Eating Live Lobsters: Painful or Delicious?

Lili Corn

I recently received an email advertising a hot new delicacy at a swanky New York City restaurant and couldn’t wait to share the news! Apparently, the best way to eat a spiny lobster is while it’s still alive (I was promised the opportunity to “pick belly sashimi out of its still moving body”).  Now, I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical at first.  Even a Zagat blogger joked that the practice might actually be cruel.  Worse still was that after I poked around on the web for 10 seconds, I discovered that recent studies show that crustaceans, including lobsters, experience pain.

Robert Elwood, a professor at The Queen’s University in Belfast discovered that given the choice, hermit crabs left shells shocked with a small electric current for vacant, un-shocked shells.  Once in the new shells, the crabs groomed their abdomens and rapped them against the sides of the shells.  These “protective motor reaction[s]” were interpreted by the scientists as evidence of pain (not unlike the way a human might rub his knee after banging it against something).   Furthermore, another study has shown that although some crustaceans can regenerate legs in the wild, crabs whose legs were forcibly removed by humans were so severely stressed that they died or were unable to re-grow new appendages.

However, there is a light at the end of the table, folks: lobsters are not covered by anti-cruelty statutes.  So although the Humane Society has reported that “any procedure whereby the abdomen [of a lobster] is separated from the thorax” is likely to cause pain, it’s not legally cruel to do so and toss it on a plate.  And as an added bonus, live lobsters are just as fresh as fish fried live without the risk of getting splashed with scalding oil (that could hurt!).  Bon Appetit!

22 Responses

  1. Seriously, losing patience with humans utter lack of compassion in the face of new food trends and idiotic novelty dining experiences. Yet the suffering in this “dish” is not much greater than, say, the more-than-occasional botched chicken slaughter, where the chicken is boiled alive. If only all carnists could witness the twitching and dying of the animal on their plate!

  2. I thought this blog was supportive of animal rights.

    The flippant, psychotic “‘foodie” tone of this article is really disappointing.

    You write: “However, there is a light at the end of the table, folks: lobsters are not covered by anti-cruelty statutes.”


  3. @chris – totally agree with you. If the piece was attempted sarcasm or something, it missed the mark.

    I suggest the author have a read of David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster.

  4. This sounds tremendously cruel! A human to purposely pull any creature apart to eat it. *puke*
    And contrary to what some may believe, there are many states in the U.S. now that DO have animal cruelty laws that cover reptiles and crustaceans… ANY creature.

  5. Oh I’m so lost here! I live in an area where folks hardly believe that “fishes” are “animals” at all. Let alone worthy of any consideration. I mean —Hoping to put a sharp, steel hook inside a living creatures mouth as fun? And then being extra joyful if it “fights hard”? It’s *all* sick and wrong, wrong, wrong!!!

    It’s stories like this that really make me understand how far we’ve yet to go. 😦

  6. Thats horrible!!
    How would we feel if lobsters were cooking us alive and tearing off our limbs to eat them! Im sure we would be putting this illegal.

  7. it was cool

  8. that would sux to get cooked alive does any one agree

  9. Really? No one gets that this is sarcastic?

  10. The sarcasm is so drenching that it perfectly replicates a real live carnist foodie.

    We’ll have to haul out our copies of Gulliver’s Travels to bone up on what satire sounds like. I was fooled, too.

  11. I thought the sarcasm was quite plain, folks, consider the source too, this is a pro-animal blog.

    The actual story makes me livid, though it doesn’t surprise me. As Bryan points out, animals in the meat industry are treated just as badly, in the millions, every day, minute second. If you are furious about the idiotic human entitlement that makes torturing live lobsters as a food thrill possible, then get furious about the idiotic human entitlement that makes the entire meat industry possible. I know I am.

  12. Sarcastic? Maybe. In poor taste (no pun intended) – absolutely. Yes, this is a pro-animal blog, so that kind of sarcasm is unwarranted and unwelcome.

  13. isn’t one reason to even have the blog to reach people who don’t already care about animal suffering?
    because this has an edge, i was able to get my roommate- someone who grew up on a ranch- to read it. afterwards, he told me it was funny, but that he thought the experiment was made-up. He actually started googling lobsters and pain. i think that’s a good start.

  14. Why are people being disgusted about this article. Torture and abuse are common industry practices on the Factory Farms. But you still eat your burgers dont you? Also what about Kosher/Halaal slaughter? Do you really think that animals don’t feel pain when their throats are slit and they lie bleeding on the ground for minutes, dying a slow painful death. Such Hypocrites.

  15. What is truly disgusting is the number of people more concerned about the tone of the article than the fact that the damn thing is alive when you’re eating it.

  16. Agreed, Theo.

  17. Poor Taste? I absolutely disagree. Sarcasm and satire are powerful tools used by writers to convey a point, and in this situation, convey strong emotions of disgust to promote a change in behavior or rise to activism. The author feels the same way you do, and likely wrote this piece writhing in anguish about the cruelty to be witnessed in our food industry.

    The words hit their mark, now focus on the real problem that this piece is about.

  18. To paraphrase your illogical and idiotic article – basically you have said that “while scientifically we know that lobsters feel pain, good news is that it’s not illegal to torture them! Enjoy lobster sashimi!”
    I am so disheartened at how selfish, moronic, and cruel people can be.
    How can you possibly promote cruelty like this?

  19. what in the hell does “legally cruel” mean

  20. How cruel !!!
    please sign this petition
    How cruel !!
    please sign this petition

  21. […] practice to eat oysters and lobsters alive. Restaurants in New York give customers the chance to “pick belly sashimi out of (the lobster’s) still moving […]

  22. The light at the end of the tunnel is that lobsters are not covered by anti cruelty laws and that fresh lobster tastes good? Seriously? What is wrong with you? That’s a disgusting thing to say. Maybe someone should threaten to have you chopped up alive, how would that make you feel?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: