Crabs Say Ouch!  Let’s End the Cruelty

By Shlomo Maital    


 All over the world, restaurants dump live lobsters into boiling water and tear claws off live crabs.  So?  They’re just crustaceans.  They can’t feel anything, right?  They’re like..well, stones.

      You may have suspected for years that living things DO feel pain.  But the question is, how do you prove it?  According to the BBC World Service’s excellent program Science in Action, a scholar at Queen’s U., Belfast, Ireland, named Bob Elwood has indeed shown that crabs feel pain.  It results from a chance encounter between Elwood and a top chef, Rick Stein, who asked Elwood about whether crabs feel pain.  Here is how Elwood proved it.  His study was peer-reviewed and published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

   Ninety crabs were put individually in a tank with two dark shelters and some were given electric shocks after they chose one.  This process was repeated and by the third time most shocked crabs went to the alternative safe shelter.  “Having experienced two rounds of shocks the crabs learned to avoid the shelter where they received the shock,” Professor Elwood said.  “They were willing to give up their hideaway in order to avoid the source of their probable pain.”

   The mild shock of 10 volts was sufficiently aversive for crabs to make them avoid a safe shelter.  Crab psychology is such that a safe shelter is worth, well, its weight in gold.  So if a mild 10 volt shock is aversive enough to change crab behavior, what would tearing off the crabs’ limbs feel like?

    There is a simple point here.  We should respect all living creatures, even crustaceans. We should not cause them pain, because there is a thin line between hurting creatures and hurting humans.  The Indian religious sect Jain obsessively avoids hurting any creature, even ants, and some Jains sweep in front of them with broom to avoid stepping on insects.  We don’t have to go that far. But how can you enjoy a gourmet meal when it comes at a price of causing  a living thing pain, perhaps extreme pain?  Especially when it is not necessary.