The Animal Law Foundation, a collective of lawyers who advocate for a “robust legal framework” to protect animals, is considering taking legal action against the UK government for allowing restaurants to continue to boil lobsters alive, despite these crustaceans are legally considered sentient beings in the UK since the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022 was passed.

This law makes provision for an Animal Sentience Committee with functions relating to the effect of government policy on the welfare of animals as sentient beings, and defines an “animal” as (a) any vertebrate other than homo sapiens, (b) any cephalopod mollusc, and (c) any decapod crustacean. Lobsters, who are still often boiled alive in restaurants and in people’s homes, are decapod crustaceans. This law was passed after the publication of a government-commissioned independent review in 2021 that incorporated over 300 studies and found “strong scientific evidence” to support claims of sentience for decapod crustaceans.  When boiled alive, these animals experience extreme suffering that can last up to several minutes.

The Animal Law Foundation said to Plant Based News that local authorities are responsible for enforcing welfare laws at the time of the killing. This organisation also said it obtained footage of someone mishandling a lobster and boiling them alive, but Birmingham City Council refused to enforce welfare laws citing “a lack of clarity from the central government” as to what the welfare law means for lobsters. This lack of clarity could be the basis of the legal action, but as this has not been initiated yet it may end up going in another direction. 

Serena Conforti, Coordinator of the Animal Law Foundation, said, “The power local authorities have to enhance the welfare of animals across the UK should not be understated. It has happened numerous times before, where local authorities either take enforcement action or ban practices in their areas, which then influences the national policy.” 

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Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.