22 November 2021

UK eyes new crustacean legislation

The Guardian is reporting that there is the potential new animal welfare regulations that would affect decapod crustaceans and cephalopods. The London School of Economics, whose report is being used to justify the move, seems rather more confident than The Guardian and is basically saying this is a done deal and that it will happen.

I am a little concerned by the backstory here, particularly cased on this:

The study, conducted by experts from the London School of Economics (LSE) concluded there was “strong scientific evidence decapod crustaceans and cephalopod molluscs are sentient”. ...

Zac Goldsmith, the animal welfare minister, said: “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.”

See, I want to know what Minister Goldsmith knows that I don’t. Because I follow scientific literature on this topic and the science on whether crustaceans “feel pain” is nowhere near as clear as Goldsmith claims. We are only barely getting a handle on whether crustaceans have nociceptors,

And “sentience”? Yeah, I don’t think there is a generally agree upon set of criteria for that, either.

A cursory glance at the London School of Economics report shows that none of the authors have stated experience in crustacean biology. (One studies cephalopod cognition.) A major review on this topic by Diggles (2018) is not included. Some of the references in the report are dated 2021, so leaving out a 2018 paper is a puzzling omission. 

But at first blush, this report looks more comprehensive than the documents used to argue for legislation in Switzerland. But I’ve only glanced at it so far, and will need some more time to read in detail.


Diggles BK. 2018. Review of some scientific issues related to crustacean welfare. ICES Journal of Marine Science: fsy058. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsy058

Related posts

Switzerland’s lobster laws are not paragons of science-based policy

External links

Boiling of live lobsters could be banned in UK under proposed legislation

Review of the Evidence of Sentience in Cephalopod Molluscs and Decapod Crustaceans

Octopuses, crabs and lobsters to be recognised as sentient beings under UK law following LSE report findings

No comments: