals are often swallowed whole by predators, thus not needing the ability to sense pain.

Although despite Ayers’ insight, the new LSE report says otherwise:

“I am delighted to see the government implementing a central recommendation from my team’s report,” Dr Jonathan BirchAssociate Professor at the Center for Philosophy of Natural and Social Sciences at LSE and Senior Researcher on the Foundations of animal sentience project, said in a report released by the school. “After reviewing over 300 scientific studies, we have concluded that cephalopod molluscs and decapod crustaceans should be considered susceptible and should therefore be included within the scope of the Animal Welfare Act.”

A study by LSE found significant evidence to support that lobsters experience pain, thus recommending against boiling alive. Here, a man is holding a lobster.
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The Foundations of Animal Sentience (ASENT) project is a five-year project funded by the European Research Council and led by Birch that seeks to examine how sentience is attributed to certain types of animals.

The report also advises against practices that could be considered inhumane given the findings. The recommendations advise against “declawing, notching, eye stalk removal, selling live decapod crustaceans to untrained and non-expert handlers, and extreme slaughter methods such as boiling without stunning”.

In a statement issued by the UK government on November 19, they explained that this announcement will not affect “any existing legislation or industry practice such as fishing”.

“There will be no direct impact on shellfish harvesting or the restaurant industry,” the statement said. “Instead, it is designed to ensure that animal welfare is properly considered in future decision-making.”

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