Did you know that lobsters sometimes walk hand-in-hand (or claw in claw) with older lobsters leading the young? Or that they can live to be 100? A new study highlighted in the Washington Post reveals that crustaceans like crabs and lobsters feel pain, and they are even more complex than we once thought.
According to researcher Robert Elwood who initiated some of the studies, “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.”
While it has been widely accepted in the scientific community that only vertebrates (animals with backbones) are capable of experiencing pain, researchers like Elwood are now debunking that long-held belief. And they’re launching a whole new conversation based on the confirmation that lobsters, crabs, and other invertebrates do in fact experience pain.
What does the research show specifically? For starters, prawns, hermit crabs, and brown crabs carefully tend to their wounds, and hermit crabs go out of their way to avoid pain by choosing a new shelter if their previous one became inhospitable. Studies also reveal that octopi clean and protect their injuries, and they’re more likely to swim away and squirt a defensive liquid at potential predators when touched near a wound. Squid appear to be especially sensitive, possibly feeling pain all over their body even when sustaining an isolated injury.
“These are not just reflexes,” Elwood said. “This is prolonged and complicated behavior, which clearly involves the central nervous system.”
Unfortunately, it’s still common in both restaurants and home kitchens to boil lobsters alive or to tear the claws off of live crabs and throw them back into sea. In fact, a recent Wall Street Journal article cited the growing use of notoriously expensive lobsters in restaurants from five-star to fast-casual due to an overabundance in the marketplace, which is leading to a drop in prices.
Each of us can help prevent these cruel practices to our precious sea life by choosing delicious, animal-friendly options instead. Try Sophie’s Kitchen Vegan Prawns, Match Vegan Crab Meat, Vegetarian Plus Vegan Shrimp, May Wah Vegan Squid, Cavi-art Vegan Caviar, and Gardein’s new Golden Fishless Filets.