Fresh lobster is one of the most popular dishes at Wow Crab In Rotterdam. Live lobsters are thrown into boiling water several times a night. They don’t think it’s pathetic. “We do this because it is the best way to prepare lobster as fresh as possible. We are a Chinese restaurant and this has been a tradition in China for years,” says an employee of the seafood restaurant.
Why cooking is the best way to kill the animal? “The rotting process sets in quickly in lobsters, so this is the best way to prepare.”
In Britain, cooking lobsters and crabs alive will soon be a thing of the past. The British government has decided to allow lobsters, squid, octopus and crabs to fall under the Animal Welfare Bill. A ban on live cooking therefore seems inevitable, British media report. Switzerland and New Zealand already have such a ban.
There is also a debate in our country as to whether such a ban should be introduced. The Party for the Animals has been fighting for this for years. In 2013, the party submitted a first motion that failed in the House of Representatives. In 2018, the party made another attempt. The motion did not win a majority at the time.
“We are going to draw attention to this again next week during a budget debate,” says Member of Parliament Frank Wassenberg. “We are a civilized country. You don’t cook animals alive. Previous studies have also shown that lobsters do experience pain, this is yet another proof.”
The PVV, GroenLinks, SP, the PvdA supported the motion. When asked, D66 and ChristenUnie say that they have not yet decided whether they will support a proposal: if they do, there will be a majority in favour.
Looking for an alternative
The Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality is not standing still either. A spokesperson for Minister Carola Schouten says that the ministry will study the British investigations. “It is good that more research is being done here,” says the spokesperson.
The question then is: which method is acceptable? The ministry would like more information. Alternatives are, for example, stunning or electrical stunning to kill the animals.
Animal scientist and expert Gert Flik also argues for a ban and for a more humane alternative. “Lobsters are invertebrates, which is why it is often thought that they have no pain. The nervous system of invertebrates functions very differently than that of vertebrates.”
So they suffer differently than humans or mammals, but that doesn’t mean they don’t hurt to have. “We know that they have antennae on their heads that allow them to feel and experience bad stimuli,” says Flik.
In our country there are strict rules for the killing of vertebrates such as cows or pigs. Roughly speaking, animals should be dead as quickly as possible and be unconscious and die within a few seconds. “But a lobster can live a minute or maybe longer in the boiling water and then experience those bad stimuli. I would say: if you can prevent bad things, why don’t we do that?”