We know that Lobsters are usually cooked alive. But, why do we cook lobsters alive? Do lobsters feel pain when we cook them alive? How do we know if lobsters are feeling pain? Are there any ethical issues? In this article on lobsters, we try to answer these questions about cooking lobsters. If you are new, you might want to subscribe to sciencetidings.com mailing list.
Lobsters contain harmful bacteria
Lobsters and certain species of shellfish contain harmful vibrio bacteria in their tissues. After the death of lobster or shellfish, these bacteria start to divide and grow rapidly feeding on the decaying tissues. Their growth is so rapid that their number increases within the first few hours after the death of lobster. These bacteria then release certain substances which might cause food poisoning when consumed.
Why do we cook lobsters alive?
As we know, these harmful bacteria release toxins that might not get completely destroyed by cooking. In order to prevent this, we cook the lobster alive. By cooking the lobster alive, we are trying to minimise the release of toxins and by doing so we are actually reducing the chances of food poisoning. This is great for us! But what about the lobster? Do lobsters feel pain when we cook them alive? Can lobsters perceive pain like we do?
Do lobsters perceive pain?
We can actually order lobsters alive on amazon in certain countries. Many people actually boil them alive to reduce the chances of food poisoning. But is it ethical to do so? Can they perceive pain?
It has been argued that lobsters do not possess a true brain like we do and so can’t feel pain. It is fair to say that they are not self-aware in the same way that we are, but they do react to tissue damage both physically and hormonally. They are capable of detecting pain on some level. We release a certain hormone called cortisol when our body is under stress. Lobsters release exactly the same hormone cortisol that we humans produce.
But, there is one more sign to look at. Lobsters have a special reflex called escape reflex. They twitch their tail when they sense that they are in some sort of danger or distress. When we cook lobsters alive, they do twitch their tail. This means they are perceiving pain or stress on some level.
What can we do to reduce their pain?
Researchers at the University of Maine found that putting the lobster on ice for 15 minutes before dropping it into boiling water produced the shortest tail-twitching interval (20 seconds). This means that probably suffering is least if we cook lobster this way. But there is a counter-argument. placing the lobster in cold water that is then slowly brought to the boil does not anesthetize the animal and appears to extend its suffering.
What are the current issues?
More scientific research needs to be done on crustaceans to say something for sure. There is an organization called crustacean compassion, that lobbies for the humane treatment of crustaceans. They are pushing governments in various countries especially the United Kingdom to include crustaceans in various animal welfare acts and thus preventing them to be cooked alive.
This is how Lobsters are sold live on Amazon:
Live lobsters on Amazon UK:
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What is that creature in the disturbing picture? I found that to be in really poor taste. It looks like a prawn or spiny lobster.