ARE YOU A VEGAN OR VEGETARIAN ORGANISATION?
No we are not. While we believe the UK would be a healthier, more environmentally sustainable and more humane society if we reduced our consumption of animals, we do not campaign against the eating of crustaceans or other sealife as food. Indeed, we welcome food companies and restaurants who practice humane decapod crustacean husbandary and slaughter.
HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED?
IF THE SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE IS SO STRONG, WHY AREN'T DECAPOD CRUSTACEANS ALREADY PROTECTED?
Politicians think that invertebrates are fairly low down the list of public animal welfare concerns. Invertebrates just don't raise the same kind of emotional response as vertebrate mammals. Although the Animal Welfare Act provides for the inclusion of invertebrates should scientific evidence become available, the government will take into account the level of public concern before deciding whether to make the necessary changes. This is what happened, for example, in Australia, where there was significant public campaigning for a change in the law. That's why we need your help!
IS THERE ABSOLUTE PROOF THAT DECAPOD CRUSTACEANS CAN FEEL PAIN?
It is never possible to tell with absolute certainty what another animal is feeling or experiencing. Pain can only be indirectly inferred, not directly proven. In such circumstances, scientists set up experiments which look at factors such as the behaviour, hormone levels etc when a 'painful' stimulus is applied.See more info here.
In any case, The Animal Welfare Act does not require conclusive proof, only that the minister is 'satisfied' that invertebrates are 'capable' of pain and suffering.
WHY DON'T YOU CAMPAIGN FOR CEPHALOPODS TO BE INCLUDED IN THE ACT AS WELL?
Some campaigns call for legal protection for both cephalopods and decapods. We are focussing our resources on decapod crustaceans who we believe are the most misunderstood and who are kept and slaughtered in the UK in much greater numbers for food. However, we think there is an equally strong case for cephalopods like octopus, squid (eaten as calamari) and cuttlefish and we support campaigns to include them in the Act, especially given the disturbing international trend of the eating of live octopus.
The research on cephalopods has been very limited up until recently. However research on these creatures increasingly demonstrates that cephalopods have complex brains similar to vertebrates and ‘are actually highly intelligent, sentient beings, capable of suffering and many other complex emotions’. "Meeting an octopus," writes Professor of Philosopy Peter Godfrey-Smith, "is like meeting an intelligent alien." Octopus, cuttlefish and squid have large brain to body ratios, fascinating natural abilities and are excellent learners and problem solvers sometimes using tools creatively and at significant immediate cost to acheive longer-term aims. They can be playful and many people who work with them describe highly individual personalities.
Their nervous system has been described by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) as "sufficient in structure and functioning for them to experience pain. Notably, they release adrenal hormones in response to situations that would elicit pain and distress in humans, they can experience and learn to avoid pain and distress such as avoiding electric shocks, they have nociceptors in their skin". For this reason in 2010 cephalopods have become the first group of invertebrates to receive special protections in scientific experiments under an EU Directive "for the protection of animals used for scientific purposes" due to "scientific evidence of their ability to experience pain, suffering, distress and lasting harm". This was adopted by all member states - including into the UK's Animal Procedures Act - in January 2013.
The conclusion that these animals are capable of suffering pain and distress should ensure their basic protection in ALL circumstances in which they are kept and slaughtered - in the food industry and as pets as well as in scientific procedures.