Many assume that crustaceans, as invertebrates, are incapable of feeling pain. Yet anyone who has ever seen live crabs dropped into boiling water knows that the reaction can be quite violent. They move around vigorously as if trying it escape and “squeal” as if begging to be freed.
We know that the “squealing” is actually the result of air escaping from their shells (crustaceans don’t have vocal chords). And, based on the relative simplicity of the crustacean nervous system, the physical reaction was often assumed to be merely a reflex response with no feelings of pain attached.
The weight of scientific evidence now seems to suggest otherwise. Studies at the University of Belfast on pain in prawns and crabs have provided further evidence that crustaceans do in fact feel and respond to pain. Whatsmore, it seems that they remember pain – not only reacting instantly to it but later going to lengths to avoid the causes of past pain.
Personally I would rather err on the side of caution. It takes no extra effort on my part to use a humane method. And besides it’s the method used by restaurants because it tastes better!