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UK will recognise octopuses, crabs and lobsters as sentient beings

The UK will recognise octopuses, crabs and lobsters as sentient beings after research showed they feel pain and anxiety, among other things. Under UK animal welfare legislation, octopuses, crabs and lobsters will be considered sentient beings. The analysis, which was carried out by researchers, found that there is strong evidence that these creatures are capable
Published: November 24, 2021 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 23:39
UK will recognise octopuses, crabs and lobsters as sentient beings

The UK will recognise octopuses, crabs and lobsters as sentient beings after research showed they feel pain and anxiety, among other things.

Under UK animal welfare legislation, octopuses, crabs and lobsters will be considered sentient beings. The analysis, which was carried out by researchers, found that there is strong evidence that these creatures are capable of sentience.

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The UK government has announced that tenth-legged animals, an order of crustaceans, and cephalopods, a cluster of molluscs, will now be covered by the Animal Welfare Act. Tenth-legs include animals such as crabs, lobsters, prawns and crayfish. Cephalopods, on the other hand, include octopuses, squid and cuttlefish.

The release states that the bill already recognises all animals with a backbone (vertebrates) as sentient beings. However, unlike some other invertebrates (animals without a backbone), decapod crustaceans and cephalopods have a complex central nervous system, one of the key features of consciousness.

The decision was taken in line with the findings of an independent review commissioned by the Government from the London School of Economics and Political Science. It concluded, among other things, that there is strong evidence that such animals are capable of feeling. Which the review defines as the ability to feel emotions such as pain, pleasure, hunger, thirst, warmth, joy, comfort and excitement.

I am pleased that the Government is implementing the main recommendation from the report that my team prepared. We reviewed over 300 scientific studies. Octopuses and other cephalopods have been protected in the scientific world for years, but until now have received no protection outside it Jonathan Birch, an LSE professor who works on the Foundations of Animal Sentience Project, said.

The report also makes specific recommendations for animal welfare practices based on its findings.

Including a ban:
  • removal of pincers from crabs
  • the sale of live crabs and lobsters to untrained and non-specialised traders
  • the following slaughter methods when there is a viable alternative and when electrical stunning is not performed first: boiling and live dismemberment

The UK Government has announced that no existing regulations or industry practices will be affected. The whole thing will not have a direct impact on the shellfishing or restaurant industry.

Some countries such as Switzerland and New Zealand have already banned cooking shellfish alive.

Photo: youtube screenshot

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About author

Julia
My love for scuba diving started as a 12-year-old in the Canary Islands, at which time I took my first Open Water Diver course. This love for the blue turned into a huge passion that accompanies me to this day. Although blue is hard to come by in the Baltic, no conditions are terrible for me. In this sport, I find peace, patience, courage, focus, and balance. I have recently started to engage in underwater modeling and I am fulfilled with this.
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