Our Open Letter 

In 2018, we sent an open letter to Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) as part of the animal welfare bill consultation, asserting the sentience of decapod crustaceans, and calling for their legal protection. It has been signed by 55 leading experts, including animal welfare scientists Mike Appleby, John Webster, and Lynne Sneddon; veterinary experts and bodies, including the British Veterinary Society and AWSELVA; naturalist celebrities like Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan; and actor and comedian Bill Bailey. 

Read the letter and full list of signatories below. 

Scientists, lawyers, comedians, actors and wildlife experts call on Michael Gove to protect lobsters, crabs and other decapod crustaceans in animal welfare law

Rt Hon Michael Gove MP

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Nobel House

17 Smith Square

Westminster

London SW1P 3JR

 

 31st January 2018

Dear Minister,

 

We the undersigned write out of concern for the welfare of decapod crustaceans who remain unprotected by animal welfare legislation. Based on recent compelling scientific evidence that they are sentient and therefore can experience pain, and in light of the extreme practices they are subjected to, we call on the government to include decapod crustaceans under the definition of ‘animal’ in the Animal Welfare Bill (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) and in the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

 

Decapod crustaceans are protected under animal welfare legislation in Norway, Switzerland, Austria, New Zealand and some Australian states and territories; as well as in some regions of Germany and Italy. Yet in the UK, decapods fall outside of the legal definition of ‘animal’ in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and so there is currently no legal requirement for food processors, supermarkets or restaurants to consider their welfare during storage, handling or killing. However, Section 1 of the Act provides for the inclusion of invertebrates of any description “if the appropriate national authority is satisfied, on the basis of scientific evidence, that animals of the kind concerned are capable of experiencing pain or suffering” (Animal Welfare Act, 2006). Since the Animal Welfare Act 2006 was introduced, a body of scientific evidence has emerged which strongly indicates that decapod crustaceans do not merely respond to nociceptive stimuli, but are capable of experiencing pain. Avoidance learning, rapid behaviour change, prolonged rubbing of affected areas, the laying down of memories, and motivational trade-offs are among the criteria for pain experience that have been observed. A scientific summary is attached.

 

Despite this evidence, decapods are frequently seen crammed together in brightly lit tanks in food retail establishments with no consideration for their welfare; are frequently sold live to the consumer for amateur home storage and killing; and have even been found for sale live yet entirely immobilised in shrink-wrap. There is no economic or culinary reason why decapods cannot be humanely dispatched, yet killing is sometimes preceded by breaking off the legs, head or tail, and is often accomplished by boiling alive. Roth and Øines (2010) estimate that an edible crab boiled alive may remain conscious for at least three minutes.

 

More than 23,000 people have signed a petition online (change.org, 2018) and on paper to include decapods in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and 41 animal welfare organisations have supported this recommendation in a joint post-Brexit animal welfare manifesto (Wildlife and Countryside Link, 2018). Given the strength of the existing evidence, the scale of suffering involved, and the public interest in this issue, we believe that the time has come to join other nations in recognising the sentience of these animals.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

1

Maisie Tomlinson

Campaign Director

Crustacean Compassion

2

Professor Michael C. Appleby OBE

Honorary Fellow. Expert researcher, educator and author on animal welfare, member of FAWC 2007-16.

University of Edinburgh

 

3

Bill Bailey

Comedian, Actor, Presenter

4

Claire Bass

Executive Director

Humane Society International UK

 

5

Professor Marc Bekoff

Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

University of Colorado, Boulder

6

Professor Culum Brown

Associate Professor and Assistant Editor of the Journal of Fish Biology

Macquarie University

 

7

Ian Cawsey

Animal Advocate. Member of Parliament 1997-2010, and Former Chair of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW).

8

Eddie Clutton Dipl ECVAA MRCA

Director: Wellcome Trust Critical Care Laboratory for Large Animals; Academic Head: Veterinary Anaesthesia / BVSc MRCVS DVA

Roslin Institute, Edinburgh

9

Dr Alasdair Cochrane

Senior Lecturer in Political Theory

The University of Sheffield

 

10

Martin Cooke MRCVS

Veterinary Invertebrate Society

11

Simon Doherty BVMS CertAqV MRCVS MRQA CBiol FRSB

Director / Certified Aquaculture Veterinarian

Blackwater Consultancy Ltd

12

Peter Egan

Actor and Animal Welfare Campaigner

13

Professor Bob Evans

Emeritus Professor of History

University of Oxford

 

14

Ricardo Fajardo

International Animal Welfare Legislative Expert; and El Derecho de los Animales (“Animal Law”) author, 2007

15

John Fishwick

President, British Veterinary Association; and signing on behalf of the British Veterinary Association

16

Charles Foster MA, VetMB, PhD, MRCVS

Fellow of Green Templeton College

University of Oxford

17

Professor Robert Garner

Professor of Politics

University of Leicester

18

Professor Peter Godfrey-Smith

Professor of History and Philosophy of Science

University of Sydney

19

Professor Stevan Harnad

Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Science Editor, Animal Sentience

University of Southampton

20

Vanessa Hudson

Leader

Animal Welfare Party

21

Dr Robert C. Jones

Associate Professor of Philosophy

California State University, Chico

22

Professor Andrew Knight MANZCVS, DipECAWBM (AWSEL), DipACAW, PhD, FRCVS, SFHEA

Professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics

University of Winchester

23

Dr Dan Lyons

CEO, Centre for Animals and Social Justice

The University of Sheffield

24

Dr Heather Maggs

Postdoctoral researcher

University of Reading

25

Professor Jennifer Mather

Professor, Psychology

University of Lethbridge, AB Canada

26

Dr Steven McCulloch BVSc BA PhD DipECAWBM(AWSEL) MRCVS

Acting Director, Centre for Animal Welfare. Recognised European Veterinary Specialist in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law /

Centre for Animal Welfare, University of Winchester

27

Dr Alan McElligott

Reader in Animal Behaviour

University of Roehampton

28

Dr Dorothy McKeegan

BVA Animal Welfare Foundation Senior Lecturer

University of Glasgow

29

Fieke Molenaar MSc DZM(Mammalian) MRCVS

President of British Veterinary Zoological Society

British Veterinary Zoological Society

30

Jean-Marc Neumann

Lawyer LLM, Secretary General of EGALS (Educational Group for Animal Law Studies), Director and Editor of Animal et Droit

 

31

Chris Packham

Naturalist and Broadcaster

32

Dr Nick Palmer

Head of Policy

Compassion in World Farming

33

Dil Peeling BVSc MSc MRCVS

Formerly Senior Policy Officer, Eurogroup for Animals, Brussels

34

Dr Mirjam Prinz (nee Appel) PhD

Biological Scientist

Bavarian research institute of agriculture, Germany

35

Mike Radford OBE LLB

Reader in Animal Welfare Law

University of Aberdeen

36

Ian Redmond OBE CBiol, HonDUni, DSc h.c., FLS

Independent Wildlife Biologist and Conservationist

37

Paul Roger

Independent Veterinary Consultant and Chair of AWSELVA

38

Professor Anil K. Seth

Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience; Co-Director, Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science; Editor-in-Chief, Neuroscience of Consciousness

University of Sussex

 

39

Dr Toni Shephard

Executive Director

Animal Equality

40

Kellie Shirley

Actress

41

Alick Simmons

Independent Veterinarian; Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer, 2008-2016

42

Dr Lynne Sneddon B.Sc. (Hons), PhD

Director of Bioveterinary Science

University of Liverpool

43

Ronnie Soutar BVM&S, MSc, MRCVS

President Fish Veterinary Society

44

Michaela Strachan

TV Presenter and Conservationist

45

Dr Cedric Sueur

Head of the masters degree Animal Law and Ethics, Member of the French Council for Animal Experimentation

Université de Strasbourg, France

46

Dr Alma Swan BSc (Zoology), PhD (Biology)

Private individual

47

Dr Aurelie Thomas DVM, PhD, DipECAWBM (AWSEL), MRCVS

Named Veterinary Surgeon

Wellcome Sanger Institute

48

Lord Alexander Trees BVM&S, PhD, DVetMed, DVMS, MRCVS, HonFRSE

Veterinarian/Crossbench Peer

House of Lords

49

Wendy Turner Webster

TV Presenter

50

Peter Tutt

Coordinator

The Shellfish Network

51

Gary Webster

Actor

52

Professor John Webster MA, Vet MB, PhD, DVM (Hons, London), MRCVS

Emeritus Professor of Animal Husbandry

University of Bristol School of Veterinary Science

53

Dr Peter Wedderburn BVM&S CertVR MRCVS

Veterinarian

54

Dr Sean Wensley BVSc MSc Grad.DMS MRCVS

Senior Veterinary Surgeon

PDSA

55

Dr Julia Wrathall

Chief Scientific Officer

RSPCA