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Press Release: 25 March 2024

Press Release: Supermarkets urged to commit to never selling live lobsters and crabs as part of welfare minimums for decapods  


Award winning animal welfare organisation Crustacean Compassion is urging supermarkets to commit to a permanent ban on the live sale of lobsters and crabs as part of minimal welfare commitments in the wake of its recent Snapshot report.  

The Snapshot 2023 report ranked the welfare standards of the UK’s leading seafood retailers, producers, processors, and wholesalers in relation to animals known collectively as decapod crustaceans. These include crabs, lobsters, prawns, shrimps and langoustines, the tails of which are commonly branded and sold as scampi.  

Crabs, lobsters, prawns, shrimp and langoustine (decapod crustaceans) were legally recognised as being sentient (capable of feeling pleasure and pain and fear) in April 2022 but they were not included in all animal welfare legislation, such as The Animal Welfare Act. 

The Snapshot revealed that while retailers such as M&S, Waitrose, The Co-op and Morrisons have a policy on not selling live decapods to the public, major retailers such as Tesco, Sainsburys, Aldi and Lidl do not.  

A recent poll of 1000 people carried out by Appinio and commissioned by Crustacean Commission revealed 87% agreed they should be able to trust supermarkets to ensure the highest animal welfare standards for ALL sentient animals. 

The poll also showed animal welfare came top with 59.4% of respondents saying it was the key factor that makes a brand or retailer appear more ethical. 

Crustacean Compassion CEO Dr Ben Sturgeon said: “We don’t expect to buy a live chicken or lamb and take it home to kill as rightly there are concerns about whether we could kill the animal humanely and without undue suffering. Decapods should be included in that protection.  

“With Supermarkets tripping over themselves to share with the public all the welfare policies and protections they have in place for land-based farm animals, we are very disappointed they have not done the same for equally sentient decapod crustaceans. 

“An absolute minimum we are asking all supermarkets to commit to is no live sales of decapods to the public.” 

Crustacean Compassion is aware, few supermarkets currently sell live decapods but there is a concern they might revert to doing so with the increased interest in seafood as a source of protein and existing live sales online and from other retailers. 

Ben added: “With Easter, a big foodie holiday fast approaching, we know the majority of consumers want to trust what they are buying is of the highest welfare standards and if supermarkets can’t even produce a simple policy to not sell live decapods to the public it would be easy for their customers to think they simply don’t care equally about animal welfare for all sentient animals.” 

Crustacean Compassion released The Snapshot benchmark earlier this year, it found under 50% of the leading seafood companies including the big named supermarkets do not have comprehensive decapod welfare policies. 


Only four supermarkets M&S, Waitrose, Co-op and Morrisons have committed to not sell live decapods to the public.  


Many have made a commitment to decapod crustacean welfare in a policy statement (or equivalent) but have no explanation of how the policy is to be implemented, leaving decapods out in the cold in comparison to the animal welfare policies for land-based animals in the food chain.    


Examples of where supermarkets are failing.   

  • NO universal policy on not selling live decapods to the public.   

  • NO clear policies on ending unnecessary mutilations such as eyestalk ablation (removing eyestalks in prawns) or claw nicking which can lead to disease and death of crabs and lobsters.  

  • NO information on how decapod crustacean welfare is included in supplier contracts.  

  • NO clear position on requiring all decapod crustaceans to be humanely stunned and slaughtered.   


Crustacean Compassion Campaign Manager Carol Lever added: “If our major supermarkets really care about animal welfare for all sentient animals then having  a policy on live sales is a simple ask. We hope this has been an oversight on their part that they will quickly rectify as there is simply no excuse for not doing so.” 


Notes to editors: For further information/interviews/filming please contact Jo Barr email or call Carol Lever 07904 265639.  


Crustacean Compassion is the UK’s leading animal welfare organisation dedicated to the humane treatment of decapod crustaceans (crabs, lobsters, nephrops and prawns). Their work is grounded in scientific evidence, they do not campaign against the use of decapod crustaceans as food but rather campaign for good practice within the food industry, greater protection within UK legislation, and better education amongst the public and policy makers on the science of decapod crustacean sentience and welfare.  


Twitter/X: @crab_welfare  


The Snapshot: Industry Benchmark on Decapod Crustacean Welfare evaluates the welfare journey of decapods, from capture through holding, handling, transportation, storage, and slaughter. It was commissioned by the UK’s leading decapod crustacean welfare organisation and not-for-profit Crustacean Compassion, and facilitated by Chronos Sustainability, the specialists behind the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW).  

Key statistics: 

  • 30 companies were ranked from the highest scores in tier 1 to the lowest in tier 5.  

  • Of the well-known retailers only Marks & Spencer (M&S) achieved a tier 1 ranking with a score of 90%.  

  • Waitrose scored 71% in tier 2 followed by Tesco (42%) in tier 3, and in tier 4 Sainsbury’s (34%) and Morrisons (33%). 

Asda (6%) and Aldi (6%) were in the bottom tier alongside Ocado (6%), Iceland (18%) and Lidl (15%).  

M&S achieved their top ranking due to an extensive new decapod welfare policy including commitments such as:  

  • To not approve/source any new supply of decapod crustacean that does not meet M&S welfare sourcing policy.  

  • To find alternative solutions to crab claw nicking as an industry and to prohibit eyestalk ablation within the supply chains. 

  • To not approve/source any new species of decapod crustacean which are not electrically stunned prior to kill. 

  • To never sell any live decapod crustaceans 

 Consumers are currently able to buy live decapod crustaceans including crabs and lobsters to kill at home. This is despite rules in England, Northern Ireland and Wales saying that no one should kill an animal without “knowledge and skill necessary to perform those operations humanely and efficiently” -  


When asked ‘Do you believe that the live sale of these animals should continue?  the poll revealed Yes 33.3% and No 50.6%  


A full and detailed description of the benchmark’s methodology and assessment criteria can be found within The Snapshot 2023 report including Company Tiers and Rankings

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