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Let the lobsters live

I was delighted to see that Australia’s animal cruelty conviction, for cruelty to a lobster, had made the Washington Post and Canada’s National Post, even before I read the Post article right through to the utterly perfect ending. Titled, “A seafood company killed a lobster – and was convicted of animal cruelty,” Arin Greenwood’s article appears in the Thursday March 9 edition of the Washington Post on page A14. A truncated version of the same article appears on page B3 of Canada’s National Post, titled, “Claw and order; New South Wales Firm Convicted For Cruelty To Lobster.”

Greenwood relays a story, as reported in The Guardian, which says that the Nicholas Seafood Company workers were convicted, having been seen, “butchering and dismembering lobsters with a band saw, without adequately stunning or killing them.”

She writes, 

“Depending on your perspective, this might both churn the stomach and raise confusing questions. Are you behaving monstrously if you boil a live lobster – a fairly common cooking method? Could you be found guilty of animal cruelty if so?

“The answer to the second question is pretty straightforward: As things stand now, you are highly unlikely to be convicted of animal cruelty for behaving badly, even very badly, toward a lobster.”

But this case, and this article, are big steps in the right direction! 

The article tells us, “In the United States, neither fish nor crustaceans are covered under the federal Animal Welfare Act, and they are mostly exempt from state animal-cruelty laws as well.” And we learn, “Laws regarding slaughter do not cover fish – or chickens.”
Then Greenwood writes:

“Why aren’t fish, crustaceans and chickens given these legal protections? It’s not because these creatures aren’t smart or don’t experience pain. There’s good evidence that they are and that they do. Jonathan Balcombe, author of the book ‘What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins,’ said he believes fish are sentient creatures with highly complex lives and societies.

“‘Their lives matter to them,’ he said. ‘I’ve become firmly convinced they deserve equal moral consideration to all other vertebrates.’

“Balcombe said the situation with crustaceans, as opposed to vertebrate fish, is ‘less clear.’ But research has shown that crustaceans do ‘remember and learn from apparently painful events,’ and that should bring them into our moral universe, he said.

“‘Sentience is the bedrock of ethics,’ he said.”

While the truncated Canada National Post version ends on that important note, the original Washington Post version continues with quotes from Hal Herzog, the author of “Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat,” and from Steve Colman of Australia’s RSPCA, who says:

“We hope this conviction will expand the circle of empathy and welfare to crustaceans and more animals that often do not evoke the same level of compassion as others. With the scientific community proving lobsters feel pain and the New South Wales legislation backing that up, we’re excited to see such progress in the space of animal welfare, and we hope that this case can be a guiding light for others.”

And then, after letting us know where we can find out how “to dine on lobster but minimize its suffering,” Greenwood ends with,

“Or you could avoid all these questions and let the lobsters live.”

On line, there is an extra phrase, so the ending reads, “Or — just a friendly suggestion here — you could avoid all these questions and let the lobsters live.”

Friendly indeed!

You’ll find that Washington Post article on line at http://tinyurl.com/z27f6r4 

You’ll find the truncated but still superb version that appeared in today’s National Post (Canada) at http://tinyurl.com/j4u2t7k 

Canadians can respond to the latter, making the suggestion that got left out of the shortened piece, though please don’t use Greenwood’s exact words. Letters species — fish and chickens, for example, are specifically mentioned in the article. 

The Washington Post takes letters at letters@WashPost.com and Canada’s National Post takes them at letters@nationalpost.com   

Always include your full name, address, and telephone number when sending a letter to the editor. 

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