Lobsters and crabs "feel pain"

Tamar Stelling at the Washington Post:
He started with prawns. After so many years of working with them, he thought he knew what to expect, which was that he would see nothing more than reflex reactions. But to his surprise, when he brushed acetic acid on their antennae, they began grooming the treated antennae with complex, prolonged movements of both front legs. What’s more, the grooming diminished when local anesthetic was applied beforehand.

Notable Replies

  1. So, higher living creatures with complex nervous systems may have pain receptors?!

    OH MY!

  2. Am I the only one to read that and be amazed at how stupid we are? Do we really need to have studies and tests before we can grasp the basic concept that animals feel pain? Clearly I should have read the article first because the answer is in the first paragraph: Elwood was stumped. “It was the first time I ever considered the question,” he says.

    The world is doomed.

  3. No, you're not the only one. For anyone who has watched invertebrates like crustaceans or cephalopods, I really think this would be very obvious, save that there was a preconception otherwise. But generally it seems strange to me that we still approach it as if there's a line for suffering.

    There's a spectrum of more and more complex behavior, gradually moving through taxis, reflex, instinct, and more developed mental models, from sponges up through to the apes and whales, but without any sharp divisions. Why would anyone not expect response to injury to go through the same continuous spectrum?

    Still kudos on this key point:
    Denying that crabs feel pain because they don’t have the same biology is like denying they can see because they don’t have a visual cortex.

    I've actually seen that basic argument here: in mammals a particular type of receptor is used in pain and another in reflex actions, and crustaceans use the second for everything, so none of it should count as real pain. As if the precise choice of chemical messenger truly dictates the ethological role, let alone our ethical approach to it.

  4. Counterpoint: lobsters and crabs are also delicious.

  5. To be fair nobody here is questioning that, though, or they wouldn't be looking at invertebrates. And it's entirely reasonable to surmise that some cases, like jellyfish or tapeworms let alone sponges or plants, have no capacity to mourn or dread, though they obviously respond to damage in their own way. Like I said, there's a spectrum.

    There's a spectrum on that, too. Many mammals don't have a sense of self in the same way people do, but I hope we've gotten to the point where everyone understands they feel pain in much the same fashion.

    Lots of animals are delicious. :cow2: There's only some people who feel bad about eating them, but I hope nearly everyone would about boiling them alive. Which I think is the popular interest in this: they want to know whether it's ok to watch lobsters struggle in the pot instead of killing them first. :frowning:

Continue the discussion bbs.boingboing.net

34 more replies