Aquaculture for all

Animal advocates call for crustacean welfare codes

Crustaceans Welfare Processing +6 more

Animal welfare advocates are condemning the delay in adding decapod crustaceans, such as crabs and lobsters, to the UK Animal Welfare Act, despite the government's acknowledgment of their sentience in 2022.

Blue crab.
Decapod crustaceans were recognised as sentient under UK law in 2022

© Shutterstock

In April 2022, decapod crustaceans such as lobsters, crabs, prawns, and langoustines, were recognised as sentient in UK law. Following this, decapod crustaceans were not added to the Animal Welfare Act, but a set of voluntary decapod welfare codes were proposed by the seafood industry - made up of the Shellfish Association of Great Britain (SAGB), the industry-led Crab and Lobster Management Group (CMG), and Seafish.

A set of regulations was expected to be consolidated by the end of 2023, to be implemented across the shellfish supply chain to create best animal welfare practices however, months later, these regulations are still yet to appear.

In a report from Crustacean Compassion - an advocacy organisation for the welfare of crustaceans - it was estimated that UK vessels alone landed into UK ports each year over 420 million crabs, lobsters, langoustine, prawns, and shrimp. Crustacean Compassion claim that, without the application of welfare regulations, that could mean that vast numbers of decapods have been torn apart whilst alive, mutilated, crushed during transport, stored alive on ice, and boiled alive because no one wants to take responsibility for the welfare practices of these sentient animals.

Whilst the wait for the regulations continues, some supermarkets are applying their own stringent policy, such as Marks and Spencer, who have committed to higher welfare standards such as electrical stunning and the elimination of mutilations through their supply chains. However, this is not the case across much of the supply chain, as many companies are choosing to do nothing until the release of the industry codes.

“The Conservative government has really dropped the ball on animal welfare. We have a situation where companies like Marks and Spencer are leading on decapod welfare and the government just looks the other way,” said Dr Ben Sturgeon, chief executive of Crustacean Compassion, in a press release.

“Where there needs to be clear legislation to ensure all sentient animals are protected equally under animal welfare law, the government has abdicated responsibility to the seafood industry who are also delaying the inevitable, that decapods need to be part of this country’s animal welfare legislation,” he added.

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