Launching our summer campaign to #CloseTheLoophole
At Crustacean Compassion we talk a lot about the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022, also known as the Sentience Act. The reason we talk about it so much is that it is an incredibly important piece of legislation. Not only does it recognise for the first time in UK law that animals are sentient beings, capable or experience pain and distress, but thanks to your support and the overwhelming scientific evidence, decapod crustaceans are included within the definition of animal in the Act.
You might think that, given the recognition of their sentience, decapod crustaceans would now be treated in the same way as all other sentient animals, and those people who deal with them would be held to the same standards of animal welfare. That might be the logical conclusion, but it isn’t one the government has yet reached.
The flagship piece of animal protection legislation in England and Wales is the Animals Welfare Act 2006 – with Scotland and Northern Ireland having their own equivalents where policy is devolved. These laws place a duty of care on anyone who has an animal under their control, but decapod crustaceans are not currently covered – one of only two sentience species to be left out. This is an unintended loophole created by the recognition of their sentience and one that the government must act to close quickly.
Unfortunately, though, even once included in the Animal Welfare Act, there is still more work to do. That’s because the original legislation includes a ‘fishing derogation’ meaning that anything which happens “in the normal course of fishing” is outside the scope of the Act.
The fishing industry for decapod crustaceans in the UK is huge. Every year just one species, nephrops (sometimes known as langoustines) accounts for 337,000,000 animals being landed. These complex animals, with their unique behaviours and habitats, routinely have their tails ripped off whilst fully alive and conscious, in a practice known as tailing. Just so they can end up as the dish we know as scampi.
While the inclusion of decapods in the Animal Welfare Act would not offer protection from tailing and other aspects of fishing which cause suffering, it would be an indication of the level of significance given to their welfare. If the government is not willing to remove the fishing derogation, it must ensure that fishing practices maintain the highest possible standards of welfare, and that those, like tailing, which cause obvious suffering are banned.
The government has the power to end the cruelty of tailing, to end the suffering of hundreds of millions of animals every year and to improve welfare standards within the UK fishing industry - they have the power, but so do you.