Crustacean Compassion call for support on recognising Decapod sentience

Monday, January 15, 2018

Crustacean Compassion is an organisation that is campaigning for decapod crustaceans, such as lobsters and crabs, to be included within UK animal welfare legislation. There is now compelling scientific evidence that these animals can feel pain and suffer, so it is both unethical and legally inconsistent for these animals to receive no legislative protection. In fact, decapod crustaceans are already protected within legislation in some countries and territories, so as a country that prides itself on high animal welfare standards it is unfortunate that the UK has fallen behind in this area.

The government is currently holding a public consultation regarding a proposed Animal Welfare Bill (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience). Question 7 seeks opinion on the definition of ‘animal’, and this definition will be applied not only to the proposed Bill but to the Animal Welfare Act 2006. This presents a fantastic opportunity for decapod crustaceans to now be appropriately recognised as sentient within UK legislation.

Crustration Compassion have drafted an open letter to request for their inclusion within legislation, to give you the opportunity to officially support this request. the letter will be submitted along with the scientific case for support, for the Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill consultation which closes on the 31st January. 

You can find more information Crustacean Compassion's website (, and can view the electronic copy of the public petition: (

If you would be interested in signing the open letter (copied below), please add your details to it, copy it and return via email to by Tuesday 23rd January.  A final version incorporating any significant comments will be circulated for approval on 25th January. 


Michael Gove

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Nobel House

17 Smith Square


London SW1P 3JR


Dear Mr Gove,

We the undersigned write out of concern for the welfare of decapod crustaceans who remain unprotected by animal welfare legislation. Based on recent compelling scientific evidence that they are sentient, we call on the government to include decapod crustaceans under the definition of ‘animal’ in the Animal Welfare Bill (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) and in the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Decapod crustaceans are protected under animal welfare legislation in Norway, Switzerland, New Zealand and some Australian states and territories; as well as in some regions of Germany and Italy.  Yet in the UK, decapods fall outside of the legal definition of ‘animal’ in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and so there is currently no legal requirement for food processors, supermarkets or restaurants to consider their welfare during storage, handling or slaughter. However, Section 1 of the Act provides for the inclusion of invertebrates of any description “if the appropriate national authority is satisfied, on the basis of scientific evidence, that animals of the kind concerned are capable of experiencing pain or suffering” (Animal Welfare Act, 2006:1). Since the Animal Welfare Act 2006 was introduced, a body of scientific evidence has emerged which strongly points to the conclusion that decapod crustaceans do not merely respond to nociceptive stimuli, but are capable of experiencing pain. Avoidance learning, rapid behaviour change, prolonged rubbing of affected areas, the laying down of memories, and motivational trade-offs are among the criteria for pain experience that have been observed. A scientific summary is attached.

Despite this evidence, decapods are frequently seen crammed together in brightly lit tanks in food retail establishments with no consideration for their welfare; are frequently sold live to the consumer for amateur home storage and slaughter; and have even been found for sale live yet entirely immobilised in shrink-wrap.  Slaughter is sometimes preceded by breaking off the legs, head or tail, and is often accomplished by boiling alive. Roth and Øines  (2010:294) estimate that an edible crab boiled alive may remain conscious for at least three minutes.

More than 21,000 people have signed a petition online (, 2018) and on paper to include decapods in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and 41 animal welfare organisations have supported this recommendation in a joint animal welfare manifesto post-Brexit (WCL, 2018). Given the strength of the existing evidence, the potential scale of suffering involved, and the public interest in this issue, we believe that the time has come to join other nations in recognising the sentience of these animals.

Yours sincerely,


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