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Research by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) found that there was strong scientific evidence that octopuses, crabs and lobsters are able to experience pain, distress or harm. This means there will be an amendment to ensure they will be recognised as sentient beings under UK law in the upcoming Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill.
Therefore, these animals could also possibly be given legal protection against practices which cause them harm, such as boiling lobsters while they're still alive.
Despite the animals having complex central nervous systems, one of the significant features of sentience, these creatures had not previously been recognised as sentient beings.
The review looked at over 300 existing scientific studies evaluating evidence of sentience in cephalopods (e.g. - octopuses, squid and cuttlefish) and decapods (e.g. - crabs, lobsters and crayfish).
The LSE report also suggested measures to introduce to protect these animals, including stunning lobsters electrically before boiling them, although this may still cause some pain: "electrical stunning with appropriate parameters for the species can induce a seizure-like state in relatively large decapods, and that stunning diminishes, without wholly abolishing, the nervous system’s response to boiling water. We interpret this as evidence that electrical stunning is better than nothing."
The report said: "We recommend that the following slaughter methods are banned in all cases in which a more humane slaughter method is available, unless preceded by effective electrical stunning: boiling alive, [and] slowly raising the temperature of water".
They continued on the best way to ensure the least painful way of killing the animals: "On current evidence, the most reasonable slaughter methods are double spiking (crabs), whole-body splitting (lobsters), and electrocution using a specialist device on a setting that is designed and validated to kill the animal quickly after initially stunning it".
Animal welfare minister, Lord Goldsmith declared: "The science is now clear that decapods and cephalopods can feel pain and therefore it is only right they are covered by this vital piece of legislation".
Dr Jonathan Birch, associate professor at LSE’s Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science, said: "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".
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