Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?

Study Suggests Crabs Can Feel Pain 628

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."


This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Study Suggests Crabs Can Feel Pain

Comments Filter:
  • 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..
  • by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @04:53PM (#27363299) Homepage

    To have a study that says that the sky is blue.

    If the study was saying that they were unable to feel pain - then it would be news.

  • Simple solution (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Shadow of Eternity ( 795165 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @04:55PM (#27363327)
    Stop giving a damn about anything with it's skeleton on the outside. I'm sure fire ants dislike having boiling vinegar dumped on them but I can't really bring myself to care much about anything that far removed from any sort of intelligent thought or attractive physical features. Also does anyone else really hate that crabs have 8 legs, it's like they're basically armored spiders.
  • 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.

  • by Man On Pink Corner ( 1089867 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:08PM (#27363523)

    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 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 :(

  • by NeoSkandranon ( 515696 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:31PM (#27363809)

    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 whether they feel pain.

  • by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <> 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:Scary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:42PM (#27363967) Homepage Journal

    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.

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

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:46PM (#27364011) Journal

    If we have to consider the pain of a lobster, then we have to consider the pain of its close cousins -- insects. Are you arguing that using a bug zapper is equivalent to the holocaust?

  • by johnsonav ( 1098915 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:48PM (#27364039) Journal

    If we're discussing the ethics of inflicting pain, I think it would actually be on yourself to prove that concious thought makes pain worse, rather than others to prove that crabs have concious thought.

    I think what is being argued is that crabs "feel" pain like my thermostat "feels" temperature. They both react to their environments and respond to external stimuli. But, without a consciousness to experience that pain or change in temperature, it is unwarranted to assume a crab "feels" anything at all.

  • Re:Scary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <> 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.

  • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:49PM (#27364063)

    A blunter way to say this is that the lobster acts as if it's in terrible pain...

    Acting 'as if its in terrible pain' is not the same thing as being in terrible pain.

    If I build an extremely rudimentary AI with a temperature sensor, and a programmed response to "move somewhere else" when the temperature is outside of a given range. And a response to "move somewhere else quickly" when the temperature reaches a certain point. And I stick this simple program in a simple robot.

    And I then start raising the temperature...

    And it takes a lot of intellectual gymnastics and behaviorist hairsplitting not to see struggling, thrashing, and lid-clattering as just such pain-behavior.

    So now its intellectual gymasistcs and behaviorist hairsplitting not to see my robot feel pain?

    A lobster is like an insect... both almost programmed like simple robots.

    I'm not going to say whether they can feel pain or not, I don't know enough about what is physically required to feel pain, or whether these creatures have it. But I'm not going to be convinced by a silly cooking anecdote: "See ... it thrashes..."

  • 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:Ah Irony (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 27, 2009 @06:02PM (#27364227)

    True. However the scientist's suggestion is well-taken. When I am preparing the crab to be eaten, the point is to kill it so that I can eat it. The point isn't to inflict pain. So why not think of a way that'll make the death less painful for the crab?

  • by TinBromide ( 921574 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @06:05PM (#27364277)
    Its only surprising in retrospect. Does corn feel pain? how about tape worms? At what point on the evolutionary ladder does pain fold into the equation?

    This is not surprising to anyone who assumes that it requires a central nervous system to feel pain, but it is to people that assume that you need more than just a hard shell and feeler hairs to feel pain. The study is significant because it lowers the evolutionary level required for pain sensation.

    Do squid feel pain? Do clams? Do Bacteria? If you answered no to 1 or more of those, then you might agree that more studies are needed to figure out where the pain bar is set.
  • by praksys ( 246544 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @06:15PM (#27364449)

    ...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:Arthropods (Score:2, Insightful)

    by liquidsunshine ( 1312821 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @06:19PM (#27364509) Homepage

    The point is not whether they can sense aversive stimuli. That is something common to just about every creature with anything resembling a nervous system. The point of this article is that they can remember it and it alters their future behavior, which is how most psychologists define pain.

  • by vistic ( 556838 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @06:26PM (#27364595)

    A huge pet peeve of mine is when some idiot says something about vegetables feeling pain. It's one of the most idiotic things you can say. There is no mechanism for it. No nerves, nor any nervous system (such as a brain) to interpret anything as "painful". It's not like they are there somewhere and we just haven't noticed them under the microscope. You can get metaphysical about it, but I'll just believe you are even more stupid.

    Obviously there is an order to things. It's more cruel to rip the legs off your pet dog (or eat a dog... China...) than it is to rip the legs off of a spider. It's more cruel to kill a cow than it is to kill a chicken. When you get down to things like ants, it's hard to view it as cruel. When you get up to things like octopuses, elephants, dolphins, cats, dogs, primates, or even ravens which all show complex thought... it's hard not to call it cruel. The question is where do you personally draw the line...? What level of cruelty are you comfortable with? Do you draw the line at insects, or do you draw the line at pigs?

    In general, you may disagree that meat is murder... but it's hard to disagree that meat is animal cruelty. You either support that or you don't. How much do you need to eat a burger, anyway? Is your meal so important that it supercedes an animal's right to life? Who are *you* anyway? To me, it's arrogance and ego as well as a lack of empathy, thought, and logic.

    But don't go around trying to claim plants feel pain. It's unscientific. It's stupid.

  • 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 [], and they even predict the future []. 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 []

  • by Onymous Coward ( 97719 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @06:28PM (#27364623) Homepage

    Looking for simplistic rules to guide your ethics is not really the answer.

    I can understand the urge, though. There's lots of good eats out there that would suck to have to give up because we eventually figure out they suffer. But being morally responsible actually means doing the thinking that's involved to understand whether suffering happens, and taking the actions that you can to minimize it.

  • by mkcmkc ( 197982 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @06:37PM (#27364747)

    Acting 'as if its in terrible pain' is not the same thing as being in terrible pain.

    I'll have to remember that if I ever come across you acting as if you're in terrible pain.

  • by John Betonschaar ( 178617 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @06:51PM (#27364957)

    I just don't get how people can make this argument, most of the time justifying it saying 'it has only so and so few brain cells'.

    I'm not a crab an neither is anyone saying crabs can't 'feel pain' like humans do. But I do know that there's lots of other animals that are not human, but that show without any doubt that they can suffer from pain much like humans do. Somehow most people who think crustaceans don't 'suffer' do agree that dogs or cats can suffer from pain, probably because they can identify with a suffering pet much more easily than they can identify with a suffering crab. The fact that you call assuming crabs 'feel' anything is 'unwanted' seems like you don't really care that much and feel better not thinking they might actually suffer.

    For me, the fact that crabs have simple brains and no 'reason' whatsoever doesn't imply that they can't experience pain and suffer from it like other animals or humans. You only need nerve cells to transmit the pain stimuli, and crabs have these. So why not just assume that being boiled alive isn't exactly a pleasant experience for crabs and lobsters and swiftly drive a pin through their brains before boiling them?

  • by Sheafification ( 1205046 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @07:02PM (#27365101)

    But, without a consciousness to experience that pain or change in temperature, it is unwarranted to assume a crab "feels" anything at all.

    You may as well just say what you mean: without a soul to experience pain or change in temperature, it is unwarranted to assume a crab "feels" anything at all.

    It's an extremely popular idea, but many people fill a little silly worrying so much about souls (especially those trying to distance themselves from christian philosophy). Which is why dualism so often runs around under the guise of "consciousness". But be honest with yourself: if it sounds silly when you talk about souls, it's no less silly when you replace "soul" by "consciousness".

  • 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.

  • by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @07:35PM (#27365481)

    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.

  • by bckrispi ( 725257 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @07:41PM (#27365567)

    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...!!!!!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 27, 2009 @07:43PM (#27365581)

    Although to be fair, that's the reasoning that gives you Abu Ghraibs. Arguably, a fanatical Islamic militant who was about to blow himself up when you caught him doesn't give a shit about whether humans suffer.

  • by BikeHelmet ( 1437881 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @07:51PM (#27365697) Journal

    If I build an extremely rudimentary AI with a temperature sensor, and a programmed response to "move somewhere else" when the temperature is outside of a given range. And a response to "move somewhere else quickly" when the temperature reaches a certain point. And I stick this simple program in a simple robot.

    This is intellectual gymnastics. I think you just proved his point.

    You're somewhat right, though - pain can be either conscious or subconscious. In humans, and most animals, it's definitely a mix of the two. We're aware of the pain, and we have physical subconscious responses to it.

    When I put my hand on a burner, it jerks away. Then because of the awful pain, I put it under the tap or clench an ice pack.

    If you can say without a doubt a lobster has no conscious pain handling, then fine, boil them alive - but if you can't, it's better to be humane rather than not.

  • by SpazmodeusG ( 1334705 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @07:58PM (#27365785)
    It's not acceptable to rip wings off flys and let them die slowly.
    So why is it acceptable to boil a lobster alive in a slow and horrible death?

    Much better to put a meat skewer through its head first. Give it a bit of a twist and it dies instantly and doesn't make a mess.
  • by DM9290 ( 797337 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @08:01PM (#27365833) Journal

    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 the experiences of a human being.

    Whether this matters to you is another issue.

    quite frankly if I met a person who likes to burn new cars (and does it), I would think of them as being immoral as well. we don't need to quantify if cars physically feel pain.

  • by dafing ( 753481 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @08:33PM (#27366121) Journal
    im sad to think you could possibly be right about people not thinking the life of a fish matters.

    Right now the american association PETA is trying to "reposition fish as SEA KITTENS" so that people will love them. Its kinda bizarre really, they have some t shirts they sell with fish wearing kinda cat costumes, to have whiskers and cat heads....

    Still, I think its fair to say that people are moving away from brutish behaviour, and I do expect future people to be Vegan eventually. If you watch a lot of Sci Fi, its kinda a given.

    All animals must feel pain, I'm quite certain about that, and its stupid to think otherwise, surely its just putting up a mental block to help people keep eating animals.

    If not for the animals, go Vegan for yourself, have you never heard of all the health benefits? Have you never seen the "Meat causes impotence" billboards? :P

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 27, 2009 @08:34PM (#27366129)

    You are saying that all 'pescetarians' are hypocrites.
    This assumes too much about their ethical rational.

    In more detail: They would certainly be hypocrites if they said that they didn't want to kill living things to eat them, and thus avoided killing cows - but continued to kill fish.
    Much as vegan, using the same rational, would be a hypocrite for killing vegetables.

    But if a pescetarian does not want to eat mammals, because they identify closely with other mammals, or believe that mammals have sufficiently advanced brain development that eating them is wrong, then their is nothing hypocritical about pescetarians eating fish.

    Further, if it's the case that you are complaining about experiencing intolerance for your ethical beliefs, as would seem to underlie your post, you are being hypocritical in your lack of empathy and tolerance for pescetarians.

    Also, most people do not know what pescetarian means, and do not want to know - hence, it is better to describe as vegetarian to avoid being fed mammals.

    Finally, there are people who would define vegetarian as someone who does not eat dairy products too. These terms are somewhat in flux, so, do as the man says, and be liberal in what you accept, and careful in what your produce.

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Friday March 27, 2009 @09:07PM (#27366423)

    In your example a robot programmed to "learn" to avoid going in certain places may simply blacklist specific areas, based upon its pre-programmed criteria, from its patrol path.

    A crab learns by processes called conditioning. Crabs probably don't see in color, but for simplicity lets assume they can at least perceive white in some fashion. If the crab crawls into a white shell and gets shocked he'll crawl back out pretty darn quick. Should the shocks the crab receives be consistent it will become conditioned to experiencing pain (an unconditioned stimulus) upon entering the white shell (a stimuli that has become conditioned through enough pairings of entering and being shocked). Were the crab to contact a white shell this conditioning will result in the same physiological sensations as being shocked because of the conditioning process.

    Think back to the last time you got shocked by static electricity every time you touched a door knob. After several static shocks (unconditioned stimulus) that happened when you touched the door knob (conditioned stimulus) you probably began acting as if you had been shocked (a conditioned response, which is always the same as the unconditioned response) every time you touched a door knob or other similar object. Touching the door knob probably caused you at least some of the same pain that really being shocked does. And if you're anything like me, you probably winced upon touching the door knob. This is the exact same conditioning process the crab goes through.

    You would also probably begin avoiding contact with conditioned stimuli (door knobs and other objects with shock potential) once you realize that it's highly probable that contact with conditioned stimuli will result in the conditioned response (same as the unconditioned response, which is you being shocked). The door knob has now become both a conditioned stimuli and an event setter. The event setter allows an organism to enact an operant behavior (a behavior enacted to achieve a desired result in his environment) and avoid experiencing the conditioned response associated with a conditioned stimuli.

    In other words, on a day with high static electricity you're going to start avoiding contact with door knobs pretty damn quickly because touching them (even if they don't actually shock you EVERY time) causes some aversive sensations. This is the exact same process by which a the crab learns to avoid contact with the white shell example above. Furthermore, you are going to begin avoiding contact with objects that have properties similar to door knobs (e.g. any other metal object that may appear to be grounded and thus capable of shocking you). Similarly, the crab will begin to avoid other stimuli that it perceives to be similar to the white shells that it's currently avoiding. Both you and the crab do this by a generalization process.

    Even if being conditioned to avoid aversive stimuli were a simple 8 bit task, which you indicated was only a matter of black listing a specific coordinate, both you and the crab would fundamentally be carrying out the same process. The crab certainly won't learn to the same degree as a higher animal, but the fundamental process by which it learns aversive conditioning is the same. Also keep in mind that the same process by which all animals habituate to stimuli was discovered by shocking sea slug's tails.

    A lot of very well educated people don't fully appreciate how complex even the most simple learning processes are. I actually explained Classical & Operant conditioning (aka Pavlovian & Skinner conditioning) to my neighbor, who is working on an electrical engineering Ph.D., a few weeks ago with a similar door knob example. It blew his mind that we human beings learn exactly the same way a psychologist teaches a rat to run a maze or a pigeon to push buttons in a Skinner box.

    I really think there would be few psychologists or biologists surprised to learn that crabs can experien

  • by meringuoid ( 568297 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @10:10PM (#27366949)
    Have fun with your monster of a daughter. I'd flip out if I heard a kid so young say something like that.

    City boy, are we?

    Because while I can't swear to having said that kind of thing myself (having spent most of my very young days in a smallish town), I certainly remember hearing very similar comments from my little sister growing up in a village of maybe a thousand. A herd of cows would be taken right past the house twice every day on their way to be milked and back, and we'd sometimes walk down the road to where there was a flock of chickens we'd feed breadcrumbs. She knew perfectly well that the ultimate fate of those cows was likely to be hamburger, and I'm quite sure more than once we came back from feeding the chickens to find roast chicken awaiting us on the table at home.

    If you've grown up with food animals being a regular part of the landscape, and knowing full well why they're there, well... then you don't consider it monstrous. It's perfectly reasonable and natural, and comments like the above are par for the course and actually kind of cute. What's monstrous is this gulf between a romantic idealisation of farmyard life, and the shrink-wrapped processed meat at the supermarket - the complete categorical disconnect between Babe and bacon.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 27, 2009 @11:06PM (#27367273)

    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 have the same ability to experience and remember "pain" that a science-fair robot running on an 8-bit microcontroller has.

    I think I'm missing something here. How is this any different than humans or rats for that matter. Its true, we don't understand the intricacies of memory, but humans, rats, dogs, and a wide variety of animals, can learn (which implies memory) that going/doing somewhere/something means pain and know not to repeat that.

    I think you over complicate what it is that humans do compared to other animals. I say its very similar. What we do to avoid it might be more complicated but the systems for reacting to pain are very primitive.

  • by jamie ( 78724 ) * Works for Slashdot <> on Saturday March 28, 2009 @12:20AM (#27367723) Journal

    No, I don't think pescetarians are hypocrites; quite the opposite. I'm glad they made the choice to avoid most types of meat, good for them. I'm saying it's incorrect to call oneself a vegetarian if one is not.

    if it's the case that you are complaining about experiencing intolerance for your ethical beliefs

    It's not. And I don't really care what people I don't know think of my ethical choices. I would like not to be mistakenly fed animal products and clear language use by everyone helps me avoid that.

    Also, most people do not know what pescetarian means, and do not want to know - hence, it is better to describe as vegetarian to avoid being fed mammals.

    How about "I don't eat most meat, but I do eat fish"? Not that hard to say.

  • 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.

  • by LS ( 57954 ) on Saturday March 28, 2009 @12:42AM (#27367833) Homepage

    Many (most?) humans are completely predictable and react completely on reflex. They are stupid and bump into things (literally and figuratively) all the time. What is your point?

  • by alemaco ( 1419141 ) on Saturday March 28, 2009 @04:23AM (#27368617)

    One dumb lobster trick is that if you hold a lobster with one hand on gripping its back it will struggle and twist to get free but if you move it close to you other arm or leg it will grab your arm and feel safe because it's feet are gripping something.

    One dumb human trick when they see a tiger is trying run away. Of course they don't know that we tigers can run way faster than them and we always manage to catch them. The funny thing is that when you finally claw them they still try to fight! I, as a tiger, I am not entirely sure humans know they are alive, let alone feel pain. I think I'll have human steak for dinner tonight.

  • 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.

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead