In a landmark achievement for animal welfare, octopuses, crabs, and lobsters will be considered sentient beings under UK law. The move follows an independent review led by scientists at the London School of Economics (LSE), which concluded that there is strong evidence these animals can feel pain, distress, or harm.
The UK government has confirmed last week that all decapod crustaceans and cephalopod mollusks will now fall under the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill. The initiative is the result of a government-commissioned independent review led by LSE professor Dr. Jonathan Birch. Together with his team, Dr. Birch reviewed over 300 scientific studies to evaluate evidence of sentience in cephalopods, such as octopuses, squid and cuttlefish, and decapods, such as crabs, lobsters and crayfish.
“After reviewing over 300 scientific studies, we concluded that cephalopod mollusks and decapod crustaceans should be regarded as sentient, and should therefore be included within the scope of animal welfare law,” said Dr. Birch.
“The amendment will also help remove a major inconsistency: octopuses and other cephalopods have been protected in science for years, but have not received any protection outside science until now,” he added. “One way the UK can lead on animal welfare is by protecting these invertebrate animals that humans have often completely disregarded.”
The report also made specific recommendations to improve current animal welfare practices, including banning the declawing of crabs, the sale of live crabs and lobsters to untrained handlers, and extreme slaughter methods like live boiling without stunning.