Animal Profile: Lobsters and Us


December 18, 2012

Care of Bonnie Shulman

What do the movies Annie Hall and Julie & Julia have in common? Each features a gruesome scene in which a giggling woman struggles at the idea of putting a live lobster in a pot of boiling water, but does so anyways. Formulaic hilarity ensues.

Why do people give in to cruelty, when they know full well it’s the wrong choice?

Maybe because, in the case of lobsters, they look so “alien” to humans that it’s hard for the Annie Halls of this world to imagine that they perceive the world at all. But they do.

Lobsters are living beings and really aren’t so different from us. For example:

  • Like humans, lobsters have a long childhood and an awkward adolescence.
  • Lobsters carry their young for nine months and can live to be over 100 years old.
  • A 2007 study at Belfast’s Queen’s University suggested that crustaceans do feel pain. Pain helps them avoid behaviours that would cause them damage.

But lobsters cannot avoid the damaging behaviour of humans. Lobsters live on the muddy bottom of oceans, where they are caught by lobster fishers using baited, one-way traps. Millions of lobster traps line the North American Atlantic coast. Once transported to our cities, lobsters live in the filthy grimy water of a grocery store tank, blue elastic bands around their appendages.

Chefs treat lobsters as though they were not living things. One popular chef advised readers of a food magazine to chop up a live lobster before tossing it on a barbecue. Faced with such tremendous cruelty to an animal that very obviously feels pain, the animal rights organization PETA asked marine biologists what was the most humane way to kill a lobster.

The answer: “There is none.” The best solution is to simply choose compassion, and choose vegetarianism.

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