A 100-year-old, 23-pound lobster has been given another shot at life thanks to vegan Katie Conklin, who rescued the marine animal.
The lobster, named King Louie, was caught by Rodney MacDonald in the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, one of eastern Canada’s Maritime provinces. MacDonald took the large animal to his family’s seafood store, the Alma Lobster Shop. The business shared images of King Louie on Facebook, sparking conversation about what should be done with the lobster, which is 4 feet long and predicted to be around a century old, according to the Alma Lobster Shop co-owner Catherine MacDonald.
Conklin, who lives nearly 230 miles away in Nova Scotia, paid $230 to the family on the grounds that King Louie be released back into the sea.
MacDonald was filmed taking King Louie to the center of the bay to release him. “Rodney MacDonald did what comes unnaturally to a lobster fisherman: put [the] lobster back in the water,” CTV News reported. Before lowering King Louie into the water, MacDonald said, “Thank you Katie.”
Speaking to CTV News, Conklin said she hopes the lobster lives out a “happy life” in his natural habitat and passes his genes onto the next generation. Research scientist Adam Cook said to the news outlet that King Louie has a “high chance of survival.”
MacDonald said King Louie was the biggest lobster he had encountered. It was also the first time he had ever released one in this way.
Do Lobsters Feel Pain?
More people are considering the ethics of the food they’re eating. Some believe lobsters cannot feel pain and therefore, the boiling and eating of the animal is humane.
Speaking to the Washington Post, Bob Bayer, executive director of the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute, stated that whilst the decapod crustaceans can “sense their environment,” they are “probably” unable to process pain.
However, results from a 2013 study in the Journal of Experimental Biology suggested that crustaceans can feel pain. Study author and professor at Queen’s University Belfast, Bob Elwood, said to BBC News, “I don’t know what goes on in a crab’s mind. . . . But what I can say is the whole behavior goes beyond a straightforward reflex response and it fits all the criteria of pain.”
Other research by the same team found that prawns and hermit crabs display behavior that aligns with humankind’s perception of pain.
Elwood said the results make him question whether the treatment of marine animals is “reasonable.” He said to BBC News, “Even if you are reluctant to believe the data as being strongly suggestive [that the animals experience pain], is it worthwhile imposing this on billions of animals every year throughout the world?”
Biological anthropologist Barbara King, author of “Personalities on the Plate: The Lives and Minds of Animals We Eat,” holds a similar view. She said to the Washington Post, “I think the preponderance of evidence suggests they can feel pain; I am convinced they can feel pain.”
“Whether we know or don’t know, it’s our ethical responsibility to give them the benefit of the doubt and not put them into boiling water,” she added.
A 2-pound lobster takes two to three minutes to die in boiling water. Maisie Tomlinson, director of animal welfare organization Crustacean Compassion, said to the Metro, “If an animal can sense boiling water for three minutes, that’s an urgent welfare issue. That would never be accepted for a vertebrate.”
Last year, Switzerland introduced an animal protection law that bans cooks from placing live lobsters in boiling water. Instead, the animals must be made unconscious by means of electric shock or “mechanical destruction” of the brain. The country joins New Zealand and Reggio Emilia, a city in northern Italy, in banning the practice. Switzerland’s updated law also stipulates that lobsters and other decapod crustaceans – including shrimps and crabs – cannot be transported on ice or in iced water; they must be kept in saltwater to more closely mimic their habitat.
Business Insider explained, “Lobsters inspire more compassion than chicken, pigs, or other fish because it is one of the few foods that urbanites have to kill themselves when cooking.”
A growing number of people are choosing to ditch animal products altogether for animal welfare reasons. It was recently reported that concern about animal cruelty could impact Australia’s meat industry by $3.2 billion.