Protecting decapods

It’s difficult to estimate the number of decapods caught and farmed every year. Around 30 to 40 thousand tons of decapods are caught in Europe each year, in trawl nets and traps.

Meanwhile, annual imports of shrimp into the EU approach half a million tons. Commercially available stunning equipment isn’t widely adopted. Farmed crustaceans face all of the challenges associated with intensive agricultural production. Wild crustaceans may have their claws removed alive, or suffer being packed alive in air for long road journeys.

The most obvious cause of cruel treatment is inhumane slaughter methods. Decapod crustaceans are not protected by slaughter regulations, and are routinely subjected to unnecessary suffering due to inhumane slaughter methods which would be considered completely unacceptable in a vertebrate animal. Decapod crustaceans are routinely boiled alive as a method of slaughter. Whilst being boiled alive, lobsters and crabs often thrash, try to escape, and shed their limbs (a known sign of stress).

Common transport practices expose decapod crustaceans to multiple stressors, including but not limited to inappropriate and/or fluctuating temperatures, water quality, unsuitable packaging/containment, overcrowding, stacking, air exposure, vibration, noise, light,  manual handling, and confinement in close proximity to others of the same or sometimes different species. As a result, the animals experience many physical (e.g. injuries), physiological (e.g. production of the stress hormone, crustacean hyperglycaemic hormone), immunological (e.g disease or infection) and behavioural (e.g aggression) disturbances. This inevitably causes suffering and results in high levels of morbidity and mortality both in transit, and during recovery at the destination.

fish manipulation

Did you know?

  • It can take up to three minutes for lobsters to lose consciousness in boiling water.
  • There is no data on how many crustaceans are transported alive or how many survive the journey.


of EU citizens think the welfare of lobsters is important and they should be better protected


In the EU, there is no legislation or policy initiatives to protect or improve the welfare of crustaceans. This is despite the recognition by EFSA that decapod crustaceans are sentient animals whose welfare is deserving of protection.

Several countries and local authorities have introduced requirements for best practices at slaughter, including in Norway, Switzerland, Italy, and New Zealand.

Following a report published by LSE in November 2021 that clearly concluded that decapods are sentient and need legal protection, the UK government recognised the sentience of decapods in new legislation.


  • Stunning should be required at slaughter.

  • Live transport should end and be replaced by the transport of meat and carcasses.

  • Mutilation of live animals should be prohibited.