Why It Steams Me When People Eat Crabs, Shrimp, and Lobsters

please don't eat lobsters

please don't eat lobsters

Did everyone read about the recent study showing that crabs not only feel pain but that they remember it? Researchers at the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University in Belfast gave hermit crabs mild electric shocks in order to determine if they could feel pain. Not surprisingly, the answer was “yes.” While I don’t think it’s ethical to subject animals to pain in order to prove that they can feel it, I am pleased that researchers are helping to prove that it’s unethical to eat animals—any animals.

Other studies have suggested that crabs, lobsters, and prawns (which are similar to shrimp) can feel pain, yet as researcher Bob Elwood points out, the millions of crustaceans used by the fishing and food industries each day have little to no legal protection. Professor Ellwood feels that a potentially very large problem is being ignored, and although he doesn’t come right out and say that people shouldn’t eat crabs, lobsters, or prawns, one can infer that from his comments. “With vertebrates we are asked to err on the side of caution,” he says, “and I believe this is the approach to take with these crustaceans.”

Crustaceans Deserve Compassion

Now there’s a novel idea, one that relatively few people embrace. Even some “vegetarians,” or pesco-vegetarians, eat fish and other sea animals, presumably believing that these beings are somehow less capable of suffering than cows, pigs, chickens, or turkeys. Sea animals (mainly shrimp and scallops) were the last animals I gave up when I went vegetarian too—a simple lack of thought on my part.

It shouldn’t really take a study to make people realize that crabs, prawns, lobsters, and other sea animals feel pain when they’re boiled, steamed, or killed in other cruel ways. Even people who aren’t entirely convinced should err on the side of compassion, as Prof. Ellwood suggests.




I think if people knew more about crustaceans, they’d understand why we shouldn’t eat them. Not only do these animals feel pain like people do, they’re similar to us in other significant ways as well. Lobsters carry their young for nine months and can live to be more than 100 years old. They use complex signals to establish social, lasting relationships. They take long seasonal journeys each year, often traveling for hundreds of miles. Crabs are capable of learning from their mistakes and retaining information so that they don’t make the same mistake again in the future. They learn to avoid foods that make them ill and they adapt to changing cues in their environment.

Hmmm. Actually, I can’t say all of these things for some people—it seems crustaceans may be more evolved than humans in many respects!

“I’ll Have A Plate Full of Bodies, Please”

What’s really unsettling—and infuriating—is that when people eat a crab, lobster, or shrimp, they’re devouring an entire body. I mean, they can form cow or pig flesh into a patty and call it a “hamburger” or “sausage,” and it distances them from what they’re eating, but when they eat a crab, lobster, or shrimp, they are biting into an entire being. Yikes!

How is it that people can obliviously pound on a corpse with a mallet, rip off animals’ legs, and suck the flesh from his or her skeleton? It’s gruesome, really. With shrimp or prawns, people often eat dozens of whole bodies in one sitting. I guess I never thought about it when I ate shrimp either, but it’s really quite disturbing, and it shows how disconnected many people are from their “food.”

Faux “Seafood”

If you like the taste of seafood, but don’t want to eat sea life, try the seafood alternatives available from vegieworld.com (I’ve only tried a few of the products and some of them are better than others, so please let me know if you have any recommendations!).

For those of you who like to cook, Nancy Berkoff’s cookbook Vegan Seafood: Beyond the Fish Shtick for Vegetarians includes recipes for “Fish” Tacos, “Crab” Enchiladas, and much more. If you were (or are) a scallop fan, try Worthington’s Vegetable Skallops, which are sold in many grocery stores or by Pangea, the vegan superstore.

If you have other recommendations, please share them. Now repeat after me: “fish, and crustaceans, are friends, not food!

35 amazing vegan recipes

read some related articles:

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7 Responses to Why It Steams Me When People Eat Crabs, Shrimp, and Lobsters

  1. Amalthea May 8, 2009 at 4:42 pm #

    Thank you! Thank you! It has always bothered me that so many “vegetarians” will eat the creatures of the sea.

  2. Alex July 30, 2009 at 7:25 am #

    On the other hand there are plenty of us who are aware of what we eat and realise that lobsters eat other lobsters fish and such. I’ts fair enough that you decided to become a vegetarian…. But I cannot understand why you try to push morals onto other people.. Most animals that you eat are killed humanely… Lots of crustaceans are now knocked out before being cooked… and the fact that you find it barbaric that we pull these animals appart to consume them is a little pointles as they would suffer far more brutal demises from their fellow invertebrate comrades. And as for pain… Plants have been shown to feel pain to so to be honest… It looks like you’re running out of humane food sources….

  3. Amalthea July 31, 2009 at 2:05 pm #

    To the person above me:
    We aren’t animals. We have a choice in what we eat and are perfectly capable of making the decision to eat plant based foods. I have no way of verifying whether humane methods are used to kill crustaceans, but the point is moot anyway. Like I said we are capable of living healthy, full lives on plant foods so it is morally wrong not to do so. As vegans we strive to do the least amount of harm possible. Plants lack central nervous systems, so there is much debate about them feeling pain. Most scientists agree that they do not feel pain. If you’re really concerned about it I suggest you become fruitarian, eating only the fruit and seeds of plants so as not to kill the plants. As for “pushing morals” onto others you wouldn’t say “Don’t push your morals on me it’s none of your business if I beat my wife” would you? Of course not! So why does it make sense that we can’t ask others not to harm and/or kill animals?
    Please take a look at: http://www.humanemyth.org/
    http://veganpeace.com/animal_cruelty/lobster.htm

  4. alyx December 2, 2009 at 2:09 pm #

    im sorry but are u stupid? you are pushing your morals onto people. Listen we all need food and if that means eating other animals what is so wrong? Sharks eat crabs. squids eat crabs! while there alive i might add. Also congratz? your a vegeterian i dont recall asking to be honest u act like it makes u a better person. please think of something better to post

  5. alyx December 2, 2009 at 2:11 pm #

    amealtha- im sorry but shutup… really no 1 cares if your a vegan no 1 asked it doesnt make you any better why dont you keep what you eat to yourself your ignorant and utterly stubborn. thanks.

  6. mager December 13, 2010 at 11:05 pm #

    plants feel pain? lmao….

  7. Veghead June 4, 2011 at 10:54 am #

    If being vegan bothers you so much, why did you go to the trouble of coming onto VEGANcampus, reading this article, and commenting? No one forced you to come here. And as far as “pushing morals” goes, it’s her post, she can say what she wants. You can’t blame the author of a novel for stating his or her opinions because it’s THEIR book that you CHOSE to read, so why do the same thing here? She’s allowed to state her opinions. I am a vegetarian (one who doesn’t eat seafood). Do I think I am better than someone who consumes meat? Of course not. But do I think it is more honorable to be a vegetarian? Definitely.

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