Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
1 December 1999 Issue

Stunning Stupidity
by [email protected]

On November 26th, scientists at England's Bristol University demonstrated a supposedly more compassionate way to kill lobsters, crabs and other crustaceans. In attendance were members of animal welfare groups and representatives of England's seafood industry. Because lobsters lose their "sweet fresh taste" shortly after death, they are customarily dropped alive into a pot of boiling water. For a long time this has offended the sensibilities of some people who want to eat lobsters which have endured less suffering. Go figure.

Simon and Charlotte Buckhaven, an English barrister couple, stopped eating lobster two decades ago when they learned how lobsters meet their ends. "I worked in a hotel kitchen and I used to see these creatures being boiled, and they squealed...I have never forgotten that sound," said Mrs. Buckhaven.

Contrary to popular belief, lobsters do not scream when plunged into the boiling water. The shrill whistle that is heard is caused by the contracting of their shells. During the last few years the Buckhavens have invested over 35,000 pounds (about $56,000), supplemented by a grant of 10,000 pounds from the UK Humane Slaughter Association, in research by Bristol University to develop a device to electrically stun lobsters before the boiling bath.

The result of this effort is the prototype unit they have named the Crusta-Stun, a modified microwave oven with an electrode mesh that shocks the lobster senseless. The day after Thanksgiving an invited audience at Bristol watched as Larry the lobster was placed in the Crusta-Stun. He jerked and twitched as 110 volts were applied for five seconds. Then Larry was placed in the pot of boiling water. This is more compassionate?

Some chefs suggest piercing the lobster's head with a knife, but lobsters have complicated nervous systems and many nerve centers and so it is argued that this is not a humane slaughtering method. The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) suggests placing the lobster in a plastic bag in a very cold freezer for two hours. According to them, the lobster passes painlessly into unconsciousness and dies. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends placing the live lobster in a pot of cold water, and gradually turning up the heat until the water reaches 104 degrees, which allegedly stuns the lobster into a stupor, then you can boil it with an easy mind. There is apparently a lot of disagreement over compassionate killing methods.

I knew a chef who recommended placing the lobster in a pot of wine until it was drunk and then it wouldn't care when it was boiled alive. Let's stop and think about this, folks. Is it ethical to teach a marine animal to drink like a fish? Couldn't this lead to a whole range of new problems - shrimp's cocktails, oysters stewed, pickled herrings?

The problem is... some people can't see that the phrase "humane slaughter" is an oxymoron. Ethically, I can only think of it being used in the case of an animal who does not respond to treatment for a serious injury involving significant pain, where an animal is in such a condition that it would be cruel to keep it alive. Nor does the phrase apply to the sometimes necessary act of killing an animal in self defense or in defense of others.

The stunning required in the US "Humane Slaughter Act" is not humane. It is done for economics, not compassion. The meat industry doesn't care if animals are given a painless death. Stunning renders the animal motionless so that the production line can move at a faster rate and achieve higher efficiency and profits. And the Humane Slaughter Act only applies to a small percentage of farm animals, it does not apply to fish, it does not apply to poultry which represent eight billion of the nine billion land animals killed each year for food. And it doesn't apply to animals killed to become Kosher products.

Trying to minimize the pain of death before dining overlooks other torments that befall lobsters. They are often subjected to cruel methods of trapping, transport and storage. Traps are lost on the ocean floor leaving the creatures caged until they die. Lobsters are often transported and stored in very overcrowded conditions with their claws tied. Lobsters in tanks at stores and restaurants are not given food so that they don't dirty the water with their excrement.

A spokesman for the Humane Slaughter Association of England, which gave over $16,000 dollars to the Crusta-Stun project, predicted it would be a huge success. How can that happen? Will England expand it's humane slaughter legislation to include fish? Will restaurant patrons start asking if the lobster was humanely stunned before it was cooked? What will motivate restaurants to spend the extra money for this device? Especially when they can buy my new humane slaughter invention for a lot less's a little tiny sledgehammer I call the Crushed-tacean.

Don't be a part of the stupidity, don't eat animals.

Go on to E-mail Etiquette: Persuade & Convince - Don't Alienate
by [email protected]

Return to 1 December 1999 Issue
Return to Newsletters

** Fair Use Notice**
This document may contain copyrighted material, use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owners. I believe that this not-for-profit, educational use on the Web constitutes a fair use of the copyrighted material (as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law). If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Home Page




Your comments and inquiries are welcome

This site is hosted and maintained by:
The Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman Family Foundation
Thank you for visiting

Since date.gif (991 bytes)