Close up to a European lobster's face

Online Sales of Live Decapods

Animals like crabs and lobsters (decapod crustaceans) are sold online in the UK by retailers such as Amazon. This involves the animal being delivered alive to the consumer, then stored and slaughtered in the consumer’s home. There are many ways in which this process negatively impacts their welfare. This is an issue of particular importance at this time of year as sales of live lobster increase significantly around Valentine’s Day.

Delivery to Consumers

Online ordering and delivery of these fragile animals puts them at risk of injury, suffocation, and death. They are aquatic, nocturnal, solitary animals, who live in cold waters where they shelter alone in the dark. 

  

In contrast to their natural habitats the cramped, inappropriate delivery conditions can cause extensive stress and suffering. 

 

Delays and delivery complications not only increase the journey times but also further increase the harm inflicted to these animals.

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At Home

Once delivered, crabs and lobsters who were ordered live online may then be kept, handled and slaughtered inappropriately in the consumer's home. 

Despite their hard shell, careless or rough handling can cause stress and injury for these fragile animals.

In addition, it is extremely challenging to create the right environment for storing decapods. They require specific conditions to ensure their health and welfare needs are met. These include factors such as the correct water quality, temperature, salinity and light. Many people also store crabs and lobsters in the fridge or freezer prior to killing and cooking, but this method of chilling is also inhumane. For more information on this, see 'Chilling'.

It is not possible for an untrained consumer to humanely slaughter crabs and lobsters in their kitchen.


To humanely slaughter a crab or lobster, they must firstly be stunned effectively, followed by mechanical killing, before they are cooked. These steps required for humane slaughter must be carried out by a trained professional, and so it is therefore not possible to slaughter a decapod at home without causing extreme suffering.

Three European lobsters laid on a wooden table

Find out what is required for an animal to be considered able to feel pain, and how decapods meet these requirements.

Two American lobsters with their claws bound laid on crushed ice

For more information on our position on key welfare issues, check out our animal welfare policies and position statements.

Small crab standing on a grey sand beach with one claw raised in the air

Take action: Tell Amazon that selling live animals online is unacceptable. Take a minute to send a pre-written letter now.