Review of the Evidence of Sentience in Cephalopod Molluscs and Decapod Crustaceans

November 2021

Sentience in Cephalopod Molluscs and Decapod Crustaceans

Sentience is the capacity to have feelings, such as feelings of pain, pleasure, hunger, thirst, warmth, joy, comfort and excitement. It is not simply the capacity to feel pain, but feelings of pain, distress or harm, broadly understood, have a special significance for animal welfare law.

Drawing on over 300 scientific studies, we have evaluated the evidence of sentience in two groups of invertebrate animals: the cephalopod molluscs or, for short, cephalopods (including octopods, squid and cuttlefish) and the decapod crustaceans or, for short, decapods (including crabs, lobsters and crayfish). We have also evaluated the potential welfare implications of current commercial practices involving these animals.

Based on our research, we recommend that all cephalopod molluscs and decapod crustaceans be regarded as sentient animals for the purposes of UK animal welfare law. They should be counted as “animals” for the purposes of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and included in the scope of any future legislation relating to animal sentience.

This report is published open access under a CC-BY 4.0 licence.

Client: Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA)

Authors: Jonathan Birch, Charlotte Burn, Alexandra Schnell, Heather Browning and Andrew Crump

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