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Lobsters, crabs, octopuses feel pain, study says, so UK to ID them as sentient beings
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Lobsters, crabs, octopuses feel pain, study says, so UK to ID them as sentient beings

A lobster rears its claws after being caught off Spruce Head, Maine, on Aug. 31, 2021.

LONDON (PA Media/dpa) —  Octopuses, crabs and lobsters have feelings too, a British study has found, prompting the government in London to add the animals to the list of those protected by forthcoming laws.

Research from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) found that there was strong scientific evidence that these animals have the capacity to experience pain, distress or harm.

The government confirmed this meant that they would be recognized as sentient beings in a forthcoming bill that is designed to ensure future laws have high animal welfare standards.

The government commissioned the independent study carried out by the LSE because — up until now — decapod crustaceans, including crabs, lobsters and crayfish, and cephalopods, including octopuses, squid and cuttlefish, have not been recognized under the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill. This was despite the animals having complex central nervous systems, one of the key hallmarks of sentience.

Dr. Jonathan Birch, associate professor at LSE’s Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science and principal investigator on the Foundations of Animal Sentience project, said: “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 mollusks 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.

The report also looked at the potential welfare implications of current commercial practices involving these animals. It recommended against many, including the sale of live decapod crustaceans to untrained, non-expert handlers and extreme slaughter methods such as live boiling without stunning.

But the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the announcement “will not affect any existing legislation or industry practices such as fishing.” The department said “there will be no direct impact on the shellfish catching or restaurant industry. Instead, it is designed to ensure animal welfare is well considered in future decision-making.”

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