Campaigners call for boiling alive of crabs and lobsters to be banned

A Maine lobster. Credit: AP

Celebrities are among the signatories of a letter calling on the Government to ban the boiling alive crabs and lobsters.

Crustacean Compassion's letter to Environment Secretary Michael Gove asks for decapod crustaceans, such as crabs, lobsters, prawns and crayfish, to be classified as "animals" under the Animal Welfare Bill and in the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Since they are currently outside of this classification, there is "no legal requirement for food processors, supermarkets or restaurants to consider their welfare during storage, handling or killing", the letter states.

Amongst the signatories are comedian Bill Bailey, TV presenter and conservationist Michaela Strachan, naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham, the president of the Royal Veterinary Society, and a host of other campaigners and academics.

The letter continues that decapods are "sentient" and according to scientific research "are capable of experiencing pain".

While being boiled alive before they are eaten, the crustaceans will struggle and attempt to free itself, while also shedding its limbs.

Lobster and crab meat spoils quickly after they are killed. Credit: PA

Lobsters and crabs, considered by many to be a delicacy, must be cooked or frozen quickly after being killed as their meat spoils rapidly.

Despite this, crabs and lobsters "are frequently seen crammed together in brightly lit tanks in food retail establishments with no consideration for their welfare... and have even been found for sale live yet entirely immobilised in shrink-wrap".

The letter also states that "killing is sometimes preceded by breaking off the legs, head or tail, and is often accomplished by boiling alive", and instead calls for the creatures to be "humanely dispatched".

They add that a 2010 study concluded than an edible crab boiled alive could remain conscious for three minutes.

Earlier in January, Switzerland banned the boiling alive of crabs and lobsters.

More than 22,500 people have signed a petition, calling for Crustacean Compassion's demands.