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.”
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!”
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