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Consider the Lobster? That’s the Least We Can Do

Written by Paula Moore | May 5, 2014

It’s not normally considered newsworthy when animal shelters rescue abandoned animals. That’s their job, after all. But the Lincoln County Humane Society in Ontario, Canada, made headlines in April when it came to the aid of an animal who was found inside a cardboard box that had been left in a restaurant parking lot. The animal in question just happened to be a lobster.

Although most of us would recoil at the thought of intentionally harming a cat or dog, we seem to have a blind spot regarding the suffering of animals who are killed for our plates. Lobsters are routinely boiled alive. Live crabs have their claws ripped off and are tossed back into the ocean. If you wouldn’t do such things to a cat, you shouldn’t do them to a crustacean, either. Both can feel pain and distress, and both deserve our consideration. As Kevin Strooband, the Lincoln County Humane Society’s executive director, said regarding his agency’s decision to rescue Mickey the lobster, “All creatures deserve to be treated with respect and appropriate care.”

Lobsters and crabs may seem very different from us, but in the ways that matter the most, they’re more like us than we may care to admit. Dr. Robert Elwood, a professor of animal behavior at Queen’s University Belfast who has studied crustaceans for decades, has demonstrated that these animals can feel pain. When prawns and crabs are exposed to acetic acid or a brief electric shock, for example, they show many of the types of pain-related behavior seen in vertebrates, such as rubbing and grooming the affected area. When crabs have a claw removed—a common practice in commercial fisheries—they rub and pick at the wound.

“Denying that crabs feel pain because they don’t have the same biology is like denying they can see because they don’t have a visual cortex,” says Dr. Elwood.

Yet too many people continue to think of these animals as little more than swimming entrées—if they think of them at all.

A PETA investigation inside a crustacean slaughterhouse in Maine revealed that lobsters there are decapitated, torn apart and left to die slowly and in agony. The video footage shows workers slamming live crabs’ faces onto spikes to break off their top shells and pressing the animals’ exposed organs and flesh against stiff, spinning bristles to remove them. The crabs are then dropped into boiling water—while they’re still alive and aware.

If left alone, lobsters can live to be more than 100 years old. They recognize other individual lobsters, remember past acquaintances and have elaborate courtship rituals. Researchers who study lobsters say that their intelligence rivals that of octopuses—long considered to be the world’s smartest invertebrate. Michael Kuba, Ph.D., told Katherine Harmon Courage, author of Octopus! The Most Mysterious Creature in the Sea, that lobsters are “quite amazingly smart animals.” And Dr. Elwood’s experiments have led him to change how he treats the invertebrates in his laboratory. He now uses fewer animals in his experiments and strives to keep the potential for suffering to a minimum.

For his part, Strooband said that he never once thought about cooking Mickey the lobster for dinner. “It’s legal, it’s possible to do, but it’s just not the right thing to do,” he said. I urge readers to consider his words carefully before condemning any of Mickey’s cousins to the cooking pot. It’s the least we can do.

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  • Nigel Greaves says:

    The prehistoric savagery of the human is so blatantly obvious in the treatment of live lobsters; if only we could progress…

  • Fergus Elliott says:

    Even long before I became fully “concious” and educated of all animal suffering , i always felt in my heart…that to put a cold water crustacean in boiling hot water …ALIVE….was an ultimate act of cruelty. When Martha Stewart was going through her “Insider Trading’ fiasco…she had one of her TV shows where she was teaching people how to cook Lobster. As she calmly spoke of her cooking technique one Lobster in particular had the strong drive to survive and consistently attempted to escape the boiling hot water, as martha continued to push it back into it. Next day a news article ran….”Martha Stewart not the only one in Hot water these days”. The Peta door of opportunity opened on that note. Peta managed to get a “sit down” with Martha and it changed her life. martha had also been a fan of wearing fur.By the time Peta educated martha on a variety of animal suffering not even remotely acknowledged by most of the public….Martha was an enlightened human. She even created her own video compilation of Peta Undercover videos. She became an advocate for animal rights publicly….on National TV. I became a vegetarian the day after viewing my first Peta video 10 yrs ago…”Horrors of The Chinese Fur Trade”. That video showed me how ignorant I was to animal abuse occurring daily on our Planet. Extreme abuse. Peta is not just an organization caring for animal welfare…..they are teaching modern civilization ,in its race for riches, to realize that to cause (or support) intentional torture and suffering of any living being …..disconnects us all from our natural instincts….to love and to care. If Peta can educate and enlighten Martha Stewart to have such a dramatic shift in her perception of the animal suffering she was previously unaware of….we all can put the same effort into improving the perceptions of our friends and family AT LEAST.! I was 50 yrs old when Peta changed my life(10 yrs ago) . Its never too late for anyone to learn of the cruelty they support….without them even knowing it. You wont see such a Crusade for animal Injustice on the 11 o’clock News…you will experience it completely ,and know in your heart its right…if you just go to and click on “Get Active”.

  • Robyn says:

    I love lobsters, and this really touched my heart to hear that some wonderful person decided that Mickey was worth saving…thank you PETA and all other associates for caring about these amazing, intelligent animals 😉

  • Viviana says:

    Siempre pensé cuán mosntruosos podía ser el humano al comer esos animalitos de la forma en que llegan a ser bocados . De sólo imaginar lo que sufre ese animalito sería imposible aceptar tenerlo en un menú!!! Gracias pETA por poner los ojos en este problema cuando casi nadie lo considera!!!