UK Recognizes Crabs, Octopus, And Lobsters As “Sentient” Creatures In Expanded Animal Welfare Bill

The UK has expanded its Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill after a series of reports from the London School of Economics and Political Science noted that there is strong evidence that decapod crustaceans and cephalopod mollusks are sentient.

Crabs, octopus, and lobsters will be “recognised as sentient beings in government policy decision making,” though this won’t have an impact on “shellfish catching or in restaurant kitchens.”

An official UK government announcement adds that the bill is “designed to ensure animal welfare is well considered in future decision-making.”


The bill, which is yet to become law in the UK, is one of many post-Brexit measures that fill the gaps in UK law that now exist because the country is no longer a member of the European Union, which standardizes animal rights under Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Similar to Article 13, the bill does not define sentience, instead, it relies on the OED definition: “able to perceive or feel things.”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Much of the debate around this amendment centered on the idea of pain, with Animal Welfare Minister Lord Zac Goldsmith saying, “The science is now clear that decapods and cephalopods can feel pain and therefore it is only right they are covered by this vital piece of legislation.” This revision provides, for the first time, protections for invertebrates as well as animals with spines.

The bill would not add any regulations to the fishing industry or food preparation, instead offering only “guidelines” for future legislation.

Photo: Pixabay/Penny

Voting on the bill begins soon; it is one of many amendments being brought this session, with others focusing on zoos, livestock, and other areas of animal welfare that the UK’s own legal system has left unclear.

Learn more about the bill here!

Protect the Planet

Help preserve vital habitat at The Rainforest Site for free!