About Shellfish Network




The Shellfish Network does not encourage the killing of these animals by any method. This is for compassionate reasons and because of concern for human health. However, as we realise it may take some time to convince consumers of shellfish of this, we would suggest that the crustastun is the least worst option. This machine appears to electrically stun and then kill crustaceans fairly quickly. We say ‘appears’ because the scientific papers that we have read to date seem to indicate this. However, we are open to a revision of our view should the evidence change.   






The most common method of killing lobsters is by plunging them in boiling water, or by gradual heating


When plunged into boiling water lobsters which are in full vigour behave wildly, whipping their tails and trying to escape.  Experiments carried out by the late Dr. John Baker for the Humane Education Centre (The Humane Killing of Lobsters and Crabs, 1975) concluded that these were not reflex actions, but indications of pain.  He showed that death could take up to 7 minutes.  Dr. Baker also researched bringing 14 lobsters slowly to the boil.  The lobsters flipped violently as the temperature increased.  The three lobsters heated in tap water regurgitated at least twice during the first ten minutes.  Baker noted shaking, trembling and other unco-ordinated movements; a general struggling, writhing or convulsive movement of the whole body without locomotion.  ‘The experiments recorded here give no support to the opinion that slow heating results in the gradual and peaceful onset of unconsciousness.  On the contrary, the animal becomes active and seeks at first to get away by normal locomotion; abnormal movements then supervene and violent flips are usually witnessed as the lobster struggles to escape’  Baker stressed that in order to make a scientific study of humane killing, it is necessary to work with animals in a state of full vigour.  If this is not done, every experiment is open to the objection that it is impossible to know how much, if any, of the results of an experiment are to be attributed to the procedure intended to render the animal unconscious, and how much to the reduced vitality of the animal before the experiment started.



Other Shellfish:


Boiling in seawater is the traditional method of killing all crustacea, or in the case of eg mussels, steaming. However, this is also very cruel.  95% of species are invertebrates, and most have the capacity to detect and respond to noxious or adverse stimuli (stressful or dangerous situations).  For example, they respond to changes in temperature beyond the normal range, contact with noxious chemicals, mechanical interference and electric shock by withdrawing or escaping.  Many invertebrate animals have elaborate nervous systems and sensory systems.  Their nerve cells under a microscope appear very similar to our own.  Even the simplest invertebrates exhibit such responses.  Some invertebrates have special sensory receptors called nociceptors which respond specifically to noxious stimuli.  They respond to pinching, squeezing or cutting. 






  1. Guidelines for Avoiding Cruelty in Shellfish Preparation.  New South Wales Agriculture, Animal Welfare Unit.  1994.
  2. Let’s Call the whole Thing Off.  Coalition to End Animal Suffering and Exploitation (C.E.A.S.E.) USA 1986.
  3. Jaren C. Horsley, Ph.D.  A letter to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) 1993.
  4. Humane Killing of Animals.  Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW).
  5. Humane Killing of Crabs & Lobsters UFAW 1978.
  6. The Humane Killing of Lobsters and Crabs.  John R. Baker D.Sc (OXON) FRCS, for the Humane Education Centre.  1975.
  7. Catching, Handling and Processing Crabs. Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF, now DEFRA) 1987.
  8. A Question of Pain in Invertebrates.  Jane A. Smith, Ph.D.  Institute of Laboratory Animal Resources news, USA.  Dr. Jane Smith is a lecturer in the Dept. of Biomedical Science and Biomed. Ethics at the University of Birmingham Med. School, Birmingham, England. 1991