Science has shown that crustacean decapods also suffer, yet In Italy and in Europe these animals are lacking any legal protection.

OUR REQUESTS

  1. AMEND THE LAW in line with the scientific evidence currently available: decapod crustaceans must be recognised and treated as sentient beings and no longer as objects.
  2. INTRODUCE BINDING GUIDELINES to be followed during the capture, transport, and slaughter of these animals, to ensure that they are protected and treated in ways that minimise their suffering as much as possible. Specifically, regarding the slaughter phase, we ask that mandatory stunning and slaughter methods be implemented and regulated, following what is already afforded to terrestrial species, and that the needs of the individual species be considered.
  3. ENSURE AN EFFECTIVE AND UNIFORM APPLICATION OF THE RULES by the fishing industry, including traders and restaurateurs.

We ask for the adequate protection of decapod crustaceans in Italy

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WHY THIS CAMPAIGN?

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The position of science

Scientific evidence has demonstrated the ability of decapod crustaceans (crustaceans belonging to the order Decapoda, having ten legs) to feel pain and suffer. Still, many practices commonly adopted within the food industry (which include wounds, mutilations, sudden changes in temperature and inadequate maintenance parameters) are incompatible with respecting the well-being of these animals and are painful for them.

As part of the campaign, Animal Law Italia commissioned the writing of the scientific report The question of sentience in decapod crustaceans at the University of Messina.

The report, written by Prof. Passantino and colleagues from the Department of Veterinary Medicine and published in May 2024, reviews the most recent scientific evidence available on the sentience capacity of these animals. The study concludes that these animals are sentient beings, capable of feeling pain and suffering and therefore worthy of protection like any other sentient animal used within the food supply chain. This study is the first of its kind to be published in Italy and represents the first positioning of an Italian university on this topic.

We at ALI believe that while awaiting the ethical progress of society, it is necessary and urgent for the law to adapt so that lobsters, lobsters, crabs and other decapod crustaceans are appropriately protected and the pain they are forced to endure is minimised. With this project, we want to introduce laws for the protection of decapod crustaceans in Italy, thus reforming part of article 9 of the Constitution of the Italian Republic that states that ‘the law of the state regulates the ways and the forms of animal protection’.

MAIN ISSUES

Trawling

This fishing method has a high rate of mortality and injuries.​

Fishing with creels

The limbs of decapod crustaceans can get caught in the netting and detach from the animal's body.​

Incorrect handling

Improper handling of decapod crustaceans by inexperienced or inadequately trained personnel can cause considerable damage to the bodies of these animals, as well as death in the worst cases.

Declawing

This procedure involves the removal of one or both claws before returning the animals to the water, causing pain and compromising their health.​

Storage in unsuitable containers and with inadequate methodologies

Containers generally used for the transport or storage of decapod crustaceans may not be resistant to shock and pressure, and the animals may be stacked on top of one another at high densities, a practice at odds with their behavioural needs.

Storage on ice

In nature, almost all species of decapod crustaceans (with the exception of some species of shrimp found in polar regions) live in waters that never drop below 2°C. In fact, temperatures lower than 2°C render almost all species of decapod crustaceans unable to move, a state known as 'torpor'.

Use of shelter-free aquarium tanks.

In their natural environment, lobsters and crabs spend most of their time in the dark, usually under rocks and away from direct light. However, the tanks used for keeping these animals in shops and restaurants are generally bare and without shelter for the animals, which in turn are also exposed to strong, direct lighting.

High stoking density

Many commercially important decapod crustacean species, such as spiny lobsters, lobsters, and crabs, are solitary and highly territorial animals, but are often placed with other individuals at high stoking densities.

Nicking

This practice involves cutting the tendons of the claws in order to prevent their movement, and is a widespread practice in the fishing of the brown crab (Cancer pagurus), whose claw morphology does not allow them to be immobilised with rubber bands. This practice causes pain to the animals and irreparably compromises their health and wellbeing.

Delivery of live animals to the consumer's home

The delivery of live decapods to private homes is a practice that does not offer any level of protection to the animals during the handling, detention, and slaughter phases.

Inadequate water temperatures

Water temperatures outside the range tolerated by these animals are often used.

Inadequate slaughter techniques

There are several inappropriate slaughter practices commonly performed on these animals, such as dismemberment, immersion in boiling water, and freezing whilst still alive and conscious.

Although not all of these problems currently find a viable solution that can guarantee the effective protection of these animals, some of them have already been addressed by legislation in various countries around the world.

Think you've witnessed the mistreatment of a crustacean and don't know what to do?

With the “SOS CRUSTACEI” project we will understand together how best to proceed.

DECAPOD CRUSTACEANS ARE NOT PROTECTED BY THE LAW

The global use of decapod crustaceans for human consumption keeps on growing, and the fishing of these animals globally is growing faster than that of any other animal group. However, with the exception of some countries, globally decapod crustaceans remain completely neglected regarding their protection during the various phases that lead to their production, despite the fact that science has provided plenty of evidence of the fact that they are sentient, meaning that they can experience sensations including pain and suffering.

Countries where action has been taken to introduce specific norms in favour of decapod crustaceans used in the food industry are: Italy, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Norway, Australia, New Zealand. These norms were implemented to safeguard decapod crustaceans during the many deleterious practices to which these animals are subjected to globally, which comprise all stages of production, namely capture or farming, storing, transport, and slaughter.

Switzerland and New Zealand are the two countries with the most stringent regulations for the protection of decapod crustaceans; these two countries contain targeted rules to minimise their suffering during the various stages of production. In Austria and Norway, there are several regulations that mention decapod crustaceans, however these appear to be mostly made of rules aimed at minimising the death or the injury of the animals, in most cases without specific or practical provisions for their protection.

Although the United Kingdom has effectively and explicitly declared the sentience of decapod crustaceans, in practice the animals are not afforded any protection in the various stages of production. In Italy the regulatory situation is fragmented and confusing. In fact, the regulatory system currently in place is completely inadequate to guarantee any uniform degree of protection for decapod crustaceans, as there is no unitary regulatory framework in place for the protection of these animals.

The analysis of the different regulations in place in different countries has made it possible to highlight how, especially in the case of Switzerland and New Zealand, the regulations that apply to the reduction of suffering in these animals at the various stages of production can in fact be formulated and implemented. However, taking into account recent studies that demonstrate the sentience and ability to feel pain of these animals, it is urgent and essential that the law establish binding guidelines, based on updated scientific parameters, to introduce minimum standards for the protection of these animals at the various stages of production.

SUMMARY OF THE REGULATION (click to enlarge)

The legal system of the European Union is one of the most advanced regarding the protection of animals used in food production. However, none of the animal welfare regulations and directives apply to decapod crustaceans, which include many of the crustaceans most commonly used in cooking, including lobsters, spiny lobsters, and most shrimp and crab species.

This means that the protections offered to other animals during the phases of transport, storage, and slaughter are not afforded to decapod crustaceans.

Although the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) itself has recognised that decapod crustaceans are sentient beings, to date these animals are devoid of any standard of protection by European law.

Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 sets the rules to be followed during animal slaughter operations, with the aim of minimising their suffering. However, the definition of ‘animal’ completely excludes aquatic animals other than fish, for which the afforded protections are in any case ineffective, insufficient, and inadequate. Therefore, rules such as those that impose preventive stunning prior to slaughter do not apply, and there is a complete lack of provisions that explain in detail which slaughter techniques to use to ensure that these animals suffer as little as possible.

Similarly, Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 sets the rules to be followed during the transport of live animals; however, according to the definition offered by the regulation, only vertebrates qualify as “animals”. This effectively excludes decapod crustaceans from the scope and protections offered by the regulation.

Decapod crustaceans are thus subjected to a total exclusion from the field of application of animal welfare regulations in Europe, remaining without any effective protection afforded to them. This means that they may be subject to practices highly detrimental to their well-being, such as injuries and mutilations during capture, detention in confined spaces and out of water and at temperatures well below or above tolerable ones and, finally, killing in ways that cause enormous suffering, such as being dismembered or boiled alive.

roman023 / iStock

Italian law does not implement minimum rules for the protection of these animals. Not only is there a lack of uniform national legislation, but several Municipalities have introduced Regulations which, in an attempt to impose on the local territory obligations relating to the protection of these animals during marketing and sale within restaurants, have resulted in uneven protection, referring to differentiated scientific parameters, inadequate and difficult to apply.

In Italy, the storing of decapod crustaceans in conditions that are incompatible with their nature and that produce serious suffering can be considered a crime. Although the law does not protect these animals, some judges have long recognised the need to protect them from practices that are incompatibile with their nature.

On 17 January 2017, the Supreme Court of Cassation (Cass. Pen., Sez. III, n. 27173/2016) rejected the appeal filed against a sentence of the Court of Florence, which had sentenced a restaurant manager to a fine of €5,000.00, in addition to €3,000.00 in compensation, for having kept live decapod crustaceans in a refrigerated cell with their claws tied, thus in conditions incompatible with their nature and that were causing them to suffer. This case constitutes an important precedent for the protection of decapod crustaceans in Italy, as it established that certain storage conditions of these animals do not fulfil their welfare needs, and could constitute a criminal offense.

The case of 2017 was not the only one of its kind. On 13 May 2019, following a report by some customers, the police arrived at a restaurant in the eastern suburbs of Milan, finding there a lobster that was still alive, with its claws tied, and placed on ice in a plastic tray, inside a refrigerator. Prosecutor Sara Arduini asked for a fine of €2,000.00, against which the restaurateur objected, requesting the application of the probation. The judge finally sentenced the restaurateur to three months of community work at one of the shelters of the City Angels, a group of street volunteers who help the homeless and people in need.

These two court cases show how, despite the Supreme Court of Cassation having already established that keeping decapod crustaceans on ice constitutes a crime, to date there is no national regulation in Italy that effectively protects these animals from practices incompatible with their nature.

roman023 / iStock

WHY TAKE ACTION NOW

  1. DECAPOD CRUSTACEANS ARE SENTIENT BEINGS
    According to a report by the London School of Economics and Political Science published in November 2021 – in which more than 300 studies on the subject matter were analysed – decapod crustaceans are sentient beings, thus capable of feeling pain and suffering. Due to the scientific evidence presented in the report, decapod crustaceans have been included in the United Kingdom among the animal species to which the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act of 2022 recognises the status of sentient beings. The British Veterinary Association also requires that only humane killing methods be employed for these animals. Several countries in the world, including Switzerland, Austria, Norway, New Zealand, and some Australian States and Territories, have so far implemented regulations for the protection of these animals.
  2. DECAPOD CRUSTACEANS FEEL PAIN
    There is a high degree of consensus in the scientific community on the ability of decapod crustaceans to feel pain. Supporting this are several studies on the nervous system, behaviour, and responses to stress in these animals, which meet 14 out of the 17 criteria for pain proposed by the studyDefining and assessing animal pain by Sneddon and other authors. This finding is especially relevant, considering that the three unmet criteria have never been tested on decapod crustaceans. In view of this it can thus be assumed that these animals feel pain; this questions many of the practices they are routinely subjected to in the different phases of production.
  3. ITALY COULD LEAD THE REST OF EUROPE
    In Europe, only Switzerland, Austria, and Norway have specific rules on the treatment of decapod crustaceans at the national level. The adoption of a law that establishes parameters on the adequate capture, handling, transport, storage, and slaughter of these animals in Italy could bring about a big change in Europe, also inducing other nations to introduce adequate regulations for their treatment.

OUR REPORTS

(IT) La questione della senzienza nei crostacei decapodi - maggio 2024
(IT) Crostacei decapodi: tra diritto e scienza - settembre 2023
(EN) Our policy requests and reccomendations - May 2023
(IT) Le nostre norme e raccomandazioni - maggio 2023
(IT) Norme minime di protezione dei crostacei decapodi - maggio 2023
(IT) Il commercio dei crostacei decapodi in Unione europea e Italia - novembre 2022

SCIENTIFIC OPINIONS

NEXT STEPS

Delpixart / iStock

The project was started in April 2023. We are currently working on the following topics:

  • dissemination of our reports;
  • the publication of a detailed market analysis, aimed at clarifying the treatment of decapod crustaceans in the fishing industry in Italy;
  • the definition of guidelines for the protection of decapod crustaceans, approved by academics and experts in Italy;
  • legislative interventions for the protection of these animals, which aim to reduce their suffering within the food chain, by banning the practices most harmful to their well-being (such as boiling them alive).

OUR PARTNERS

We are collaborating with Annamaria Passantino, Professor of Veterinary Legal Medicine, Animal Protection and Deontology at the Department of Veterinary Sciences of the University of Messina, author of over 350 publications related to animal welfare and protection, as well as co-author of multiple articles on decapod crustaceans.

Association founded in Genoa, Italy in 1993 and currently found in several Italian regions. For 30 years the Institute has been publishing information – in collaboration with the National Bioethics Committee of the Prime Minister – on animal bioethics, dealing with the moral, social, and juridical aspects of the relationships of human beings with other species. The Institute fully supports our initiative aimed at increasing the awareness in institutions and citizens on the issue of protecting decapod crustaceans in Italy.

The Aquatic Life Institute (ALI) is an organisation that researches and advises on the welfare of aquatic animals, seeking to support activities that bring positive change, whilst focusing on higher impact welfare interventions on a global scale. ALI is also responsible for the creation of the Aquatic Animal Alliance (AAA), a coalition of organisations that believe that aquatic animals should live lives free of suffering. The Aquatic Life Institute fully supports our project and will support us in its dissemination.

We are actively collaborating with the British organisation Crustacean Compassion, whose mission is the implementation of legislation for the protection of decapod crustaceans in the United Kingdom. Crustacean Compassion was the organisation responsible for setting in motion the process that led in 2022 to the clear recognition of decapod crustaceans and cephalopod molluscs as sentient beings in the United Kingdom.

Following a market analysis of the situation in Italy on the treatment of decapod crustaceans in the fishing industry, carried out in cooperation with the fishery market analysis organisation Eurofishmarket, several questions in the form of surveys will be presented to representatives of the fishing industry in Italy. This analysis will result in the creation of a detailed report concerning the treatment of these animals in the fishing industry in Italy.

Consulting company based in Brussels that supports non-profit organisations in defining winning strategies to achieve change, through the involvement of key representatives and networking.

GIVE US A CLAW!

We need to raise 6,000 euros by the end of September to continue this campaign and achieve progress for decapod crustaceans.

Target: 6,000 euro by the end of September.
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La scienza e la normativa di diversi ordinamenti nazionali riconoscono da anni la senzienza dei crostacei decapodi e la loro capacità di sentire dolore e sofferenza, ma in Italia questi animali non ricevono protezione dalla legge.

L’articolo 9 della nostra Costituzione delega al legislatore di individuare i modi e le forme di tutela degli animali. È urgente attuare questa disposizione, adottando una legge a tutela dei crostacei decapodi, seguendo le più recenti e attendibili evidenze scientifiche. Considerato ciò, avanziamo le seguenti richieste.

Chiediamo che nella fase di cattura venga vietata la pratica del declawing, ossia la rimozione di una chela da un animale vivo.

Chiediamo che venga vietato mantenere i crostacei decapodi vivi a diretto contatto con ghiaccio o in acqua con ghiaccio.

Chiediamo che venga vietata la vendita di questi animali vivi direttamente ai consumatori, dato che in questi casi non può essere accertato che gli animali vengano conservati, maneggiati e uccisi secondo pratiche idonee a considerare le loro esigenze etologiche e minimizzarne le sofferenze.

Chiediamo che la pratica del nicking, ossia il taglio del tendine delle chele, sia vietata.

Chiediamo che venga reso obbligatorio ricorrere a tecniche di stordimento elettrico, parametrate sulle esigenze della specie coinvolta, che causino insensibilità istantanea (entro 1 secondo) al dolore prima di qualsiasi metodo di macellazione e che le pratiche debbano essere adottate da personale adeguatamente formato.

Chiediamo che nella fase dell’uccisione di astici e aragoste, il taglio longitudinale a metà lungo tutto il corpo (whole-body splitting) sia l’unico metodo di macellazione meccanica consentito, che tale metodo debba essere eseguito da personale adeguatamente formato e che non debba impiegare più di 10 secondi.

Chiediamo che per i granchi la distruzione dei due centri nervosi in rapida successione tramite oggetto appuntito (double spiking) sia l’unico metodo di macellazione meccanica consentito, che tale metodo debba essere eseguito da personale adeguatamente formato e che non debba impiegare più di 10 secondi.

Chiediamo che l’elettrocuzione con apparecchiature adeguate e parametri basati sulle caratteristiche della singola specie coinvolta, che portino alla morte dell’animale in meno di 10 secondi sia l’unico metodo non meccanico di macellazione consentito e obbligatoriamente praticato da personale adeguatamente formato.

Chiediamo che i seguenti metodi di stordimento e macellazione siano vietati: raffreddamento in acqua o aria, bollitura in acqua (compreso il lento innalzamento della temperatura dell’acqua), qualunque forma di dismembramento, immersione in acqua dolce (per specie di acque saline o salmastre), immersione in soluzione altamente salina, uso di anestetici, esposizione ad alta pressione, soffocamento con anidride carbonica.

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