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Scientists say lobsters feel no pain


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Peter Fraser, a marine biologist at the University of Aberdeen, says crabs and lobsters have only about 100,000 neurons, compared with 100bn in people and other vertebrates. While this allows them to react to threatening stimuli, he said there is no evidence they feel pain.

Does this makes them slightly less tasty?  :biggrin:  :biggrin:  :biggrin:

marine biologist! pooey, i say to him. as a chef, let me assure you..after you drop a lobster in boiling water and listen very VERY carefully, you can hear the lobster screaming.

TRUE.

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here's some information i found...

<snip>

Oxford University zoologist Dr. John Baker, found that lobsters dropped into boiling water, showed "powerful struggling movements" for up to two minutes and he concluded that these were not reflex actions but indications of pain. He also experimented with other methods of cooking them, such as starting off with the water cold and then gradually heating it, but concluded that this just led to more prolonged suffering.

...

And according to invertebrate zoologist Dr Jaren G. Horsley, "The lobster does not have an autonomic nervous system that puts it into a state of shock when it is harmed. It probably feels itself being cut... I think the lobster is in a great deal of pain from being cut open... and feels all the pain until its nervous system is destroyed" during cooking.

</snip>

cheers --

hc

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a fascinating article on lobsters

Don't know about you but I most certainly feel their pain!! :hmmm:

Don’t heat up the water just yet, though. Anyone who has ever boiled a lobster alive can attest to the fact that when dropped into scalding water, lobsters whip their bodies wildly and scrape the sides of the pot in a desperate attempt to escape. In the journal Science, researcher Gordon Gunter described this method of killing lobsters as “unnecessary torture.”
:shock:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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i found that same scientist quoted elsewhere...

<snip>

According to Dr. Donald Broom, the animal welfare advisor to the British government, "The scientific literature is quite clear. Anatomically, physiologically, and biologically, the pain system in fish is virtually the same as in birds and mammals." Adds Dr. Austin Williams, a U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service zoologist, fish "are sentient organisms, so of course they feel pain."

Ditto for lobsters. Jelle Atema, a marine biologist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., and one of the nation's leading experts on lobsters, says, "I personally believe they do feel pain."

In fact, those live-lobster "appetizers" at Heat and other trendy eateries may feel even more pain that we would if, say, Hannibal Lecter decided to hack off one of our legs for a midnight snack. According to invertebrate zoologist Jaren G. Horsley, "The lobster does not have an autonomic nervous system that puts it into a state of shock when it is harmed. It probably feels itself being cut. ... I think the lobster is in a great deal of pain from being cut open ... [and] feels all the pain until its nervous system is destroyed" during cooking

</snip>

cheers --

hc

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Drive the point of a large, sharp knife downwards through the center of the head, then pull the edge down and forward, essentially slicing the tiny brain in half more or less instantly.

If you watch a few Iron Chef reruns, you'll eventually see this method demonstrated.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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All these things quoted by halloweencat are interesting, but the people quoted are either talking about fish (an entirely different kind of organism) or are speculating and anthropomorphizing whereas the Norwegian scientists actually set out deliberately to answer the question about pain.

First of all, it helps to understand what pain is. Pain is a perception, not an objective neurological phenomenon or physical state. Advanced animals, like human beings, have specialized nerves called nociceptors that respond to high levels of mechanical, thermal or chemical stimuli. The activation of these nerves combines with other sencory stimuli and is processed inside our complex brains into the perception we know as pain. The perception and processing part is the important part, not the stimulus part. There is an entire theory of how pain works called "gate control" which asserts that pain happens only in the brain. No brain, no pain.

Lobsters do not have a brain so much as they have some grouped ganglions. Lobsters have an extremely rudimentary nervous system -- several orders of magintude less complex than vertabrates (10^3 versus 10^9). Lobsters do not react to many situations we would ordinarily think of as causing pain (losing a leg, for example) in a way that indicates the perception of pain. Lobsters do not "think" in a way we would recognize as "thinking." And as a result, we can say fairly definitively that lobsters do not experience anything akin to what we would call "pain."

Now, does this mean that they don't react to certain stimuli with avoidance behaviors (and other behaviors)? Of course not. So to oysters. Are we going to start saying that we shouldn't eat raw oystrers because it hurts them?

For those with some understanding of neurophysiology, this page may be of some interest. Here's some text dealing directly with the subject of pain:

Do lobsters feel pain? This question has been asked by many a person who tosses a live lobster into a boiling pot or slices the live lobster down the middle to bake stuff. The answer is not at all clear. The lobster's nervous system has been extremely well-studied because it serves as a "simple" model of neural circuitry in something less complicated than the highly cephalized vertebrates. Lobsters do not possess any kind of receptor akin to our pain receptors. However, they do possess stress receptors and certainly perceive the slice of a knife. It is not known whether they possess any kind of temperature sensitivity, although each species is adapted to live in a certain range of temperatures and will eventually die if forced to live beyond its normal temperature range.

Presumably (although one can't say for sure without reading the paper) the Norwegian scientists did tests specifically to determine about pain, and those tests came up negative.

Drive the point of a large, sharp knife downwards through the center of the head, then pull the edge down and forward, essentially slicing the tiny brain in half more or less instantly.

If you watch a few Iron Chef reruns, you'll eventually see this method demonstrated.

If you've ever done this yourself, you've noticed that some movements and actions remain active. As the abovereferenced site says, this may be due to the fact that the lobster's "brain" is so rudimentary that some higher functions actually happen in a different area:

Much seemingly normal behavior can occur when the circumesophageal connectives are severed, pointing to many higher level functions of the subesophageal ganglia.

--

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Wow Sam, stellar post! Avoidance behavior does not necessarily equate to sensation of pain. Avoidance behavior is important for survival though. Unless we were to fit our own human psyches somehow into a lobster, it is impossible for anyone to "know" what a lobster or any other creature feels. For me, personally, I prefer to avoid gratuitous "cruelty", that is something that might be perceived as cruel for no "good" purpose. I do not consider using a creature for food as gratuitous, although some methods of dispatch may be considered as such by some.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

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As a definitional matter, is it possible to have pain without memory or a brain? When I interviewed Dr. Robert Steneck, a marine biologist and lobster expert at the University of Maine, a few years ago, he posited that, ultimately, lobsters have no memory and no centralized brain, and that pain without memory or a brain means lobsters simply "feel stimuli and respond to them, like when the lights come on and you squint your eyes."

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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As a definitional matter, is it possible to have pain without memory or a brain? When I interviewed Dr. Robert Steneck, a marine biologist and lobster expert at the University of Maine, a few years ago, he posited that, ultimately, lobsters have no memory and no centralized brain, and that pain without memory or a brain means lobsters simply "feel stimuli and respond to them, like when the lights come on and you squint your eyes."

I dont think memory is necessary for pain. For example, I've worked with many Alzheimer's patients, and patients with other forms of dementia, who appear to have no memory whatsoever, short or long-term. But they are plenty able to feel pain. A brain is another matter. If pain is a perception, and if a perception requires a brain, then pain requires a brain. Granted this doesnt really clarify matters, as a 'brain' could conceivably be a rather small and rather unspecialized nexus of neurons, not necessarily just a fancy vertebrate brain.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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From a human neurological point of view, one can receive stimuli and respond to them without the brain being involved. If one steps barefoot on to a piece of glass and cuts one's foot, the signal passes only as far as one's spinal column before the reciprocal message to one's brain instructs one's muscles to take avoiding action. I don't know what evolutionary advantage this confers, except that the reaction time is bound to be reduced by not involving the centralised brain in the process.

The question seems to be whether for that jump to be made between stimulus and pain a brain is required or not. I'm not a neurological expert, but I would lean towards thinking that some greater processing ability than invertebratres possess is necessary in order to feel what we as humans tend to have in mind when we use the word pain. All of us know what pain is, in one form; some having, or having had, a more involved exposure to pain than others. We are, I think, guilty of projecting on to animals and investing them with more ability to experience and interpret things than perhaps they possess.

At the heart of it, to my mind, is that if you are worried about the possible cruelty to lobsters caused by boiling alive, don't do it, and don't have others do it in your name. If you're worried about cruelty to other creatures, don't ignore your own species first, either.

Having said all this, in my first serious kitchen (michelin starred, indeed; you'd think they knew better) the chef poissonier would routinely wrench both claws off the live lobster before grasping the head on one hand and the tail in the other, twisting them to separate the lobster into two halves, and throwing the head in the bin before poaching the tail.

Oh, and re: screaming - venting air, of course, though Alastair Little recommends planting a large lid on the pot and whistling the Marseillaise loudly to cover this up... :smile:

Allan Brown

"If you're a chef on a salary, there's usually a very good reason. Never, ever, work out your hourly rate."

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memory and pain. Assuming that lobsters feel pain, if they don't have memory, isn't their pain "in the moment" so to speak. They don't remember pain that came before the pain they are feeling NOW. Does it make a difference than whether I kill it by piercing it's brain or by taking longer to do in boiling water?

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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Having said all this, in my first serious kitchen (michelin starred, indeed; you'd think they knew better) the chef poissonier would routinely wrench both claws off the live lobster before grasping the head on one hand and the tail in the other, twisting them to separate the lobster into two halves, and throwing the head in the bin before poaching the tail.

Done that to live langoustines.

Sigh. My karma balance has taken a serious beating after I decided to learn cooking. Tragic, I am telling you.

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Peter Fraser, a marine biologist at the University of Aberdeen, says crabs and lobsters have only about 100,000 neurons, compared with 100bn in people and other vertebrates. While this allows them to react to threatening stimuli, he said there is no evidence they feel pain.

Does this makes them slightly less tasty?  :biggrin:  :biggrin:  :biggrin:

marine biologist! pooey, i say to him. as a chef, let me assure you..after you drop a lobster in boiling water and listen very VERY carefully, you can hear the lobster screaming.

TRUE.

Well it depends on what you mean by scream. But lobsters have no lungs or vocal cords so they do not scream in the normal sense. But there is an escape of gasses as their tempratures increase when put into boiling water. That is what you hear - but whether that is what we think of as pain is still in dispute.

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Drive the point of a large, sharp knife downwards through the center of the head, then pull the edge down and forward, essentially slicing the tiny brain in half more or less instantly.

If you watch a few Iron Chef reruns, you'll eventually see this method demonstrated.

The "brain" of a lobster is a slightly bigger collection of nerves then is found thoughout the rest of their body. They have similar collections of ganglion throughout the body. Cutting the "brain" may make it floppy, but if they do feel pain then there is no garantee that say the ganglion in the tail isn't experiencing pain independently.

I tend to bung them in the freezer for a few minutes or put them into ice water. Seems to do the trick. The last lobster I cooked was about 3 kg and if it had not been innert by chilling, the effect would have been like trying to boil a small poodle.

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I posted something about this a while ago.

Some biologist wanted to test the pain response of a lobster so he ripped off one of the lobsters claws

but then he noticed that the lobster just carried on liek nothing happened and began to feed on some food in the tank.

not the behaviour of an animal in pain. :huh:

"so tell me how do you bone a chicken?"

"tastes so good makes you want to slap your mamma!!"

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Peter Fraser, a marine biologist at the University of Aberdeen, says crabs and lobsters have only about 100,000 neurons, compared with 100bn in people and other vertebrates. While this allows them to react to threatening stimuli, he said there is no evidence they feel pain.

Does this makes them slightly less tasty?  :biggrin:  :biggrin:  :biggrin:

marine biologist! pooey, i say to him. as a chef, let me assure you..after you drop a lobster in boiling water and listen very VERY carefully, you can hear the lobster screaming.

TRUE.

Well it depends on what you mean by scream. But lobsters have no lungs or vocal cords so they do not scream in the normal sense. But there is an escape of gasses as their tempratures increase when put into boiling water. That is what you hear - but whether that is what we think of as pain is still in dispute.

Ok. I have to confess that when I made that post, I was joking. I have never heard a lobster scream. When I type with the caps lock on, I am either joking or very very angry. Of course, noone knows that except me. Now ya'll do.

As a kitchen n00bie, I was trying to cook something lobstery and a kind old gentleman told me lobsters scream when you plop them in boiling water. I agonised over it for a few weeks. A few months later, he declared(and quite convincingly) that he was 'only joking'. I thought it was..like..a running joke among lobster fans or something. Although, I have to admit that its good to know that sounds do emanate and that there is an underlying reason for it.

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I like to rip off the tail and then the claws and then scoop out the tamale while the legs are still moving around. O.K. so I don't like it but I do it. One of my instuctors in school told me that lobsters have no souls, and I mumble that under my breath each time I have to kill/prepare them. A quick glipse at perspective; do you think the lobsters are thinking about the shellfish they are chomping on, and if they are feeling pain or not?

"He could blanch anything in the fryolator and finish it in the microwave or under the salamander. Talented guy."

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i have been trained in the limb from limb method, and the tails seem to buck and thrash disconnected for a good while. the rest of the body seems immobile, maybe the poor storage and transportation, i mean they are comatose after being out of water for so long right? i feel like every "living thing" knows how to survive innately, the cockroach knows when they dont have the means of survival, the cells and neurons run with our input, we cant control pain, hunger, we can get used to it. if they did wouldn't they show some sort of counter-balanced mood with a state of happiness? i.e. when my arm heals up from that shark bite im gonna do the mchammer on the ocean floor.

The complexity of flavor is a token of durable appreciation. Each Time you taste it, each time it's a different story, but each time it's not so different." Paul Verlaine

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From a human neurological point of view, one can receive stimuli and respond to them without the brain being involved.  If one steps barefoot on to a piece of glass and cuts one's foot, the signal passes only as far as one's spinal column before the reciprocal message to one's brain instructs one's muscles to take avoiding action.

Another example I always thought was interesting was the crossed extensor reflex. Its like the flexor reflex you mention, with an added component. In this reflex, the injured foot not only withdraws (activation of flexor muscles in leg), but at the same time a signal passed through the spinal cord to the extensors on the other leg, so that the opposite leg comes forward to maintain balance. I'm not trying to draw any philosophical conclusion from this, I just thought it was interesting that you can have this multi-step behavior without input from the brain.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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