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Everything you need to know about the government’s review of decapod sentience

Over the past year, you will most likely have heard us refer to the ‘LSE Report’ on decapod crustacean sentience, commissioned by Defra. We’ve been eagerly awaiting the review, and finally our patience may be rewarded as it is due to be published in one week’s time. As we count down the final week, we’ve put together a summary of everything you need to know about this important report.

Origins of the report

For over three years, we have campaigned for the government to take the welfare of animals like crabs, lobsters and prawns seriously. In response, Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) announced that they would commission a review into the capacity of decapods to feel pain. The team granted responsibility of this project were LSE Enterprise, led by Dr Jonathan Birch, an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the London School of Economics (LSE) who specialises in animal sentience and welfare.

Evidence of decapod crustacean sentience and welfare

The report will be a comprehensive summary of all evidence regarding the sentience and welfare of decapod crustaceans and cephalopod molluscs. The LSE team will assess this evidence and determine what this means in terms of their welfare, and the protection they should be granted.

Importance of the report

Here at Crustacean Compassion, we’ve been gathering and reviewing scientific studies of pain in decapods for years, enabling us to establish a thoroughly-researched, fact-based campaign. So, you might wonder why we’re eagerly awaiting this report, if we already know that decapods can feel pain... Well, despite this evidence, the government are unwilling to protect decapods in new or current legislation until they have access to the report. The announcement of the Sentience Bill this summer made the need for the report particularly urgent. The Sentience Bill identifies which animals are sentient according to law, and it is essential decapods are included to set a strong foundation for their protection in other laws. But the bill is making its way through parliament, and it is crucial that the report be released in time to inform decisions makers. Many Peers responsible for reviewing the bill have stated that they cannot vote on the inclusion of decapods without the report.

Long awaited release of the report

So why hasn’t it been published? The original deadline for publication of the report was December 2020. Although the report was completed by LSE and submitted to Defra for this date, it had not undergone mandatory peer-reviewing yet. Numerous Parliamentary Questions were submitted regarding a release date, but were simply answered ‘shortly’. Finally, commitment to a deadline was made in a meeting with EFRA by Lord Benyon who stated that the report would be made public before the next stage of the Sentience Bill, in 3-4 weeks. We’re now one week away from that deadline, and with post-Brexit legislation, such as the Sentience Bill, being drafted, Defra must stick to their word, release the report, and put it to good use!

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