On Thursday 7 April 2022, the UK House of Lords passed the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill. This Bill is considered as a fundamental step towards animal welfare, since seafood, such as crab and lobster, are from now on protected by the law.

Existing laws already prohibited the killing of animals that may cause avoidable suffering.  

Essentially, the Sentience Bill recognises that animals experience pain and protection is necessary. At first, it only covered vertebrates, but in November decapods were added to the Bill. In 2021 the Sentience Bill was drafted in order to replace the EU animal welfare legislation after Brexit. Consequently, an Animal Sentience Committee has been established through the Bill, which will assess and examine government policies that affect animal welfare and allow for additional recommendations to prevent further unnecessary harm.

Crustacean Compassion, the UK’s leading organisation that stands for the rights of shellfish, started a petition that eventually was signed by nearly 60,000 shellfish supporters. As stated by Crustacean Compassion Executive Director Clare Howard: “Everyday crabs, lobsters and other decapods are treated in ways that would simply be unthinkable for other animals including being boiled alive. Crustacean Compassion looks forward to continuing to work with governments and industry to translate the important words within this bill into actions that protect these animals from suffering.” Thanks to this new legislation, animals are a step closer to being regarded as ‘sentient beings’ in the United Kingdom. 

The UK is considered to be a leading force in animal welfare and this Sentient Bill was a welcome addition to the ongoing debate on the treatment of creatures and species. However, the Government will not stop seafood restaurants from boiling crustacean. Therefore, do think twice when ordering a palatable plate of succulent shellfish!

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Helge Moes holds a Bachelor of Arts in Media & Information from the Universiteit van Amsterdam and is an Erasmus candidate at the University College of London. He is specifically intrigued by the cultural and psychological influence of charities and shedding light on the charities behind philanthropical acts.

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