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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."


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Study Suggests Crabs Can Feel Pain

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  • So what? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Bartab ( 233395 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @04:54PM (#27363325)

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

  • Newsflash (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dtml-try MyNick ( 453562 ) < minus punct> 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:Simple solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:36PM (#27363871) Homepage Journal
    They don't bite/sting nearly as fast and don't have venomous acid to shoot into me. They also don't possess the strength to actually hurt me with those claws of theirs. Lobsters of course have venomous feelers >_
  • 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 []. 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.

  • 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: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: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.
  • Re:Does it matter... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bloodoflethe ( 1058166 ) <jburkhart&nym,hush,com> on Friday March 27, 2009 @05:59PM (#27364197)

    Ewwww! On the other side of things, dairy cows tend to feel pain when their glands are swollen, so milking them does indeed feel good to the cow.

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Icegryphon ( 715550 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @06:12PM (#27364385)
    Yes we do need more categories. It would make slashdot more enteraining.
    Also does a lion stop and think about the pain it inflicts in it's prey?
    Part of being at the top of the food chain, You really shouldn't worry.
  • Re:Required reading (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Man On Pink Corner ( 1089867 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @06:26PM (#27364605)

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

  • by Louis Savain ( 65843 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @06:47PM (#27364901) Homepage

    I can write a computer program based on well known operant and classical conditioning principles that can "feel" and remember pain too. Big Deal! Does that mean that my program is conscious? Nope. Sure, it would act like if "feels" pain too, whatever "feel" means, but conscious pain? I don't think so.

    Does my thermostat feel pleasure when the temperature decreases after it turns the AC on? Does it feel pain when the temperature goes up past 75 at which point it turns the AC on? I don't think so. Where do we draw the line? Unless one can prove to me that a crab is conscious in a way that differentiates it from a thermostat, I will continue to eat crabs, shrimps, crawfish, lobsters and other animals.

  • Re:Required reading (Score:3, Interesting)

    by frieko ( 855745 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @06:54PM (#27364995)
    If it's just thrashing/twitching, that's a reflex. If it's trying to get out of the pot, that's behavior.
  • Re:Does it matter... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chosen Reject ( 842143 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @06:55PM (#27365007)

    My wife and her family (Vietnamese) would disagree with you. They fill a large pot with live crabs and then turn on the burner; no butchering involved. If I remember correctly, the only water involved is whatever is left on the crab after they wash it off. And they'll eat just about the whole thing. I stick to just the legs myself.

  • 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:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 27, 2009 @07:06PM (#27365147)

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

    I'm a scuba diver and dive most here in California. Here, the rules are that lobster can only be caught with bare (or gloved) hands. So it's a bit of a sport and the lobsters mostly win. But I can clearly see that lobster run on reflex. They never "think" and they are all born with the same reflexes.

    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. Other than this one "design flaw" their reflexes are perfectly tuned to their environment. Enough so that you'd swear they were "smart". I'm not convinced at all that they even know they are alive.

    If you place a live lobster on the dry sand on on the beach and then approach it like you would underwater the dumb thing will use its same reflexes and try and swim away. Of course this fails. I'm pretty sure they are just robots with out a few pre-programmed behaviours.

    Crabs are even more stupid with maybe only a half dozen pre-programmed behaviours. They can't even feight when their life is in danger. They either freeze, run, display pinchers or swim. No other complex behaviours.

    Neither crabs nor lobster if you chase them will take into consideration what you might do next. they just scoot "away" even to the point of bouncing off random objects as they flee. It's clear when you see them that they are not "fleeing" so much s just moving their tail quickly. Like I said, a reflex, not a plan.

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

    by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @09:21PM (#27366535)

    Your proof depends on the inference that lobsters feel no pain, based only on the assumption that robots feel no pain. You haven't proven anything.

    Thank you captain obvious. That's precisely why I explicitly said I was making no actual judgement about lobsters. I was only showing the invalidity of "concluding something does feel pain" by looking at the cooking pot.

    A suitably complex robot should theoretically experience something analagous to pain. I have no basis to assume your robot is not suitably complex. and especially if the heat it is trying to escape threatens its existence, I would say this is very analagous to pain.

    My robot, was clearly described as a simple temperature sensor, with programmed response to preserve itself by moving away from inhospitable temperatures. This would mean it would likely thrash about in a cooking pot.

    What's next, are you going to argue that cars feel 'pain' when their thermostats open, and the cars brains respond by taking steps to further regulate temperature, to protect the integrity of the engine...? Its absurd.

    Furthermore, complexity of the AI or perception of threat level of is irrelevant.

    You can put a human being into a room and start pouring water into it. As it gets deeper with no sign of stopping, the average person will quickly deduce that if the trend continues this situation threatens its existence and will seek an exit, and feel panic, etc. Suppose, we raise the water to neck level, and then drain it.

    I'd hardly call anything the human experiences throughout the ordeal as pain.

    but if this line of reasoning is sound, then we can take it all the way to the ultimate conclusion that pain itself does not exist and absolutely EVERYTHING is simply a dumb reflex.

    You could at some bio-chemical-electrical level call everything a dumb reflex. However, some of these dumb reflexes map to what we think of as 'pain' and some don't.

    The question is: Do crustaceans feel pain. And I don't know the answer.

    But conflating "pain" with "behavior" is clearly absurd. My example robot feels no pain, even if its programmed to simulate it. My human example also feels no pain, even though it is "complicated AI" (no actually its straight up intelligent), with a presumed ability to feel pain. And is put in a situation that it deems is life threatening. I'm he'd feel a lot of things, but not pain.

    You REALLY have to dig down and look at what crustaceans can sense, and how the information is processed/perceived in the brain before you can say they experience pain.

    Humans experience pain. My example robot doesn't. Its conceivable some ultra sophisticated robot of the future could. And I don't know about crustaceans.

  • Robots can not feel physical pain. They do, however, experience emotional pain. And that is the real reason why they're dangerous

  • Re:Newsflash (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 4181 ( 551316 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @10:28PM (#27367081)
    On Potter's Cay in Nassau I saw a strange fruit for sale -- a rather flat oblate spheroid, neatly arranged on the table in rows, with what appeared to be multiple stem attachment points on each fruit. I hadn't picked one up yet when the vendor misted them with water from a spray bottle and then put a pinch of grain meal on top of each, which the "fruit" then ate. They were crabs with their legs torn off, presumable for easier storage and display. I assume that the legs were sold separately. Is anyone here familiar with this practice? I've always wondered how long the crabs can be kept that way.
  • Re:Required reading (Score:4, Interesting)

    by badasscat ( 563442 ) <basscadet75@y a h o o . 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.)

  • Drown 'em (Score:2, Interesting)

    by apenzott ( 821513 ) on Friday March 27, 2009 @11:19PM (#27367371)

    My favorite (and "humane" way of killing these California spiny lobsters is to drown 'em in a bucket of fresh water.)

    Two things happen:

    1) As the lobster consumes the remaining oxygen from the water, it gently suffocates as it encounters hypoxia but since it is in its "natural" environment, it doesn't know that it is doomed. (This is very similar to how a human reacts when breathing 100% nitrogen, O2 levels deplete but the CO2 levels are "normal" so there is no 'alarming urge to breathe', it's just simply 'lights out'.)

    2) Thanks to osmosis (the absorption of excess water into its cells, the tail of the "bloated" lobster expands and gently "pops out" to give easy access removing the tail and pre-shelling the lobster for culinary preparation on the BBQ grill.

    After doing this, (10 minutes tops) be sure to prepare the lobster for cooking or storage as they can quickly spoil when they are dead.

  • Re:HAVE NO FEAR! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cmdr_tofu ( 826352 ) on Saturday March 28, 2009 @12:31AM (#27367781) Homepage
    Actually fruitarians can eat grains, pulses and legumes. You can harvest grains (delicious grasses) after the plant has died.

    Since I have lived with dogs my whole life, I am an ethical vegan.... also I have met a few fruitarians. The fruitarians that I have met were not Christian and would never quote the Genesis as a motivation for their ethical choices.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 28, 2009 @01:20AM (#27367965)

    I bet nobody is gonna read this, but...

    just for the sake of silliness, let's supposse that vegetables feel pain.

    Now I hear you say "oh those vegan hypocrites". But then, you eat-meater, don't think that animals just appear from thin air. To breed them you need 10x more vegetables than for feeding you directly. So the total harm, to put is some way, is 10x the vegan case PLUS the pain to the animals themselves.

    Not to mention the miserable life that you condemn them to the way they are mass-produced today in hacinated farms.

    Like you care.

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens." -- Woody Allen