The scope of the UK’s Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill is to be extended to include octopuses, crabs and lobsters, in response to a report by LSE Philosophy’s Foundations of Animal Sentience project.

A recent report compiled by LSE Philosophy’s Foundations of Animal Sentience project [ASENT] demonstrates that there is strong scientific evidence that Cephalopod Molluscs and Decapod Crustaceans have the capacity to experience pain, distress or harm. In response, the UK government has confirmed that that the scope of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill will be extended to include all animals from these two groups – which include octopuses, squid and cuttlefish, and crabs, lobsters and crayfish.

The review evaluated the potential welfare implications of current commercial practices involving these animals. It recommends against declawing, nicking, eyestalk ablation, the sale of live decapod crustaceans to untrained, non-expert handlers, and extreme slaughter methods such as live boiling without stunning. It also includes suggestions for best practices for transport, stunning and slaughter.

Although decapod crustaceans and cephalopods have complex central nervous systems, one of the key hallmarks of sentience, up until now they have not been recognised under the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill.

Led by Associate Professor Jonathan Birch, ASENT is a a five-year ERC-funded project thats aims to resolve some of the debates around the nature of animal sentience and the criteria for its attribution, with a particular focus on the presence or absence of sentience in fish and in invertebrates. By developing a conceptual framework for thinking about sentience as an evolved phenomenon that varies along several dimensions, ASENT hopes to contribute to a deeper understanding of how these dimensions of sentience relate to measurable aspects of animal behaviour and the nervous system, thereby offering a richer picture of the links between sentience, welfare and the ethical status of animals.