Response to sentience in cephalopod molluscs and decapod crustaceans review

Our response to the publication of a London School of Economics (LSE) report by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Today Defra has published the report from a government-commissioned independent review of the evidence of sentience in cephalopod molluscs and decapod crustaceans by LSE. Our response is as follows:

“The UK live shellfish trade was worth over £296 million in exports in 2019. Much of this value comes from catching and selling live crabs, lobsters and langoustines to Europe and beyond. How these shellfish are treated has always been important because crabs and lobsters that are kept alive and in good condition attract the best price.

“The UK seafood industry already uses practices designed to reduce stress to the animal and to maximise the survival of crabs, lobsters, and langoustines as they move through the supply chain. Keeping animals alive is important for economic and food quality reasons and, as the London School of Economics (LSE) report shows, for the welfare of these animals.  

“At some point, animals destined for human consumption must be killed. Despatch can be challenging but it should always be managed in a way that ensures any unnecessary stress is avoided or reduced. This is already a priority for many seafood businesses who have good handling and despatch processes. Many of the recommendations are already happening such as proper procedures for transporting live animals.

“The LSE report highlights that the welfare of these animals needs to be considered and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have tabled an amendment to the Sentience Bill in response to the report. While most operators already have good processes in place to care for their catch, it will be important that all operators understand what good practice looks like and what should be avoided. We know that many businesses have already taken the necessary steps, but there are some businesses that will need to change how they do things.

“The seafood supply chain is complex so ensuring businesses have access to best practice guidance will be important. This is a model adopted in other countries, such as New Zealand, and it works well.

“We are pleased the LSE acknowledges the importance of ‘codes of best practice’. As the public body active in this space, Seafish is working in collaboration with the Shellfish Association of Great Britain (SAGB) and the Crab Management Group to explore what guidance is needed. Work on this has started and we will shortly release a review of current industry practices around the handling and despatch of crustacea across the seafood supply chain. This will inform future guidance.”

Aoife Martin
Director of Operations