Octopuses, lobsters and crabs feel pain — to be recognised as sentient by United Kingdom laws.

These marine animals will receive greater protection in UK law based on the findings of a recent government-commissioned independent review.

Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated December 20, 2021

Lobsters, octopuses and crabs will receive greater protection in UK law following a report which demonstrates that there is strong scientific evidence that these animals have the capacity to experience pain, distress or harm.

This move follows the findings of a UK Government-commissioned independent review led by Dr Jonathan Birch. The review drew on over 300 scientific studies to evaluate evidence of sentience in cephalopods (including octopuses, squid and cuttlefish) and decapods (including crabs, lobsters and crayfish). ‘Sentience’ is a term used to indicate that a living being is aware, feeling and sensitive.

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
UK Animal Welfare Minister, Lord Zac Goldsmith

This image contains content which some may find confronting

Lobster in sea
Science indicates that octopuses and lobsters like this feel pain and are sentient.

Australia is failing to protect animals

In stark contrast, Australian laws are falling further behind the UK when it comes to animal welfare.

In fact, it comes as a shock to many Australians to learn that our laws allow treatment of farmed animals that has been banned for decades in the United Kingdom. The Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement (Aus-UK FTA) has thrown a spotlight on these failings. Discover more here.

Australian prawn industry still cutting the eyes off live prawns

Years after we exposed the horrific routine practice of ‘eyestalk ablation’ in Australian prawn farming, the industry has seemingly made little move to change.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

Illustration of eye ablation of prawns
Eyestalk ablation illustration from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations' Shrimp Hatchery manual.

Along with cutting and squeezing the prawn’s eye, other methods including cauterisation (cutting the eyestalk with a heated blade or forceps) and ligation (tying a thread or wire around the eyestalk causing it to fall off after a few days).

No wonder a growing number of Australians are choosing to leave prawns off their plates, and enjoy plant-rich options that are kinder to these marine animals — and others like them, including octopuses and lobsters.

You don’t have to wait for laws to catch up

Lobsters and octopuses may be ‘voiceless’ in the human understanding of the word, but they’re very much worthy of protection. Studies and observations are revealing that these unique animals are sensitive and inquisitive — and there is still so much we are yet to discover about them.

Along with crabs, prawns and other marine animals, they’re the often forgotten and silent victims of the fishing and ‘seafood’ industries. The good news is, we all have the power to take a stand against this cruelty, starting today.

Reducing or replacing animal products in our meals is not only the most profound way to reduce animal suffering, it is also great for the planet and for us as well. Eating plant-based is easy, delicious and it’s getting more popular, every single day.

Keen to find out more? You’ll find all the information you need, plus a selection of delicious recipes, in our free Veg Starter Kit. Order your copy here. Or if you’re ready to get cooking right away, then you might like to browse our collection of 100+ scrumptious plant-based recipes at VegKit.com!

Browse recipes now