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Monday, March 22, 1999 Published at 23:40 GMT


Campaigners boiling over lobsters

Lobsters have feelings too

A campaign group is calling for a ban on the "cruel" practice of boiling lobsters alive and says that restaurants that continue to do so should be boycotted.

The BBC's Karen Bowerman: "If it's cruel, it's cruel"
Boiling has long been accepted by the food industry as the quickest and most efficient way of killing many kinds of seafood, but animal rights activists say it subjects the creatures to too much pain.

Now the Shellfish Network has been set up to campaign for commonly eaten crustaceans and shellfish to be afforded the same legal rights as mammals.

Strict laws govern the slaughter of pigs, sheep and cows, but there are no regulations for the killing of creatures like oysters, shrimp, lobsters and crabs.

[ image: It can take 15 seconds for a lobster to die]
It can take 15 seconds for a lobster to die
Shellfish Network spokeswoman Julie Roxburgh said: "You can't neglect one aspect of cruelty, just because it might appear less important than others.

"I don't think cruelty can be quantified in that way. If it's cruel it's cruel."

Scientists at Bristol University have tackled the problem of humane slaughter by developing a tank that electrocutes the lobster and instantly renders it unconscious before it is boiled.

Chefs have responded by saying that any such equipment would make an already costly luxury dish prohibitively expensive for many customers.

[ image: Luxury dish: Already expensive]
Luxury dish: Already expensive
In addition, a lobster's flesh begins to toughen from the moment of death, so chefs value the speed of preparation allowed by boiling the crustacean from live because it produces a much better dish.

The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare is quoted in the cook book Simply Fish as recommending boiling as the swiftest method to despatch a lobster.

According to the book, a lobster thrust into "ferociously boiling" water will die in under 15 seconds.

Alternative methods include placing the creature in a plastic bag in a freezer for two hours, where it will fall unconscious and die.

Placing a lobster in cold water and gently heating it to boiling will cause the lobster to drown slowly, while killing it with a knife is difficult and is just as likely to lead to lengthy asphyxiation, says the book.

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