Beauty is pain. Apparently, so is a gourmet seafood meal.
Lobsters, crabs, and other crustaceans experience pain, according to Robert Elwood, an animal behavior researcher at Queens University Belfast.
By Elwood’s findings, crustaceans have drawn the short end of the stick when it comes to how humans treat them. They may not be cute and fluffy like a puppy or majestic like a whale, but if these invertebrates experience pain in the way Elwood argues, there’s no getting around it: Something needs to change.
Crustaceans – which also include prawns and crayfish – are generally not protected by animal welfare laws, based on prior belief that these animals cannot experience pain. Rather, it was thought crustaceans had a nociception to move away from noxious stimulus.
However, Elwood notes crustaceans harvested and farmed for human consumption are subjected to “extreme procedures” that “would never be allowed for vertebrates.” Think of the crabs and lobsters with their claws tied, overcrowded in a tank at your local supermarket, or live prawns impaled on sticks for cooking,or lobsters, having their legs removed while still alive. Or the classic – dropping a lobster in a boiling pot of water for cooking. You get the picture, and it isn’t a pretty one for crustaceans.
No one would dream of doing that to fluffy Fido.
The evidence, as laid out by Elwood, is clear. In one experiment, crabs were offered two areas of shelter. The first repeatedly delivered a shock to the crabs, while the second offered no such shock. Crabs that entered the shocking sanctuary left. None of the crabs left the second.
In the second experiment he presented, Elwood offered two types of shells to hermit crabs, one of which they are known to prefer, and delivered shocks to the crabs. When offered new shells, the shocked crabs were quicker to take up the offer of a new home.
And while pain is “difficult” to assess, according to Elwood, these experiments seem to indicate “long-term motivational change” that is “entirely consistent” with the concept of pain.
Where do humans come in? Well, we’ve got to stop giving crustaceans such a raw bargain at the raw bar (and everywhere else).
Robert Hubrecht, deputy director of the University Federation of Animal Welfare, argues that these scientific findings should guarantee crustaceans the same protections that their furry friends with spines in the animal kingdom enjoy. Hubrecht states it is “illogical” that animals such as mice should be protected and crustaceans shouldn’t be.
That isn’t to say we should be cutting out visits to Red Lobster altogether. But while they may not inspire the same love a kitten would or the fascination of a great white shark, crustaceans shouldn’t be living by the mantra of “no pain, no gain.”