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Does It Hurt To Boil Lobsters

Chefs generally kill lobsters in one of two ways: By slicing them in half, or by boiling them alive. These would undoubtedly be excruciatingly painful deaths for humans, but is either experience painful for lobsters?

Seth Millstein

In a lot of seafood restaurants you can choose your own lobster, to eat. The lobster that you choose is then taken, alive and boiled to cook it. The lobsters aren't killed before this. They are alive when you choose them, alive when they are taken out of the tank, alive when they are put in the pot of boiling water. But, does it really matter? Do the lobsters have any idea of what is happening to them, do they feel pain?

A lobster dish
People don't like to eat meat that looks like an animal

Do Lobsters Feel Pain?

Alright, let’s get to the point: can lobsters feel pain? And more importantly, why the hell are we still throwing these creatures into scalding water? This isn’t just a culinary debate; it’s an ethical crisis that we need to face head-on.

Rapid avoidance learning and prolonged memory indicate central processing rather than mere reflexes

Biological Sciences

First things first, let’s tackle the science. Researchers have been butting heads for years over whether lobsters and other crustaceans can feel pain. On one side, we have studies suggesting that these animals possess complex nervous systems capable of experiencing pain. Their twitching and thrashing about when plunged into boiling water isn’t just some reflexive dance of death; it’s potentially a desperate and agonising response to a gruesome end. But, on the other side of the debate, there are scientists who argue that lobsters lack the brain structure necessary to process pain as we do. They claim these reactions are mere reflexes, devoid of any true suffering. But come on, let’s use some common sense here. Reflex or not, the sheer panic displayed by these creatures is enough to make any empathetic person recognise complete distress.

"If you’re tilting it from a container into the steaming kettle, the lobster will sometimes try to cling to the container’s sides or even to hook its claws over the kettle’s rim like a person trying to keep from going over the edge of a roof. And worse is when the lobster’s fully immersed. Even if you cover the kettle and turn away, you can usually hear the cover rattling and clanking as the lobster tries to push it off. Or the creature’s claws scraping the sides of the kettle as it thrashes around. The lobster, in other words, behaves very much as you or I would behave if we were plunged into boiling water (with the obvious exception of screaming). A blunter way to say this is that the lobster acts as if it’s in terrible pain, causing some cooks to leave the kitchen altogether and to take one of those little lightweight plastic oven timers with them into another room and wait until the whole process is over."

Next issue: why the hell are we still cooking lobsters this way? In a society that prides itself on progress and compassion, why are we so barbaric when it comes to our food? The truth is, we’ve normalised this cruelty because it’s convenient and, let’s be honest, because it’s hidden behind a curtain of butter and garlic. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Wrong. It’s time we acknowledged the utter cruelty of what people are doing. If you are going to eat a lobster, or even a crab or other seafood, there are better, more "humane" ways of killing and cooking them. But, what about this, don't eat them! This isn't a crazy idea, we don't need to do this.

What’s even more infuriating is the smug indifference some people show when confronted with this issue. “They’re just lobsters,” they say, as if that justifies turning a blind eye to potential suffering. Just because they’re not cute and cuddly doesn’t mean their pain (or lack thereof) is any less significant. It also raises the question, if we know that lobsters are sentient, they can think and feel, and experience pain, why is it still legal to boil them alive? We don't need to wait for the laws to change to change our behaviour and stop behaving like barbarians with less of a brain than the animals that we're hurting.

In conclusion, whether lobsters can feel pain or not isn’t the sole issue here. It’s about our responsibility as sentient beings to treat other creatures with respect and decency. It’s about challenging our habits and making choices that reflect our so-called civilised values and not just our ability to treat others in a way that means that we get what we want, even if they suffer. Let’s stop being hypocrites and start practising the compassion we preach. Wake up, people, and smell the butter – it’s got a stench of cruelty we can no longer ignore.



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