Octopuses, crabs and lobsters have been added to a list of sentient beings up for protection under proposed animal welfare laws in the United Kingdom after a review commissioned by the government concluded that the creatures were capable of experiencing pain or suffering. The report by experts at the London School of Economics (LSE) scoured 300 scientific studies to recommend that cephalopods (such as octopuses, squid and cuttlefish) and decapods (such as crabs, lobsters and crayfish) should be treated as sentient beings.
Lobsters and crabs shouldn’t be boiled alive, the report said, listing best practices for the transport, stunning and slaughter of decapods and cephalopods.
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“The Animal Welfare Sentience Bill provides a crucial assurance that animal wellbeing is rightly considered when developing new laws. The science is now clear that decapods and cephalopods can feel pain and therefore it is only right they are covered by this vital piece of legislation,” said Animal Welfare Minister Lord Zac Goldsmith in a statement.
The Bill also proposes an Animal Sentience Committee, which will scrutinize government decisions for welfare of sentient animals.
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The report used eight different ways to measure sentience. These include learning ability, possession of pain receptors, connections between pain receptors and certain brain regions, response to anesthetics or analgesics, and behaviors including balancing threat against opportunity for reward and protection against injury or threat.
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It found “very strong” evidence of sentience in octopods and “strong” evidence in most crabs. Evidence for other animals in these two groups, such as squid, cuttlefish and lobsters, was found to be substantial.
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“Scientific attention has gravitated towards some (animals) rather than others for reasons of practical convenience (e.g. which animals can be kept well in labs) and geography (e.g. which species are available where a lab is located). Because of this situation, we think it would be inappropriate to limit protection to specific orders of cephalopod, or to specific infraorders of decapod,” the report said.