Octopus, squid, cuttlefish and nautilus (cephalopods) and lobster, crab and crayfish (decapod crustaceans) are capable of experiencing pain and suffering, yet they are not given any legal protection in Scotland.
In light of the current situation and having considered the pressure the Scottish Government and its officials are currently facing, we have decided to temporarily suspend campaign actions that involve direct contact with Ministers’ offices. We appreciate that all are working hard to deal with the COVID-19 crisis and thank them for their commitment.
We are calling on the Scottish Government to introduce legal protection for crab, lobster, octopus, squid and other species of decapod crustaceans and cephalopods. Scotland’s animal welfare legislation will be updated this year and so now is the perfect time to ask the Scottish Government to include cephalopods and crustaceans as protected animals under the 2006 Act.
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Are these animals sentient?
Yes. There is a significant body of evidence that cephalopods and decapod crustaceans experience pain and suffering. These animals may not have backbones, but there is still ample evidence that they are sentient. Lobsters have advanced central nervous systems while, for cephalopods, scientists go further and describe them as having minds. You can read more about cephalopod and decapod crustacean sentience in our 2005 report here.
The assumption that these animals cannot suffer has to be discarded, once and for all.
Do they suffer at the hands of humans?
Yes, sadly these animals suffer considerably at the hands of humans. These animals are particularly exposed to suffering in the food production system.
Both decapod crustaceans and cephalopods can experience suffering connected with capture from the wild, being kept in captivity, transport and slaughter without stunning. Lobsters can commonly be seen crammed together in barren restaurant tanks, awaiting slaughter. Subjected to noise, bright lighting, and with their claws bound, these naturally solitary animals may suffer from stress, injury, overheating and dehydration.
As food processors and restaurants are not required to take account of decapod crustaceans’ welfare needs, lobsters and crabs can still legally be boiled alive. They make take up to three minutes to die.
In November 2015, a Korean supermarket in South London was also found to be selling live crabs pre-packaged in clingfilm; slowly suffocating and completely immobilised. The RSPCA was powerless to take legal action as the Animal Welfare Act 2006 – which protects animals in England and Wales – also only covers vertebrates.
The introduction of octopus farming in recent years has also prompted significant concern over the rearing of highly intelligent and complex animals in intensive aquaculture systems.
What is OneKind doing?
- In 2005 we published a report exploring cephalopods and decapod crustaceans capacity of experience pain and suffering and recommending that they be included as protected animals under animal protection legislation.
- In 2019, we were one of 41 UK organisations who collaborated to produce a detailed manifesto for protecting and improving animal welfare following Brexit. Inclusion of cephalopods and crustaceans within domestic animal welfare legislation was one of the recommendations in this important document.
- We responded to the Scottish Government’s Animal Health and Welfare Act 2019 consultation, recommending that cephalopods and decapod crustaceans be included in the legislation. You can read our response here.
- We have met with MSP’s to encourage them to support our proposal to include cephalopods and decapod crustaceans as protected animals in the 2006 Act.
- We have written to Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon, to let her know that we have asked our supporters to write to her office.
How can I help?
Please write to the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon MSP, and ask her to support our proposal to include cephalopods and decapod crustaceans within the definition of ‘protected animal’ under Scotland’s animal welfare legislation. You can find our letter template here.