Gimme gimme shock treatment*

I get invited to some bizarre things…

“Dear Ms. McCarthy,

In view of your record in the field of animal welfare, we believe you may find of interest this innovation in the humane killing of shellfish.

We are the inventors of the first electro-stunning machine for the compassionate killing of crabs and lobsters.  It is called the Crustastun.  Details about it can be seen on our website at .

We are writing to invite you to a special demonstration of our electro-stunning machine.

There has been increasing public concern and debate about current methods of killing these shellfish, particularly in the light of recent research which suggests that decapod crustaceans are almost certainly capable of experiencing pain and distress.  The Crustastun anaesthetises shellfish in less than half a second and goes on to kill in seconds whilst the animal is unconscious.  Killing in this way with minimum stress is obviously more ethical than any traditional practice.   As an additional advantage, electro-stunning also kills bacteria and improves the quality of the product, making the meat sweeter and more tender.

This year we commissioned Professor Douglas Neil of Glasgow University to assess the efficacy of the Crustastun in anaesthetising crabs and lobsters in order to confirm that the electric stun was not simply paralysing the animals but rendering them insensible to pain or other stimuli.  The Report completed in July 2010 confirmed beyond doubt that the effect of the electro-stun was to almost instantaneously silence (and destroy) both the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system of crabs and lobsters. 

Another interesting finding of the Report  is that chilling the animals before boiling or butchering (as is often advised by animal welfare organisations) does not anaesthetise lobsters or crabs but merely slows metabolic rates.  The Report also confirms that chopping up a lobster laterally or horizontally (often advocated by chefs as humane) cannot prevent full sensation from persisting in each segment for at least 6 hours, unless all 13 ganglia in the chain millimetres wide along the dorsal length of the animal are destroyed, – something almost impossible to achieve by hacking through the shell with a chopper or knife.

 As you are probably aware,  July this year saw the publication of a Norwegian Report by Roth & Oines of the University of Bergen which concluded that electro-stunning is the most humane and efficient method of killing shellfish.

All this has an important potential impact on practices currently in use in the seafood and restaurant industries.

We are proposing to hold a demonstration on the 26th of October 2010 at the Food Innovation Centre in Covent Garden in London, to which we have invited a number of scientists such as Professor Neil and Neville Gregory to discuss their various papers before an invited audience of DEFRA scientists and others involved in animal welfare legislation, as well as a number of MPs and government ministers, with a view to convincing them of the necessity of including the higher decapods crustaceans in the Slaughter Regulations.  We propose also to give a demonstration of the Crustastun with a chef preparing comparative samples of animals killed by electro-stunning and traditional methods.

It would give us very great pleasure if you were able to attend the demonstration.  If you are not able to attend but would like a demonstration at another time, we would be delighted if you were to provide us with some alternative dates and we will make appropriate arrangements as soon as possible.”

The Crustastun… that’s a genius name for a new invention. But do I want to nip out of work for a few hours to watch lobsters being electrocuted? Not really. Bet Soames goes along there to tuck in.

* I tried to crowdsource a crustacean-related song title on Twitter, with the stipulation ‘not Rock Lobster’ (because it’s (a) annoying and (b) too obvious).  Prawn in the USA, Prawn to be Wild, Prawn to Run, Prawn Free… My sincere thanks for those. I won’t be asking again.

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  • Invictus_88  On October 19, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Well, I do hope you’ll post photos from the event! 😉

  • citizenr  On October 20, 2010 at 9:11 am

    I once got invited to a conference called The Special Needs Fringe. Didn’t they think?

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