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Should crabs and lobsters be given the benefit of the doubt and included in animal welfare legislation?

16 May 2018

The boiling alive of crabs and lobsters has been in the news recently, with campaigners asking for decapod crustaceans, such as crabs, lobsters, prawns and crayfish, to be classified as “animals” under the Animal Welfare Bill and in the Animal Welfare Act 2006.  Since they are currently outside this classification, there is no legal requirement for food processors, supermarkets or restaurants to consider their welfare during storage, handling or killing.

UFAW responded to a recent consultation from Defra on the Draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill 2017, arguing that the animal groups protected by the legislation should be explicitly defined and should include not only vertebrates but also cephalopods (these are protected by some existing European animal welfare legislation).

UFAW also pointed out that there is a growing body of evidence for sentience in decapod crustacea (crabs and lobsters), which approaches that for other protected species. It follows that, while we cannot be absolutely certain, there is a case to give decapod crustacea the benefit of the doubt and include them in the definition, or to make provision to protect additional taxa as our knowledge develops.