Octopuses, crabs, lobsters and other cephalopods and crustaceans are being recognized as sentient beings in the UK following a report by the London School of Economics (LSE). This could lead to changes in the treatment and slaughter of these animals in the country. For example, boiling live lobsters could be prohibited.
The British government is now working on a reform of the animal welfare laws. The bill, which has not yet been approved, lists cephalopods such as octopus or squid and decapods such as lobsters or crabs in the group of animals that are capable of feeling pain.
Octopuses and other cephalopods have been protected by science for years, but have not received any protection outside of science until now.
The proposed legislation was expanded after an independent review by the LSE, which analyzed more than 300 scientific studies and found “strong scientific evidence” that sea creatures can experience pain and distress.
Principal Investigator and Associate Professor at the LSE Center for Philosophy of Natural and Social Sciences, Dr. Jonathan Birch, says the amendment will help eliminate a “major inconsistency.”
One way the UK can lead in animal welfare is by protecting these invertebrate animals that humans have often completely ignored
“Octopuses and other cephalopods have been protected by science for years, but have not received any protection outside of science until now. One way the UK can lead in animal welfare is by protecting these invertebrate animals that humans have often completely ignored, ”said Jonathan Birch, Principal Investigator and Associate Professor at the LSE Center for Philosophy.
For his part, UK Animal Welfare Minister Zac Goldsmith believes the new bill “provides a crucial guarantee that animal welfare is properly taken into account when developing new laws.”
However, this bill will not cause drastic changes in restaurants and fishing companies, despite the fact that the report shows that it is firmly against practices such as removing the claws from crabs before returning them to the water or boiling decapods in water.
Birch affirms that “in case of accepting an animal as a sentient being, it is necessary to apply the type of principles that are accepted for other sentient beings”. He also considers that “humane slaughter requires training.”
The report also warns of the cruelty of raising octopuses on factory farms.
Elena Lara, Director of Fish Research at CIWF and author of the report, explains that the Oscar-winning Netflix documentary “What the Octopus Taught Me” gave the world a poignant insight into the lives of these unique wild animals, naturally lonely and fragile ”. He adds that “the people who saw it were horrified to discover that there are plans to confine these fascinating, inquisitive and sensitive creatures in factory farms. Their lives just wouldn’t be worth living. “
Do not boil or beat these animals
The report asks restaurants and businesses not to boil live lobsters without first having stunned them, not to sell decadopods to handlers without them having notions about their handling and not to remove the claws from the crabs. However, it does not indicate what would be a commercially viable way to kill cephalopods such as octopuses.
As for the octopuses, the report does ask that they not be beaten, their brains sliced or that they not suffocate in a net bag.
This bill will go through the British Parliament, the House of Lords and, finally, the House of Commons, after which it will be finally approved.