The UK may soon ban boiling lobsters alive in a landmark bill that acknowledges that crustaceans and mollusks, too, are sentient beings

·2 min read
Lobster
The new regulations in the UK, if passed, will mandate that mollusks be humanely dispatched before cooking them. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
  • The UK may soon ban boiling lobsters alive under a new animal welfare bill.

  • The law, if passed, will consider invertebrates like lobsters and crabs sentient and capable of feeling pain.

  • The animal welfare regulation will also mandate that invertebrates be dispatched humanely.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

If you live in the UK, dropping a live lobster straight into the pot may soon mean that you're running afoul of the law.

A landmark piece of animal welfare legislation is making its way through the UK parliamentary system, per a report by the London Evening Standard. Under new amendments to the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, mollusks like lobsters, crab, octopuses, and squid will be recognized as sentient beings that can feel pain.

The bill previously only covered vertebrates. But amendments to it will mandate that chefs and fishmongers alike dispatch mollusks quickly and humanely by stunning them, instead of dipping them straight into boiling water.

In addition, the Evening Standard noted that encasing a live shellfish in shrink-wrap or sending crustaceans via post will likely be banned.

The new regulations to give mollusks more rights are now being considered in the House of Lords.

According to British news site The Independent, the regulations were introduced after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson undertook that his government consider creatures' feelings and welfare when drafting new policies.

However, the idea that lobsters might be put through more suffering than necessary while being cooked is not new. A report released by the Humane Society of the United States acknowledged in 2008 that crustaceans, too, are "sentient animals with the capacity to suffer." The report also noted that the crustaceans do not immediately die from common methods of slaughtering them like a knife through the head because they do not have a centralized nervous system.

British daily newspaper The Times spoke to animal welfare activist Maisie Tomlinson, the director of UK charity Crustacean Compassion, who said that the best way to humanely kill a lobster is by electrically stunning it.

"Crabs, lobster, shrimp, and crayfish should be electrically stunned, rendering (them) unconscious within a second," Tomlinson told The Times. "You then need to make sure its nervous system is destroyed within minutes."

Boiling crustaceans alive is currently illegal in a few countries, including Switzerland and New Zealand.

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