New tool allows citizens to report abuse of crustaceans


New tool allows citizens to report abuse of crustaceans

15 April 2024
Decapod crustaceans, such as lobsters, crabs, shrimps and scampi, are frequently kept alive throughout their journey through the seafood supply chain. A new tool allows anyone to report mistreatment whenever these animals are found suffering due to being stocked at high densities, tied, iced, or kept out of water.

Italian citizens can now directly report instances of cruelty towards decapod crustaceans, with the aim of pursuing legal action where possible, thanks to the newly launched SOS Crustaceans project, part of the On behalf of crustaceans campaign, by organisation Animal Law Italia. Through this campaign, the organisation’s team of legal experts will initiate a series of ground-breaking legal actions, so that the need for businesses to follow the latest scientific evidence is definitively recognised.

Something had to be done to actively protect these sentient animals from the many acts of mistreatment that they frequently experience in the seafood supply chain. We hope that through this project, at least some of the practices that the industry routinely exposes these animals to, such as detention on ice and stocking at high densities, will no longer be permitted.

Dr Lorenzo Fruscella, Campaign Lead

Decapod crustaceans would never experience temperatures close to zero in their natural habitats, but in the seafood supply chain they are often kept alive in cold storage, out of water, laid on beds of ice. In many cases their claws are tied, they are not fed, often for weeks, and are forced to live in barren tanks in close proximity with other individuals, despite the fact that most of them are solitary and highly territorial species, at times exposed to direct light sources. Their use within the industry also subjects them to repeated manipulations by inadequately trained personnel, to ultimately be killed with methods that cause prolonged suffering.

Although there are no laws at national level that protect these animals in Italy, there have already been multiple convictions for detention on ice. In Florence, a restaurant manager received a fine of €5,000 for having detained live decapod crustaceans in a cold room and with their claws tied. In 2019, a live lobster with its claws tied on an ice tray was found in the refrigerator of a restaurant near Milan. The public prosecutor requested a fine of €2,000 via criminal decree, which was later reduced to three months of community service. 

Animal Law Italia hopes that obtaining further pioneering criminal convictions will be the first step towards changing the law to ensure that decapod crustaceans are adequately protected.