Crustastun positions itself as solution to possible UK animal welfare rules
New legislation proposed in the United Kingdom would create an independent animal sentience committee, whose role will be to question the effect of government policy on animals as sentient beings.
The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill has the potential to make sweeping changes to the way in which animals are kept, handled, transported, and killed. The bill as proposed currently only applies to wild and domestic vertebrates – including fish – but activists are pushing for some invertebrates such as lobster and crab to be included, and early debate in the House of Lords found many peers in agreement.
If the bill is made into law, the government would be obligated to take animals’ feelings of pleasure, pain, happiness, and misery into account, as well as their physical well-being. This definition of sentience was suggested by Charles Darwin more than 150 years go.
The bill goes further than strict European Union protection and far beyond laws in the United States, which are considered to be lax by animal rights campaigners. Its aim is to protect wildlife as well as domesticated and companion animals.
Janet Fookes, a baroness in the House of Lords, said she had been “shocked by some of the treatment of animals such as lobsters, crabs, and squid, in the way they have been stored and very often killed.”
Crustacean Compassion, an organization that campaigns for the humane treatment of crabs, lobsters, and other decapod crustaceans in the U.K., is outraged that despite overwhelming evidence that decapod crustaceans such as crabs, lobsters, prawns, and crayfish are capable of experiencing pain, these animals are still boiled and cut up while alive.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) is also backing the addition of decapod crustaceans and cephalopods into the legislation.
“[There is] sufficient scientific evidence to indicate that these animals should be considered to be sentient, and therefore protected appropriately by legislation,” it said in a press release.
Fookes called for stunning machines to be used before crustaceans are cooked to ensure they are despatched more humanely.
Barbara Young, the baroness of Old Scone, urged the lords to watch the recent documentary My Octopus Teacher, which explores the emotional relationship between a man and an octopus.
A growing number of businesses in the U.K. are already using a Crustastun machine, which stuns shellfish using a simple pulse of electricity. This method of dispatch also improves flavor, according to its proponents.
Crustastun is a joint venture with the inventor Simon Buckhaven and Mitchell & Cooper, which has optimized the original design for manufacture and brought it to the forefront of the seafood processing and restaurant markets.
Compared to boiling, which can take up to three minutes to kill even a small lobster, and cutting the animal in half which is unreliable, Crustastun interrupts the nerve function of the animal within half a second, meaning the shellfish cannot feel pain. The animal is also killed in under 10 seconds, making it a dramatically quicker process compared to existing methods.
Blue Seafood Company is one of the largest crab processors in the U.K., and its director, David Markham, recently became an ambassador for Crustastun. His company has installed Crustastun technology on the processing line and a small version in the kitchen of its newly opened restaurant, the Crab and Hammer, in Paignton, U.K.
The restaurant’s head chef, Gary Vowell, said he had noticed a remarkable improvement in the eating quality of crab meat, which he attributed to his belief that stunning the animals was far less stressful than other methods used in professional kitchens.
“We’ve also had positive comments from famous chefs, including Raymond Blanc and Alain Roux, about how they can really notice the difference in the flavor of our crab,” Markham told SeafoodSource. “The sentience bill is very likely to include crab and lobster, and processors and restaurants that use a lot of these crustaceans would be well to get ahead of the game by installing a Crustastun machine in preparation.”
The machines are the result of extensive research and development and have the full backing of a wide range of scientific communities and animal welfare organizations in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and many European countries, Markham said.
Photo courtesy of Crustastun