‘Octopuses and lobsters have feelings and are sentient’, MPs argue

An octopus in the sea, a lobster. The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation wants the law to recognise octopuses and lobsters as sentient.

Mps are pushing for octopuses and lobsters to be recognised as sentient (Pictures: Getty Images)

Octopuses and lobsters are have feelings that should be legally recognised so they cannot be treated cruelly, a group of Tory MPs have said.

Invertebrates are not legally considered to be sentient creatures because their bodies are different and they don’t have the same brain structures.

But the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation (CAWF), which boasts supporters including Boris Johnson’s wife Carrie symonds, wants the law to recognise that these creatures do feel pain.

A bill in the early stages of debate in the House of Lords, could see octopuses and lobsters protected from cruelty if passed.

The CAWF argues: ‘Common arguments against crustacean and cephalopod sentience focus on distinctions between these animals’ anatomy and human anatomy (such as that they process information outside the brain, eg in ganglions). 

‘However, this anthropocentric view fails to capture what it means for an animal to be sentient.

‘Crustaceans and cephalopods undoubtably experience the world in extremely different ways to ourselves. 

Lobster being pulled from a tank. .  The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation wants the law to recognise octopuses and lobsters as sentient.

The creatures are sometimes eaten or boiled alive (Picture: Getty Images)

An octopus in the sea.  The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation wants the law to recognise octopuses and lobsters as sentient.

MPs argue that it is clear the animals feel pain because they have been seen to avoid it (Picture: Netflix)

‘What matters, though, is whether that experience entails conscious experience of pleasure and pain. We believe that the evidence is sufficient to show that these animals do experience pleasure and pain.’ 

The animals are aware enough to dodge predators and have been seen to make decisions that show they avoid pain.

But more than 420million cephalopods and crustaceans are fished in the UK every year, according to a CAWF report. 

Because neither of these creatures are considered sentient, they are often treated in ways which would not be acceptable with any other animal, including being eaten and boiled alive. 

Cephalopods expert Dr. Jennifer Mather said: ‘(The) octopus, which you’ve been chopping to pieces, is feeling pain every time you do it. It’s just as painful as if it were a hog, a fish, or a rabbit, if you chopped a rabbit’s leg off piece by piece. So it’s a barbaric thing to do to the animal.’

There are strict requirements for animals such as rabbits and pigs to be dead before being eaten. 

Not only that, there are laws around killing animals humanely that usually revolve around slaughtering them as quickly and painlessly as possible. 

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