Boiling Lobsters Alive May Eventually Be Illegal in the UK

Changes possible after report reveals substantial evidence that lobsters feel pain.

Published Nov 23, 2021

 (Internet Archive Book Images/Wikimedia Commons)
Image Via Internet Archive Book Images/Wikimedia Commons

A new U.K. law will acknowledge that crustaceans like lobsters can feel pain, and therefore boiling them alive could be considered illegal under this amendment. The proposal emerged after a study, conducted by the London School of Economics (LSE), concluded that there was strong evidence of sentience in octopods and “substantial evidence of sentience in astacid lobsters/crayfish.”

The report came in the wake of controversy over the U.K. government’s Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, which recognizes all animals with backbones, or vertebrates, as sentient beings. The bill, introduced in May 2021, was criticized for being incomplete, and the government commissioned the independent report through LSE into “the sentience of decapod crustaceans and cephalopods” in order to consider them for “future protections.”

Sentience, according to the LSE report, refers to “the capacity to have feelings. Feelings may include, for example, feelings of pain, distress, anxiety, boredom, hunger, thirst, pleasure, warmth, joy, comfort, and excitement.”

The LSE report concluded with the recommendation “that all cephalopod molluscs and decapod crustaceans be regarded as sentient animals for the purposes of UK animal welfare law. They should be counted as “animals” for the purposes of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and included in the scope of any future legislation relating to animal sentience.”

The report also adds recommendations on humane ways to slaughter decapods:

We recommend that the following slaughter methods are banned in all cases in which a more humane slaughter method is available, unless preceded by effective electrical stunning: boiling alive, slowly raising the temperature of water, tailing (separation of the abdomen from the thorax, or separation of the head from the thorax), any other form of live dismemberment, and freshwater immersion (osmotic shock). On current evidence, the most reasonable slaughter methods are double spiking (crabs), whole-body splitting (lobsters), and electrocution using a specialist device on a setting that is designed and validated to kill the animal quickly after initially stunning it.

On Nov. 19, 2021, the government released a statement saying they would amend the bill. Animal Welfare Minister Lord Zac Goldsmith said, “The Animal Welfare Sentience Bill provides a crucial assurance that animal wellbeing is rightly considered when developing new laws. The science is now clear that decapods and cephalopods can feel pain and therefore it is only right they are covered by this vital piece of legislation.” With this recognition, it is possible that inhumane methods of killing lobsters, which include boiling them alive, will be illegal.

He added that after the bill becomes law, they would form “an Animal Sentience Committee made up of experts from within the field” who would “issue reports on how well government decisions have taken account of the welfare of sentient animals.”


“Animals to Be Formally Recognised as Sentient Beings in Domestic Law.” GOV.UK, 13 May 2021, Accessed 23 Nov. 2021.

Birch , Jonathan, et al. Review of the Evidence of Sentience in Cephalopod Molluscs and Decapod Crustaceans. London School of Economics and Political Science, Nov. 2021, Accessed 23 Nov. 2021.

Horton, Helena. “Boiling of Live Lobsters Could Be Banned in UK under Proposed Legislation.” The Guardian, 19 Nov. 2021. The Guardian, Accessed 23 Nov. 2021.

“Lobsters, Octopus and Crabs Recognised as Sentient Beings.” GOV.UK, 19 Nov. 2021, Accessed 23 Nov. 2021.

“Octopuses, Crabs, and Lobsters Are Sentient Beings, Says Updated UK Law.” Gizmodo, Accessed 23 Nov. 2021.

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.