Scientists Conclude Crabs Feel Pain, Are Still Delicious

Scientists have determined that, while fish still do not feel pain, crabs likely do. But that’s not going to stop us from enjoying the tasty crustaceans.

In news that will likely change little (but is still pretty interesting), animal behavior professor Robert Elwood of Queen’s University in Belfast, UK, looked into whether or not crabs feel pain after a chef asked him about it. “I thought it was a very strange question,” Elwood said, and admitted that he didn’t know.

Determining whether a creature feels pain can be difficult, so Elwood and scientists crafted a list of criteria for what pain might look like in an invertebrate, reports NPR. After a series of experiments, he concluded that crabs probably do feel pain, and exhibit evidence of the experience aspect of pain avoidance as well as stress-related behavior after being shocked.

The new research “provides evidence that supports the issue that crabs — and other crustacean decapods as well — feel pain,” Francesca Gherardi, an evolutionary biologist not involved in the study, told LiveScience in an email. “It is avoidance learning that makes the difference.”

Elwood himself thinks that this new evidence suggests it might be time to change our treatment of crabs in the food industry. “If the evidence for pain in decapods continues to stack up with mammals and birds that already get some protection, then perhaps there should be some nod in that direction for these animals,” he said.

So maybe crabs will get some rights in the near future before they hit your plate, but, because they’re still delicious, that’s probably still where they’ll end up.

What do you think? Do crabs feel pain? Should they have more protection in the food industry?