Tag Archives: lobsters

Why I’m boiling mad about this summertime ritual

By Paula Moore

When did boiling animals alive become an acceptable summer pastime? I’m referring, of course, to the gruesome but widespread practice of dropping live lobsters and crabs into pots of scalding water, ignoring their frantic attempts to escape and calling it dinner. Kind people who would never dream of doing such a thing to any other type of animal seem to have a blind spot when it comes to the suffering of crustaceans.

We know that lobsters can feel pain (and even if we didn’t, shouldn’t we give them the benefit of the doubt?), yet in the U.S. alone we condemn 20 million of these animals to a painful death for our dinner plates every year. Enough.

I first learned of this barbaric summertime ritual in elementary school, when I was invited along on a beach trip with my best friend, Elizabeth, and her family. It was the first time I’d ever been away from home without my parents, and everything about the trip seemed like a great adventure—until the night that we had crabs for dinner. I remember watching Elizabeth’s mother put a kettle of water on the stove to boil. Then, someone produced a bag full of live crabs. Just as I was starting to think that there must be some mistake, the crabs were unceremoniously dumped into the boiling water. The fun was over.

While lobsters and crabs may seem very different from us—with their exoskeletons, claws and strange-looking antennae—in the ways that truly matter, they’re more like us than we may care to admit.

Numerous physiological and behavioral studies of crustaceans have shown that lobsters feel pain and when boiled alive likely suffer every second of the three long minutes that it takes for them to die.. Scientists have confirmed that when lobsters struggle frantically to climb the sides of the pot, these are panic and pain responses. At crustacean slaughterhouses, as a PETA eyewitness investigation revealed, lobsters and crabs are routinely dismembered while they’re still alive and fully aware.

In 2005, the European Food Safety Authority concluded that crustaceans are capable of experiencing pain and distress and recommended that steps be taken to lessen their suffering whenever possible.

In 2009, Dr. Robert W. Elwood, a professor of animal behavior at Queen’s University Belfast, published papers on this issue in the journals Animal Behaviour and Applied Animal Behaviour Science. “With vertebrates we are asked to err on the side of caution and I believe this is the approach to take with these crustaceans,” he says. Elwood’s experiments have even led him to change how he treats the invertebrates in his laboratory. He now uses fewer animals in his experiments and strives to keep the potential for suffering to a minimum.

And more than a decade ago, after the late David Foster Wallace visited Maine’s annual lobster festival—which he said had aspects of a “medieval torture-fest”—he was compelled to scour the available literature on crustacean pain and to ask readers to “consider the lobster.” In his now-classic essay of the same name, Wallace wrote that “after all the abstract intellection, there remain the facts of the frantically clanking lid, the pathetic clinging to the edge of the pot. Standing at the stove, it is hard to deny in any meaningful way that this is a living creature experiencing pain.”

In 2015, surely we can all agree that we do not need to cook animals alive for our supper. We have other choices. Besides tasty mock lobster and crab, other vegan summertime options abound, from corn on the cob to gazpacho to grilled veggie burgers to watermelon. When we choose these kinder options, dinner won’t resemble a horror show.

Consider the lobster? That’s the least we can do!!!!

By Paula Moore

It’s not normally considered newsworthy when animal shelters rescue abandoned animals. That’s their job, after all. But the Lincoln County Humane Society in Ontario, Canada, made headlines in April when it came to the aid of an animal who was found inside a cardboard box that had been left in a restaurant parking lot. The animal in question just happened to be a lobster.

Although most of us would recoil at the thought of intentionally harming a cat or dog, we seem to have a blind spot regarding the suffering of animals who are killed for our plates. Lobsters are routinely boiled alive. Live crabs have their claws ripped off and are tossed back into the ocean. If you wouldn’t do such things to a cat, you shouldn’t do them to a crustacean, either. Both can feel pain and distress, and both deserve our consideration. As Kevin Strooband, the Lincoln County Humane Society’s executive director, said regarding his agency’s decision to rescue Mickey the lobster, “All creatures deserve to be treated with respect and appropriate care.”

Lobsters and crabs may seem very different from us, but in the ways that matter the most, they’re more like us than we may care to admit. Dr. Robert Elwood, a professor of animal behavior at Queen’s University Belfast who has studied crustaceans for decades, has demonstrated that these animals can feel pain. When prawns and crabs are exposed to acetic acid or a brief electric shock, for example, they show many of the types of pain-related behavior seen in vertebrates, such as rubbing and grooming the affected area. When crabs have a claw removed—a common practice in commercial fisheries—they rub and pick at the wound.

“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,” says Dr. Elwood.

Yet too many people continue to think of these animals as little more than swimming entrées—if they think of them at all.

A PETA investigation inside a crustacean slaughterhouse in Maine revealed that lobsters there are decapitated, torn apart and left to die slowly and in agony. The video footage shows workers slamming live crabs’ faces onto spikes to break off their top shells and pressing the animals’ exposed organs and flesh against stiff, spinning bristles to remove them. The crabs are then dropped into boiling water—while they’re still alive and aware.

If left alone, lobsters can live to be more than 100 years old. They recognize other individual lobsters, remember past acquaintances and have elaborate courtship rituals. Researchers who study lobsters say that their intelligence rivals that of octopuses—long considered to be the world’s smartest invertebrate. Michael Kuba, Ph.D., told Katherine Harmon Courage, author of Octopus! The Most Mysterious Creature in the Sea, that lobsters are “quite amazingly smart animals.” And Dr. Elwood’s experiments have led him to change how he treats the invertebrates in his laboratory. He now uses fewer animals in his experiments and strives to keep the potential for suffering to a minimum.

For his part, Strooband said that he never once thought about cooking Mickey the lobster for dinner. “It’s legal, it’s possible to do, but it’s just not the right thing to do,” he said. I urge readers to consider his words carefully before condemning any of Mickey’s cousins to the cooking pot. It’s the least we can do.

Groundbreaking investigation reveals gruesome lobster slaughter in Maine!

By Dan Paden

If you’ve ever boiled lobsters alive in your kitchen, you’ve no doubt experienced that moment when, in the words of the late David Foster Wallace, “some uncomfortable things start to happen.” After the water heats up and you drop the lobster in the pot, the hapless animal may latch onto the rim for dear life. Once you finally get the lobster fully submerged, you’re confronted with the clanking of the lid as the lobster tries to push it off, followed by the deeply discomforting sound of the animal’s claws frantically scraping the sides of the pot. “The lobster, in other words, behaves very much as you or I would behave if we were plunged into boiling water …,” wrote Wallace.

No wonder many people opt for frozen instead. The “uncomfortable things” happen someplace else, and we don’t have to think about them as we drop the neat plastic packages of lobster meat into our shopping carts. But I urge you to think about them, at least for the next few minutes. You just might decide that the fleeting taste of a lobster’s flesh is not worth the violence that is routinely inflicted upon these animals.

Earlier this year, PETA captured video footage inside a Rockland, Maine, crustacean slaughterhouse that supplies retailers across the country. The footage shows live lobsters and crabs as they are being ripped apart and crabs being boiled alive. Workers tear off live lobsters’ claws before shoving the animals into a metal tool that punctures their shells. The lobsters’ heads are also ripped from their bodies, tossed onto a conveyor belt and dropped into bins-where their antennae continue to move long after their bodies have been mutilated.

Lobsters do not have a centralized nervous system but instead have ganglia, or masses of nervous tissue, spread throughout their bodies, so they do not die quickly even if their brains are destroyed. Studies have found that a lobster’s nervous system continues to function even after the animal is dismembered.

One worker said that the mutilated lobsters “don’t die right away. I mean, they’ll live for hours.”

PETA’s video also shows workers at this facility slam live crabs onto spikes to break off their top shells and shove the animals’ exposed organs and flesh against rapidly spinning brushes. The crabs-still alive-are then tossed onto a conveyor belt and dumped into boiling water.

These animals are not unfeeling automatons. Recent research has shown that crabs are capable of learning and remembering information, just like other animals. If left alone, lobsters can live to be more than 100 years old. They use complicated signals to establish social relationships and can recognize individuals.

Experiments on crabs and prawns conducted by Dr. Robert W. Elwood, a professor of animal behavior at Queen’s University Belfast, have demonstrated that crustaceans can feel pain. Similarly, in 2005, the European Food Safety Authority concluded that crustaceans are capable of experiencing pain and distress and recommended that steps be taken to lessen their suffering when possible.

We live in a changing world, one in which animals are afforded considerations that they might have been denied in the past. If we’re honest, we must admit that it matters little to the animals whether they are cruelly killed behind the closed doors of a commercial slaughterhouse or if we kill them ourselves, right there in our own kitchens. Lobsters and crabs can feel pain and they do not want to die. And the only way to make sure that we’re not contributing to their suffering is to stop eating them.