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
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,
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 money...it'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
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