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Choose compassion over cruelty this Christmas

Christmas is the most popular occasion for purchasing live decapod crustaceans to cook and eat at home* with this year’s holiday season set to see a return to nostalgic dishes such as the seventies’ prawn cocktail (BBC, 2023). But while the welfare issues associated with meat and eggs are receiving greater attention than ever before, consumer awareness of decapod crustacean welfare is lagging behind. 


Farmed prawns, for example, are routinely subject to a procedure called ‘eyestalk ablation’ where a female shrimp or prawns’ eyes are torn off in a bid to stimulate the animal’s ovaries and increase egg production. In response, the animals have been seen flinching, rubbing their wounds, and flicking their tails, which are consistent with the experience of pain. Meanwhile, lobsters are typically boiled alive despite the prolonged suffering and distress experienced prior to death, demonstrated by vigorous struggling, thrashing, and even attempts to escape. 


Nevertheless, these animals are likely to be dinner table favourites across the UK this Christmas, but there are steps you can take to have a more Compassionate Christmas this year:

1. Don’t buy live animals to kill and cook at home 


The only way to humanely slaughter a crab or lobster, they must first be electrically stunned. It is therefore not possible for consumers to humanely kill these animals at home, without causing unnecessary suffering. Common methods, such as chilling or freezing, boiling and spiking or splitting with a knife, are not quick or humane. 


2. Be mindful of gifting cookery courses – lots of cookery schools promote poor welfare practices such as live boiling 


Some cookery schools or courses will teach consumers how to kill and prepare live animals at home, which we know is impossible to do humanely (see tip one!). Make your voice heard by only spending your hard-earned money at places who prioritise animal welfare above unnecessary suffering. 

3. Get curious about the origin of your seafood, especially when dining out! 


Footage filmed on a UK fishing boat earlier this year shows workers manually dismembering live langoustines, pulling their tails off while conscious and alive. These animals are seen writhing in agony and taking minutes to die. Once their heads are discarded overboard, their tails are marketed to consumers as ‘scampi’ and so may end up on your plate this Christmas. 


These animals are legally recognised as sentient and able to feel pain, but a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act means that such treatment is totally acceptable throughout the industry. Choose compassion this Christmas by signing our petition to close this loophole and by being better informed about where your food comes from. 


4. Avoid restaurants that have live decapod crustaceans on the menu 


Most restaurants do not have the equipment required to stun a live lobster or crab, which is the only way to humanely kill these animals. Unless the establishment can assure you it has such technology readily available, it’s likely that the animal on your plate has suffered immensely to be there. Avoid places with live animals on the menu and opt for higher welfare alternatives instead. 

A Christmas message from our CEO, Dr Ben Sturgeon: “Every Christmas, the British public do their best to ensure they are buying higher welfare meat and poultry but have no idea what to consider when it comes to decapod crustaceans, like crabs and lobsters. There is still little to no legal protection from cruel practices during their journey from the sea to our plates – from capture and transport, to mutilations and slaughter but we, with your support, can change that.” 


We hope our tips have inspired you to choose compassion over cruelty this Christmas, and that you feel empowered to make happier, healthier choices for both consumers and animals. 


*A 2023 YouGov poll commissioned by Crustacean Compassion revealed that 21% of consumers who purchase live decapod crustaceans to cook and eat at home do so at Christmas. The second most popular occasion was during the summer holidays (13%). 

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