We may not always agree with Gwyneth Paltrow (a goat-milk cleanse—seriously?). But her latest revelation—that octopuses are too smart to be food—certainly qualifies as a stance we can rally behind.
While Paltrow makes headlines for her dietary stance, we’re deep-diving into the world of octopuses, the cruel reality these cephalopods face in restaurants, and the endless reasons why they should remain in the ocean and not end up on your plate.
In September 2016, PETA went inside restaurants in Los Angeles that mutilate and serve live animals. At T Equals Fish, our observers watched in horror as chefs held down an octopus—nicknamed “Pearl” by an observer—and cut off her sensitive limbs with a butcher knife. The severed limbs, which continued to move and react to stimuli, were served, squirming, to diners.
Video 1: Live-Animal Eating Exposed
Kitchen staff explained that she would be kept alive until another customer ordered the remaining limbs. According to the chef, after every arm and leg has been cut off, he will kill an octopus by ripping open the mantle and tearing out the intestinal contents.
Currently, PETA is aware of a few dozen U.S. restaurants that serve live animals or portions of live animals. We also discovered that other restaurants sometimes serve live animals—or will serve them to specific customers—without always featuring them on their menus.
While eating live octopus is relatively new in the U.S., this cruelty has been practiced in other parts of the world for some time—including in South Korea, where entire restaurants center around eating these animals live.
In the video below, for example, people laugh while a small octopus tries to escape one diner’s chopsticks.
Video 2: Eating Live Octopus in Korea
According to CNN Travel, eating live octopus grew in notoriety in large part because of the infamous scene in Oldboy, a 2003 Korean film. In it, Choi Min-sik—the lead actor—eats a whole live octopus. However, according to director Park Chan-wook, eating the octopuses was “torture” for Min-sik, who is Buddhist. He said prayers of apology to the octopuses he ate, and it took the actor “a long time to recover.”
Video 3: Oldboy Octopus Scene
These videos likely evoke disgust in many viewers. But if you wouldn’t eat a live octopus—wriggling, squirming, and writhing—you shouldn’t eat already-dead ones, either, because they were also cruelly and painfully slaughtered.
Octopuses: Primates of the Sea
Paltrow wasn’t wrong: These eight-legged marvels are intelligent! Like chimpanzees, crows, humans, and dolphins, octopuses also use tools. Veined octopuses carry coconut shells across the ocean floor before meticulously placing two halves together and climbing inside to hide. Blanket octopuses snatch poisonous tentacles from Portuguese men-of-war and wield them like swords. And mimic octopuses can impersonate more than 15 other species.
These intelligent beings are great escape artists, they’re genetic marvels, they change color to camouflage and communicate, they can operate a camera, they have good aim, they don’t enjoy being fenced in, and—without a doubt—they feel pain. Cephalopod expert Dr. Jennifer Mather explains that octopuses “can anticipate a painful, difficult, stressful situation—they can remember it. There is absolutely no doubt that they feel ”
Living beings—alive or dead—do not belong on restaurant menus. Afford these marvelous sea creatures the same consideration that you’d give to your companion dog—or your son or daughter. Choose plant-based, cruelty-free foods, and keep animals—alive or otherwise—off your plate.
Take Action for Octopuses
We’re calling on lawmakers to introduce legislation that prohibits animals from being mutilated, “prepared,” and served alive. Click the button below to speak up for these animals.