They are part of the cephalopods (a category of mollusks) and decapods (crustaceans with five pairs of legs). Octopuses, squids, shrimps and even lobsters have been identified as “Sentient beings” by the London School of Economics and Politicial Science. An independent examination had been commissioned by the British government to determine if these invertebrates were endowed with a certain sensitivity. This request is part of the UK Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill.
But what is sentience? It is “The ability to experience sensations such as pain, pleasure, hunger, thirst, heat, joy, comfort and excitement”, reports the study. To make this diagnosis, 300 studies on cephalopods and decapods were examined. Decapods include animals like crabs, lobsters, shrimps, and crayfish, and cephalopods include octopus, squid, and cuttlefish. The UK government has announced that they will now fall under the Animal Welfare Bill.
Protecting animals outside of science
“I am delighted to see the government implementing a central recommendation from my team’s report”, comments Jonathan Birch, research fellow at the London School of Economics. According to him, octopuses and other cephalopods have been protected by science for years, but not outside so far. The new regulations should be a game-changer.
In the report, several notes were slipped in order to ensure the welfare of these animals, such as a ban on the sale of live crabs and lobsters to people who are not qualified. It is also recommended to prohibit slaughtering methods such as scalding and live dismemberment.
Boiling live shellfish is already a method banned in Switzerland and New Zealand.