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Study Suggests Crabs Can Feel Pain 628

Posted by samzenpus
from the but-your-legs-are-so-delicious dept.
tritonman writes "A new scientific study suggests that crabs can feel and remember pain. From the article: '"More research is needed in this area where a potentially very large problem is being ignored," said Elwood. Legislation to protect crustaceans has been proposed but it is likely to cover only scientific research. Millions of crustacean are caught or reared in aquaculture for the food industry. There is no protection for these animals (with the possible exception of certain states in Australia) as the presumption is that they cannot experience pain.' Perhaps soon there will be a study to determine that vegetables feel pain as well, then all of the vegans will only be allowed to eat rocks."

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Study Suggests Crabs Can Feel Pain

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  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Friday March 27, 2009 @04:49PM (#27363243) Homepage Journal

    But you'd have to ask a vegetable if it feels pain.

  • Does it matter... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by noirsoldats (944384) on Friday March 27, 2009 @04:49PM (#27363249)
    if they feel pain? Cattle defiantly do, we still eat them.. As, I'm sure, a wide variety of other food stuffs feels pain as well..
    • Re:Does it matter... (Score:5, Informative)

      by orclevegam (940336) on Friday March 27, 2009 @04:55PM (#27363329) Journal

      if they feel pain? Cattle defiantly do, we still eat them.. As, I'm sure, a wide variety of other food stuffs feels pain as well..

      I think the point is more that it's traditional to kill most crustaceans in a decidedly nasty manner. In the case of crabs (and sometimes lobsters) they're boiled alive, and in the case of lobsters they're often ripped in half (tail end is twisted off while it's still alive). The issue here would be that if they can be demonstrated to feel pain (sort of assumed they do myself, most all animals do) then there would be a demand for them to be "humanely" killed prior to being cooked.

      • Required reading (Score:5, Informative)

        by yali (209015) on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:03PM (#27363463)

        From David Foster Wallace's now-classic essay in Gourmet [gourmet.com]:

        Even if you cover the kettle and turn away, you can usually hear the cover rattling and clanking as the lobster tries to push it off. Or the creature's claws scraping the sides of the kettle as it thrashes around. The lobster, in other words, behaves very much as you or I would behave if we were plunged into boiling water (with the obvious exception of screaming). A blunter way to say this is that the lobster acts as if it's in terrible pain...

        There happen to be two main criteria that most ethicists agree on for determining whether a living creature has the capacity to suffer and so has genuine interests that it may or may not be our moral duty to consider. One is how much of the neurological hardware required for pain-experience the animal comes equipped with--nociceptors, prostaglandins, neuronal opioid receptors, etc. The other criterion is whether the animal demonstrates behavior associated with pain. And it takes a lot of intellectual gymnastics and behaviorist hairsplitting not to see struggling, thrashing, and lid-clattering as just such pain-behavior.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Crustaceans are bugs. They have like 5 brain cells. What Wallace is describing is just an aversive reflex, not "pain." You can get the same type of reaction from certain plants.

          • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy AT gmail DOT com> on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:35PM (#27363865) Journal

            Well semantically, the difference between "Experiencing pain" and "Displaying pain behaviours" is so thin as to be non-existent. Might as well assume they're the same thing.

            As the same time, I agree with you. Nearly every living thing has a stimulus response to being damaged, including many plants. You have to draw the line somewhere.

            Besides, what's the alternative? Whacking the head off with a cleaver first? It'll still flop around. If they didn't want to be killed by immersion in boiling water, they should have skipped the ol' exoskeleton.

            • Re:Required reading (Score:5, Informative)

              by publiclurker (952615) on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:52PM (#27364101)
              For a lobster, you can put a chef's knife through their head. That should be quick and painless enough. I've always done this. Mainly so I don't have to deal with boiling water and claws at the same time.
              • Re:Required reading (Score:5, Interesting)

                by wrencherd (865833) on Friday March 27, 2009 @07:04PM (#27365129)

                I have seen chefs put lobsters in the freezer so they (presumably) go to sleep and die quietly.

                Is this more or less humane I wonder.

                • Re:Required reading (Score:4, Informative)

                  by HeadlessNotAHorseman (823040) on Saturday March 28, 2009 @07:43AM (#27369195) Homepage

                  >>I have seen chefs put lobsters in the freezer so they (presumably)
                  >>go to sleep and die quietly.
                  >>
                  >>Is this more or less humane I wonder.

                  I would argue that it is probably not humane. My mother-in-law once put a fresh crab in the freezer, based on the same logic. However the next day when she retrieved it (I was a witness to this; I am vegetarian whereas she is not) the crab was still moving. It was still alive, and whilst the extremities were frozen, it was clearly awake and presumably in some level of pain (I've never had frostbite, but according to wikipedia there is some level of pain involved).
                   
                  I was not able to gauge how much pain (if any) it was in, but if crustaceans do suffer from pain due to frostbite then this would be a very cruel way to treat them since they appear to remain "awake" for some time as the extremities freeze up.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              Well semantically, the difference between "Experiencing pain" and "Displaying pain behaviours" is so thin as to be non-existent. Might as well assume they're the same thing.

              One problem I have with the study's premise is that we don't yet know that much about how memory works in humans, much less how it works in crustaceans. So the article begs the question when it equates "memory of prior unpleasant experience in shell #X" with "sensation of pain."

              Put another way: all the article demonstrates is that crabs

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by frieko (855745)
            If it's just thrashing/twitching, that's a reflex. If it's trying to get out of the pot, that's behavior.
          • Re:Required reading (Score:4, Interesting)

            by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75&yahoo,com> on Friday March 27, 2009 @10:46PM (#27367165)

            Crustaceans are bugs. They have like 5 brain cells.

            What difference does that make?

            And did you actually read the article? Reflexes don't last for a lifetime. The part about the hermit crabs switching shells only if they'd been exposed to a painful stimuli in the past certainly suggests pain memory. The fact that crustaceans limp when exposed to painful stimuli is also pretty compelling evidence. There's no reason whatsoever to limp unless you feel pain - that's a pain-induced protection response, not an aversive reflex.

            The whole point of the article is that we've assumed crustaceans don't experience pain because they don't have a neocortex in their brains, which is where we experience pain. But that just means they don't experience it by the same mechanism we do, not that they don't experience it at all. (Since you apparently didn't read the article, they use vision as another example of something lobsters have that's processed in a manner completely different from humans.)

        • by EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:08PM (#27363535)

          The lobster might behave as we would, but I can guarantee you that the lobster is much, much tastier. Speaking of which, I think I need to go for some Lobsterfest tonite!

        • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:11PM (#27363569)

          There happen to be two main criteria that most ethicists agree on for determining whether a living creature has the capacity to suffer and so has genuine interests that it may or may not be our moral duty to consider. One is how much of the neurological hardware required for pain-experience the animal comes equipped with--nociceptors, prostaglandins, neuronal opioid receptors, etc. The other criterion is whether the animal demonstrates behavior associated with pain. And it takes a lot of intellectual gymnastics and behaviorist hairsplitting not to see struggling, thrashing, and lid-clattering as just such pain-behavior.

          Except there's a third criteria: is the animal tasty enough to disregard the other two criteria.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Chris Burke (6130)

            Except there's a third criteria: is the animal tasty enough to disregard the other two criteria.

            Well thank goodness humanity isn't tasty enough to meet that criteria.

            And seriously if anyone wants to disagree, don't kid yourself. You are not very delicious.

          • by The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) on Friday March 27, 2009 @06:49PM (#27364937)

            Except there's a third criteria: is the animal tasty enough to disregard the other two criteria.

            That reminds me of something my daughter told me while driving past a cow field when she was 4 years old.

            "Cows sure are cute daddy... It's too bad they taste so good. Can we have steak when we get home?"

        • Re:Required reading (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Kelbear (870538) on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:50PM (#27364067)

          I'm not objective enough to actually endorse the following rationale but:

          An argument could be made that the animals lack value in the same sense that we value a human. Let's set aside the idea that humans have no objective value either and say that they do given our subjective empathy with the human experience.

          Just because it recognizes and reacts to pain doesn't necessarily signify anything other than the fact that we recognize that it recognizes and reacts to pain.

          Lots of videogame badguys take damage and react accordingly to preserve their lives. The Emotion engine for example is a physics/animation/AI package licensed by game developers to provide this behavior(as seen in GTAIV and Star Wars: Force unleashed). It allows the AI to assess damage, recognize potential harm, and attempt to preserve itself. People thrown through the air will put their hands up to protect their head and face, they'll take hits and attempt to reassert their balance after the impact. Pedestrians who are shot will panic and flee as best they can. But it's still just a game. The virtual characters only have virtual suffering.

          (If games aren't your thing, you can think of Cylon pain instead).

          One might be able to regard the animal's suffering on a lower level with a similar rationale.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by im_thatoneguy (819432)

            And what about aliens? What if we transfer our consciousnesses to machines?

            Humans are animals. At what point does something become "not human enough" to have its pain ignored?

            I hate slippery slope arguments. But inflicting inhumane pain is an area I would heartily endorse defining where the slope is.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by DM9290 (797337)

            there is also a question of existence. those video game characters do not exist in a sense that we value. Because we do not depend on them in the least. on the other hand we value a lobsters existence because as a living creature it is a part of our eco system and we depend on one another.

            We do not depend on those video game characters in the least bit.

            to display what we might call callous disregard for the experiences of the lobster is only different in quantity than demonstrating callous disregard for th

        • Re:Required reading (Score:4, Interesting)

          by SECProto (790283) on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:56PM (#27364139)
          I'm not sure about the rest of the slashdot membership, but I have cooked many lobsters and I have never seen them "thrash about" in an attempt to escape... in fact, they are quite lethargic in normal cold water, and don't move at all once placed in the boiling water. This quote is a blatant lie.
          • by pluther (647209) <pluther@@@usa...net> on Friday March 27, 2009 @06:16PM (#27364475) Homepage

            But...but...he heard the lid rattling!

            What else could possibly cause the lid on the pot of boiling water with a lobster inside to rattle like that?

          • Re:Required reading (Score:5, Informative)

            by thestallion (310941) on Friday March 27, 2009 @07:13PM (#27365233)

            I have to disagree. I dive for lobsters and will sometimes bring them from the bottom of the ocean to my kitchen in about 30 minutes. These are California Spiny Lobsters, can't speak for all the other species.

            But some of them are particularly lively, and will definitely thrash for a few seconds in the boiling water. Much unlike the movement you might see if you put them into cold water. If it's sufficiently hot though, I think the shock kills them pretty quickly (about 5 seconds).

            When you REALLY notice their apparent ability to sense pain is when you have to "clean" them, which involves shoving a long, barbed object (like a piece of their antennae) up their rectum, so you can pull out their intestine. They usually remain pretty calm as you handle them, even if you flip them over and touch the underside of their tail a bit. But the moment you try to jam that thing up their ass, the really lively/alert lobsters are sure to resist and flail about excessively. I truly think it is mighty unpleasant for them.

            One time, I had one that was so effective at resisting the required cleaning, I was unable to get the job done. So I tried running it under hot water in hopes of killing it. Seeing as just being under the sink is nowhere near as fatal as being thrown into boiling water, I witnessed a lobster thrashing about, apparently in pain, from being held under such hot water. It did seem to shock him into compliance though after 20-30 seconds.

            Anyway, I feel bad for the lobsters, and really dislike feeling as is I am causing them pain. In the future, I'm going to go with the knife-through-the-head method of killing, as recommended by one of my dive buddies (and someone earlier in this thread).

        • by praksys (246544) on Friday March 27, 2009 @06:15PM (#27364449) Homepage

          ...that it may or may not be our moral duty to consider...

          This being the crucial point of disagreement. A lot of our food is capable of suffering. The point where ethicists disagree is on the question of whether this matters. A common view is that moral consideration is only warranted for moral agents that are capable of engaging in moral reasoning, and thus capable of reciprocating moral consideration.

          A less technical way to put it is that the average lobster doesn't give a shit about whether humans suffer, so there is no reason for humans to give a shit about whether lobsters suffer.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bckrispi (725257)

          Even if you cover the kettle and turn away, you can usually hear the cover rattling and clanking as the lobster tries to push it off. Or the creature's claws scraping the sides of the kettle as it thrashes around. The lobster, in other words, behaves very much as you or I would behave if we were plunged into boiling water (with the obvious exception of screaming). A blunter way to say this is that the lobster acts as if it's in terrible pain...

          That...is...so...METAL!!!!!

      • by Gat0r30y (957941)
        Net Pain vs. Pleasure. Consider, the dairy cow felt really good while being milked to make the delicious butter I'm gonna slather over the crab. So overall it all works out.
    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday March 27, 2009 @06:14PM (#27364433)

      if they feel pain? Cattle defiantly do, we still eat them.

      Yeah, but that's just because of the defiance.

  • Oh, great. (Score:4, Funny)

    by CelticWhisper (601755) <(celticwhisper) (at) (gmail.com)> on Friday March 27, 2009 @04:53PM (#27363301)

    The Crab People are not going to be happy about their weakness being discovered.

    • by Kemanorel (127835)

      What's that I hear?

      "Crab people! Crab people! Taste like crab! Talk like people!"

      Anyone got some melted butter?

  • So what? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Bartab (233395)

    They still taste good, and that's far more relevant than if they feel pain.

  • Arthropods (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Friday March 27, 2009 @04:55PM (#27363335) Journal

    This isn't surprising at all. Any mobile animal will need to avoid aversive stimuli. That's what pain is for. You'll find the same thing if you look at roaches or spiders. If you've ever stomped on one of them, then you really shouldn't feel any sympathy for crabs either.

    • yeah but being entirely crushed in a matter of milliseconds is decidedly less painful than being boiled to death over the span of a few minutes.

      That said, crabs are damn tasty. I think I'll have to hit up Red Lobster for dinner tonight.

  • That screaming sound from the pressure cooker is just steam leaving the crab's shells. The crabs aren't actually screaming....

    At least that's what I tell myself to feel better, because that sound is damned unnerving when I think of how much it would suck to be steamed to death. This article just makes it more awkward.

    Ahhh nevermind, I'll feel better when I'm full.

  • I don't believe its selfish, to eat defenseless shellfish.
  • by OSUJoe (549620) <monkeymonkeyjoejoe@@@gmail...com> on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:02PM (#27363451)
    What about the pain I would experience not being allowed to eat sweet, delicious crab?
  • My bad... (Score:4, Funny)

    by PolishPimpin (999262) on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:02PM (#27363453)

    I guess ill have to be careful when I pick them off my bush...

  • thought plants already cried for help when injured [msn.com]

    and I think rocks can in a way....think piezoelectric effect [wikipedia.org].

  • Newsflash (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dtml-try MyNick (453562) <litheran@PASCALgmail.com minus language> on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:07PM (#27363519)

    Newsflash: most animals can feel and remember pain. We still eat them and don't give a damn.

    It's called being on top of the food-chain. We are omnivorous and don't really care what we eat, where it comes from and how it died. We just want it in order to survive.

    In the last few decades there have been some improvements on how cattle is treated and the way they are killed in the factories, nevertheless the average cow, pig or chicken has quite a hellish life before it ends up on your plate.

    Compared to that most crab have a wonderfull life, they mature in open sea. Get fished up and a few hours later killed almost instantly.. Not bad if you look at the way animals are treated in industrial cattle farms.

    • Re:Newsflash (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:49PM (#27364055) Homepage

      Compared to that most crab have a wonderfull life, they mature in open sea. Get fished up and a few hours later killed almost instantly.. Not bad if you look at the way animals are treated in industrial cattle farms.

      Or how crabs are treated by their natural predators. I saw a documentary about arthropods once where a very large octopus was hiding in a crack in some rocks and grabbed a passing crab. The crab was too big to fit through the crack especially with its fat claw arms, so without actually leaving its hiding place the octopus used its other arms to tear the limbs off the crab so it'd fit through and the octo could then eat the crab alive.

      Nature can be nasty.

      On the other hand, I'm completely against eating octopi and squid because they are extremely intelligent, the dolphins or chimps of the invertebrate world as far as I'm concerned. Maybe not the tiny arthropods, sure, just personally I prefer not to encourage the trade at all so I don't eat any of them.

      • Re:Newsflash (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Dread_ed (260158) on Saturday March 28, 2009 @12:11PM (#27370505) Homepage

        "On the other hand, I'm completely against eating octopi and squid because they are extremely intelligent,"

        I have never been a fan of one sided restrictions. They are unbalanced and often invite disaster. For example, I am sure those "intellignet" invertebrates would have absolutely no qualms about eating you if given the chance, regardless of your dietary abstinence. If Murphy is on enforcement patrol next time you are near a large body of water you will probably be eaten by a giant squid.

        My threshold for excluding something tasty and nutritious from my dietary palette (and palate!) is much higher than some clever observed behaviors. On the day I receive a signed treaty from said invertebrates promising to never eat human flesh again I will seriously consider not eating them...quid pro quo, reciprocity and all that. Until then pass the calamari and Tako. I'm top of the food chain and I'm HUNGRY.

  • by vertinox (846076) on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:08PM (#27363525)

    The amount an animal feels pain is proportional to how tasty they are!

  • Scary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DavidR1991 (1047748) on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:16PM (#27363623) Homepage

    I find it genuinely scary how little the majority of commenters here feel for the way in which animals are killed / whether they feel pain. Fine, we eventually eat them, and I agree that the method of killing is of little consequence: but why is it necessary to give them an extremely torturous death prior to that?

    If they do indeed feel pain (which I think they must: The excuse that they don't is just an excuse for a quick and easy + cheap method for executing them) I hope this study helps push more humane methods for killing crabs (and lobsters), because after watching them boil alive in tins etc. it makes you squirm thinking of the millions of these organisms facing their last minutes on this planet in blinding pain :(

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bluefoxlucid (723572)

      I find it genuinely scary how little the majority of commenters here feel for the way in which animals are killed / whether they feel pain. Fine, we eventually eat them, and I agree that the method of killing is of little consequence: but why is it necessary to give them an extremely torturous death prior to that?

      Mostly for fun. See: Display of Dominance.

    • Re:Scary (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy AT gmail DOT com> on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:48PM (#27364049) Journal

      Dude, it's sitting around in heavy armor. There aren't a whole lot of options.

      But, say I agreed with you. The first thing I'd have to do is go out and kill all their natural predators, because, obviously, a minute in boiling water beats the crap out of being slowly picked to death, or being digested alive, or being picked up and repeatedly dashed against rocks.

      Most organisms end their lives in blinding pain. Death usually isn't fun.

    • Re:Scary (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bgeer (543504) on Friday March 27, 2009 @06:26PM (#27364603)
      Do you know how cows digest grass? Cows (and virtually all other mammals) lack a critical enzyme to break down the main nutrient in grass, cellulose. They get around this by hosting trillions of bacteria in their guts which are able to produce cellulase. The bacteria gorge on the cellulose the cow brings into its stomach(s), and convert it to glucose and energy for their own use. The cow then betrays them moving them to a later portion of their digestive tract where these bacteria are killed and broken down to nourish the cow.

      Bacteria react to injury, they remember the past [newscientist.com], and they even predict the future [aip.org]. If you buy into the theory that causing pain is immoral then every cow is a walking Auschwitz. (not even to mention the problem of brushing teeth)

      By the way, there is no philosophical reason why "it feels pain" is a better standard for deciding whether injuring something is cruel than any other arbitrary standard, see Hume [wikipedia.org]

      • Re:Scary (Score:4, Insightful)

        by DavidR1991 (1047748) on Friday March 27, 2009 @07:06PM (#27365149) Homepage

        "If you buy into the theory that causing pain is immoral then every cow is a walking Auschwitz"

        The necessity of causing pain was the key point in my argument - I didn't say pain was completely wrong

        Bacteria passing through a cow's gut / digestive system is a natural process that the cow itself has no control over, and hence the necessity of it is irrelevant - it's going to happen regardless. The same cannot be said for a lobster boiling in a pot.

  • My "vegetarian" sister and her child say that they refuse to eat meat, then they will turn around and gobble down a fish or some shrimp. Whenever I ask them what the difference is between a beef steak and a salmon steak, they never can come up with a satisfactory answer. I only get, "Well it's too much to think about! We need our protein!" and other similar lame excuses. I've been told by these "caring and intellectual" people, however, that animals like fish experience it "differently".

    Of course animals ot

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by NeoSkandranon (515696)

      It's far easier for most people to be empathic about a furry warm blooded cow or cute little chick than a slimy fish blankly-staring fish or what is essentially a tasty ocean spider.

      There will never be any protection for some animals equivalent to the cruelty laws for cats and dogs simply because most people draw a mental line between animals they like and don't. Reptiles, fish, and invertebrates will generally be on the "don't give a shit" side of that line regardless of what science has to say about whet

    • by jamie (78724) * Works for Slashdot <jamie@slashdot.org> on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:36PM (#27363877) Journal

      My "vegetarian" sister and her child say that they refuse to eat meat, then they will turn around and gobble down a fish or some shrimp. ... A lot of these "But I'll Eat Fish!" vegetarian people are giant hypocrites.

      Yes. Actual vegetarians are often annoyed by pescetarians who incorrectly label themselves as vegetarians.

      They reflect badly on the rest of us, as people sometimes jump to conclusions and assume all or most vegetarians are hypocrites. But they also dilute the term itself, to the point where some restaurants and food service workers come to believe that if someone identifies as a vegetarian, it's okay to feed them fish products. That's unfair.

  • by Your.Master (1088569) on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:19PM (#27363659)

    Of course vegetables feel pain [youtube.com].

  • that a number of studies have suggested this before, and every time, new evidence rips the studies apart. I really do wish that a DECENT study was done that really showed one way or another if they feel pain. But it appears that one group really does not do the work, while the other group really does not want to know. I have to say that I now prefer the preferred approach to cooking lobster (cold water, turned hot), since it appears that peta and others claim little chance of that being felt. Who knows. Pe
  • by Baba Ram Dass (1033456) on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:37PM (#27363895)

    ..if you define pain as a physiological response to damaging stimuli. Animals need that in order to survive.

    The question is does their form of pain "hurt"? We'll never know that. After all, we don't even know why pain hurts for us humans; all we know is that it does indeed hurt and is not something we like to experience (unless you're masochistic).

    This problem is at root a philosophical one. It's impossible to know how things are through the eyes of another. See qualia [wikipedia.org]. I don't know what red looks like to you, nor do I know how a flame touching your finger feels like to you. I can guess, because we have similar physical and mental faculties, but it's still just a guess.

    • by LateArthurDent (1403947) on Friday March 27, 2009 @08:41PM (#27366183)

      The question is does their form of pain "hurt"? We'll never know that. After all, we don't even know why pain hurts for us humans; all we know is that it does indeed hurt and is not something we like to experience (unless you're masochistic).

      You asked the question, and then you answered it. Evolutionarily speaking, if the signals that indicate you're being injured are unpleasant to you, you're more likely to avoid the same injury in the future, because you remember the unpleasantness. That gives you an advantage over anyone who doesn't think the injury signals are unpleasant, and it's why masochists (who actually finds those signals pleasurable) make up a minority.

      Everyone trying to attribute conscious intellectuality to pain isn't thinking it through. Consciousness just means you'll be better able to avoid the unpleasant feeling, because it allows you to analyze exactly what brought it on and extrapolate to similar situations. What matters isn't consciousness, but memory: If you can't remember (at least on some very small level) whether a certain action was pleasant or unpleasant, then it's not going to help you in the future. So there's no evolutionary benefit to actually feeling an unpleasant sensation associated with the injury signal.

      Think of it in this way. If you accidentally put your hand on a stove, the injury signal travels through your nervous system to your brain. Before it gets to your brain, your spinal cord will send the necessary signal to cause you to move your hand back (because this is really important and wasting time would lead to more damage, and put you in an evolutionary disadvantage). As a result you move your hand away, and the pain doesn't come for another second. If you don't have any capability for memory, the job has been done, and the feeling of pain that comes later doesn't help at all. You won't remember and you'll do it again. If, on the other hand, you do remember the incident, the feeling of pain later on is what prevents you from putting your hand in the stove again. You want to avoid the unpleasantness.

      What it comes down to is basically this: It doesn't matter if crabs thrash around when they're in boiling water...that doesn't mean pain, it could mean the reflex of taking your hand off the stove. However, if they can show that crabs avoid situations where they were injured before, that means memory, and it means pain. In which case, the boiling them on hot water before killing them swiftly can be argued to be really unethical.

  • by Dan East (318230) on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:44PM (#27363989) Homepage Journal

    Actually, the study shows that crabs avoid electrical shocks. Do they experience it as pain? Who knows. Considering that the nervous system uses electrical impulses to transmit information, an electrical shock directly affects and interferes with the nervous system.

    I think the point in all this is to determine whether or not killing a crab by dropping it into a pot of boiling water is less ethical than killing it in some other manner. The problem I see is that electricity and boiling water are not at all the same. Maybe they don't have pain receptors for heat, thus, to them, their body basically stops working when boiled, and that's that. On the other hand, an electrical charge will definitely negatively affect their nervous system, regardless of pain receptors, temperature receptors, etc, and that would be something they would avoid, if just because they don't want their nervous system to act all haywire.

    So really the study doesn't match the actual "inhumane" conditions enough to be able to bring about change in the treatment of these animals.

  • Suffering (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Twillerror (536681) on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:57PM (#27364165) Homepage Journal

    Feeling pain and reacting to it are different then suffering. Even changing
    behavior based on pain is different then acutally feeling the pain later. That requires
    a certain level of empathy.

    The real test to me is show a crab another crab being killed in a painful way. If
    we can detect pain receptors firing in some way in the crab then I think we have to worry. Otherwise the crab is just saying "putting pincher in trap BAD".

    Your dog for instance will get freaked out if he sees someone hurting you while a cow on the other hand will only freak out if it gets startled. I could strangle you in front of a cow and
    it would just sit there eating unless we made enough sound as to scare it...but it would not be
    scared of the strangling.

    • Re:Suffering (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) on Saturday March 28, 2009 @12:36AM (#27367807)

      Empathy is not a valid way of knowing if a creature suffers. Empathy requires a more sophisticated world view, so to speak. Just because a crab isn't smart enough to know what is happening to another crab, no reason to think it doesn't suffer when something is happening to itself.

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