Do we have the right to boil lobsters alive?

On Saturday, June 23rd, the Rotary Club of Guilford Connecticut hosted LobsterFest 2018. People traveling to the event may have noticed a small peaceful group of protesters holding signs near the entrance.  Their mission was to encourage people to reconsider attending the festival because of the growing social view that boiling lobsters alive is inhumane.  This idea has been spreading globally.  For example, in January of this year, Switzerland outlawed the boiling of lobsters and crustaceans without stunning and/or killing them first.

At the heart of this debate is whether or not lobsters feel pain.  Unfortunately, there is no decisive answer because scientists have come up with results to support both sides.  The simple fact is no one really knows!


For years, the initial thought was crustaceans felt no pain because of a lack of a complex nervous system and brain.  However, a new study from 2013 published in the Journal of Experimental Biology showed crabs intentionally avoiding electric shocks.  As a result of this study, Bob Elwood of Queen’s University Belfast posed the question:

“Even if you are reluctant to believe the data as being suggestive [that the animals experience pain], is it worthwhile imposing this on billions of animals every year throughout the world?”

But there is another side of this debate that seems to be getting lost among all of the science.  Morally, is it right for human beings to boil alive a living creature?  When we hear about other countries such as Korea and China boiling dogs and cats alive, we are appalled and sickened by the very thought of these beautiful animals suffering such a horrible fate.  But why don’t we feel the same about lobsters and crustaceans, which have been on this planet in one form or another for nearly 480,000,000 years? Modern humans, on the other hand, have only been around for about 200,000 years.  So, what right do we have to treat crustaceans in such a horrific uncaring way?

The fact that Switzerland, New Zealand and parts of Italy have banned the boiling of live lobsters prove that public perception is slowly leaning toward a more humane approach.  Time will tell if this trend will expand throughout the world.


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