UK May Ban Boiling Lobsters and Other Crustaceans Alive, Landmark Bill Recognizes They Are Sentient Beings

sea crustaceans inside aquarium in a restaurant

In the United Kingdom boiling lobsters, crabs and other crustaceans alive may soon be illegal.

This initiative comes as animal welfare activists are pushing for legislation to pass in the House of Lords that recognizes lobsters, crabs, squids, octopus, mussels and other invertebrates as sentient beings that can feel pain, according to The Hill and The Times.

“There exists robust scientific evidence in support of crustaceans being sentient animals with the capacity to suffer,” Stephanie Yu, Ph.D. wrote in a report for The Humane Society of the United States. “Humane slaughter legislation in most of the world has not been interpreted as applying to crustaceans.”

If passed, the legislation would support animal protections and force the government to consider animals’ feelings while writing laws and regulations, according to The Hill.

The proposed ban would be an extension of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, which previously only covered vertebrates, according to Insider. The amendments would mandate chefs and fishmongers to humanely kill mollusks, typically by stunning or chilling them, instead of dropping them into boiling water, according to the Evening Standard.

“Lobsters struggle violently for approximately two minutes after being placed in boiling water before they stop moving,” Yu said in her report.

Additionally, wrapping live shellfish in shrink-wrap or transporting crustaceans through the mail will likely be banned, as reported by Insider.

The proposed amendments coincide with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ commissioned study on the sentience of crustaceans, according to The Hill.

“We’re proud to have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, and we are fully committed to strengthening them further to ensure all animals avoid any unnecessary pain, distress or suffering,” the agency said in a statement, according to The Hill.

Several countries have already banned boiling lobsters alive, including New Zealand and Switzerland, according to The Hill.

“There is more than enough evidence for the ability of these sensitive, captivating creatures to feel pain and suffer,” Maisie Tomlinson, co-director of the organization, Crustacean Compassion, told The Times. “They undergo appalling treatment in the food industry.”

Audrey Nakagawa is the content creator intern at EcoWatch. She is a senior at James Madison University studying Media, Art, and Design, with a concentration in journalism. She’s a reporter for The Breeze in the culture section and writes features on Harrisonburg artists, album reviews, and topics related to mental health and the environment. She was also a contributor for Virginia Reports where she reported on the impact that COVID-19 had on college students.

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