Octopuses, crabs and lobsters to be recognized as sentient beings under UK law

Octopuses, crabs and lobsters to be recognized as sentient beings under UK law

Octopuses, lobsters, and crabs will be protected more effectively under UK law as a result of the publication of a study by the LSE that demonstrates that there is solid scientific evidence to suggest that these animals have the ability to feel pain, suffering, or distress.

The UK government has announced that the coverage for the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill will be expanded to include all decapod crustaceans as well as cephalopod molluscs.

This move follows the findings of a government-commissioned independent review led by Dr. Jonathan Birch. The review used more than 300 scientific studies that have been conducted to assess evidence of the existence of sentience among cephalopods (including octopuses, squids, as well as cuttlefish) and decapods (including lobsters, crabs, and the crayfish).

Dr. Jonathan Birch, Associate Professor at the LSE’s Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science and the Principal Investigator for the Foundations of Animal Sentience project, stated:

“I’m pleased to see the government implementing a central recommendation of my team’s report. After reviewing over 300 scientific studies, we concluded that cephalopod molluscs and decapod crustaceans should be regarded as sentient, and should therefore be included within the scope of animal welfare law.

“The amendment will also help remove a major inconsistency: octopuses and other cephalopods have been protected in science for years, but have not received any protection outside science until now. One way the UK can lead on animal welfare is by protecting these invertebrate animals that humans have often completely disregarded.”

The study also assessed the possible implications of commercial practices currently used to handle the animals. It advises against declawing eyelash ablation, nicking as well as the selling of live, decapod-crustacean animals to non-trained handlers who aren’t experts as well as extreme slaughter methods, such as live boiling. It also offers suggestions on the best practices in transportation, slaughter, and stunning.

Lord Goldsmith, Minister for Animal Welfare stated:

“The UK has always led the way on animal welfare and our Action Plan for Animal Welfare goes even further by setting out our plans to bring in some of the strongest protections in the world for pets, livestock, and wild animals.

“The Animal Welfare Sentience Bill provides a crucial assurance that animal wellbeing is rightly considered when developing new laws. The science is now clear that crustaceans and molluscs can feel pain and therefore it is only right they are covered by this vital piece of legislation.”

Decapod crustaceans and cephalopods have not until now been recognized under the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill.

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