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1 Lobsters, crabs feel pain, scientists say on Thu Jan 17, 2013 1:42 pm


Lobsters, crabs feel pain, scientists say

By Jennifer Viegas

Published January 17, 2013

Discovery News

Shellfish such as crabs, lobsters and shrimp feel pain, suggests a new study that calls into question how food and aquaculture industries treat these animals.

Researchers have suspected for some time that live lobsters dunked into boiling water and rubber-banded crustaceans stored in crowded fish market tanks experience tremendous pain. Discovery News reported on that some years back. But it’s always a challenge for scientists to prove conclusively that a non-human is feeling pain.

“On a philosophical point, it is impossible to demonstrate absolutely that an animal experiences pain,” researcher Bob Elwood of the Queen’s School of Biological Sciences, was quoted as saying in a press release. “However, various criteria have been suggested regarding what we would expect if pain were to be experienced. The research at Queen’s has tested those criteria and the data is consistent with the idea of pain. Thus, we conclude that there is a strong probability of pain and the need to consider the welfare of these animals.”

Elwood and colleague Barry Magee worked on the latest study, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Elwood described how it went: “Ninety crabs were each introduced individually to a tank with two dark shelters. On selecting their shelter of choice, some of the crabs were exposed to an electric shock. After some rest time, each crab was returned to the tank. Most stuck with what they knew best, returning to the shelter they had chosen first time around, where those that had been shocked on first choice again experienced a shock. When introduced to the tank for the third time, however, the vast majority of shocked crabs now went to the alternative safe shelter. Those not shocked continued to use their preferred shelter.”

He continued, “Having experienced two rounds of shocks, the crabs learned to avoid the shelter where they received the shock. They were willing to give up their hideaway in order to avoid the source of their probable pain.”

While likely painful, the relatively mild electrical shocks did not otherwise harm the crabs.

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Crustaceans have a less extensive nervous system than humans do, which perhaps led some researchers to previously believe that shellfish do not feel pain. The reaction to typical pain-inducing stimuli is consistent with discomfort or worse, though, as the latest study found. If you’ve ever tried to boil a live lobster, you probably noticed that it did not just sit patiently in the pot. Most lobsters put up quite a struggle.

We often hear about concerns over the treatment of farm animals by animal advocates. For example, the American Humane Society has a Farm Animal Welfare certification program. Shellfish are often left out of such discussions, probably because they look, and appear to act, less like us.

Crabs, lobsters, shrimp and other crustaceans may experience the world more like us than we realize, though, with pain being a feeling that we all seem to share.

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2 Re: Lobsters, crabs feel pain, scientists say on Thu Jan 17, 2013 3:15 pm


Out of all the seafood I have cooked in my life I have never cooked anything alive, or bought anything alive including lobsters then cooked it. I am repulsed at the whole idea of taking part in that, some can handle it not me. I will buy frozen lobster tails and cook those, or any other shell fish fresh or frozen, but live I want no part of it. However it someone else wants to prepare it I'll certainly have some. The only thing I can think of that I have hunted and eaten is fish from a lake.

I have also questioned dropping live lobsters is boiling water if it hurts them or not, that is another reason I am repulsed at preparing live lobsters to be cooked. I don't want to have to do that. That does not make me a more humane person than the one doing it because if you eat it you're just as guilty as the person that did it, I just don't want to be the one to do it. I'll pay money at a restaurant before I would do that. The lobsters should be given the benefit of the doubt that they feel pain, and killed quickly, faster than what boiling water does.

To be honest this whole morality thing with eating anything other than vegetables has got me confused. How it can possibly be moral is beyond me, but I eat a hamburger just like most everyone else.

3 Re: Lobsters, crabs feel pain, scientists say on Thu Jan 17, 2013 4:05 pm


I enjoyed your response Tyler..I am as guilty
.I will eat lobster some one else cooks,but I don't want to be the one to inflict pain..
same with Venison,I couldn't kill a deer but I will eat the meat..

4 Re: Lobsters, crabs feel pain, scientists say on Thu Jan 17, 2013 4:25 pm


Doesn't bother me at all, beef, pork, or poultry all die sometimes a terrible death to be put on our table. Seafood die almost instantly when put in boiling water, a bit more humane than a bullet or mallet to the head especially if it doesn't do the job the first time, or in the case of poultry neck cut to let them bleed out. I worked in a turkey processing plant in the 60's not a pretty sight for sure.

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