Buying lobster? What you need to know

Christmas Seafood / 15th Dec 2020

It’s looking like lobster might be a common feature on Australian Christmas tables this year, so we have one important (but very simple) tip for you. When it comes to buying crustaceans, like lobsters and crabsmake sure you always buy them dead. 

This might seem like both a strange and obvious thing to say, but we cannot stress this enough – when it comes to lobsters, crayfish, crabs, Morton Bay bugs and yabbies, please don’t buy them alive and kill them yourself. Let a trained person do it for you and make sure they have done it humanely.  

Crustaceans have multiple nerve centres running through their bodies. Research has shown that killing without first stunning the crustacean and then quickly destroying the nerve centres means they will suffer.  

Like other animals that are slaughtered for food, stunning and killing must be done by skilled people using specialised equipmentThe stunning process ensures the animal is unconscious and insensible to pain

Stunning of crustaceans also needs to be reflective of the species and whether they are from a salt or freshwater environment. Getting this wrong means the animal will go into severe shock and die a painful death. 

Live crustaceans must NEVER be placed in the microwave or in hot or boiling water. 

The RSPCA has information about the most humane way to kill crustaceans for human consumption for those working in the seafood industry, including chefs and seafood sellers.

If you have a local seafood retailer and you would like to ensure the lobster and crab you buy has been killed humanely, ask them about their methods and let them know about the guide. 

Crustaceans must also be captured, handled, transported and stored as well as killed humanely. Find out more.

You might also be interested in Where to find RSPCA Approved salmon?


  1. Geraldine Clark says:

    Thank you, I’m pleased you have informed us, as I am sickened when I think of the suffering of these poor creatures. Yes they are food, but they are also a living thing and being boiled alive would have to be the most horrific end to any life. You give me hope that the majority, at least in this country are killed humanly. Is this not legislated?

  2. Pauline McCarthy says:

    WOW – I din’t know this. How good you’ve informed me and I’ll be sending your email on to my friends so they will know.
    I bet not many know this. We always thought you just throw them into building water and that would kill them! How cruel!

  3. Shane Manahan says:

    This needs to be made widely known . Perhaps a public info campaign? I knew how they suffered but only in the last few years. I think many people don’t think of crustaceans of feeling pain.

  4. Shellee Dillon says:

    I will not eat these poor creatures. My father would throw muddies in boiling water and even as a young child I knew this couldn’t be right. And what about putting live soldier crabs on a hook to fish! And what about a hook slicing through a fish’s mouth before it is dragged out of the water into air, and then just thrown in a bucket. We don’t deserve our beautiful creatures!

  5. I’m very glad to see that you, the R.S.P.C.A. and that wonderful group, Animals Australia are at last putting the facts about food production and killing methods out where the information can be accessed by the general public.

    For too long the cruelty and suffering involved in the farming industry, especially in factory farming has been very well hidden and indeed the old saying “What the people don’t know, won’t hurt them”, has worked very successfully. Now however, the people are beginning to realise that they have been played for fools and that there is intense suffering in food production.

    Just think of the billions of poor defenceless battery hens – beaks cut without anaesthetic, sometimes pecked half bald by either themselves, or other hens with whom they are trapped for their miserable existences in tiny cages, at times being stuck in the one position for such a time, as the skin on their feet grow around the wire on the base of their cage. They are unable to stretch, open their wings, they cannot dust-bath, they never feel the wind through their feathers, the sun or the rain on their plumage. As their cages and underneath are not cleaned out until they stop laying and go off to be killed, their droppings pile up underneath their cages, a stinking mass, writhing with maggots, lice and just filthy.

    Whether it is day old male chicks from hatcheries being dropped into mincers alive, to be caught and squashed as they go down the shute, or male calves in the dairy industry being taken from their distressed mothers’ after only a day, or sometimes less, to be put in a pen on the roadside, often with no shelter from rain, wind or shade, answering the distraught bellows of their mothers, awaiting collection by “The man with the truck” who will transport them to the slaughterhouse, where they will be dispatched and be sent off to be turned into dog or cat food.

    If people still wish to eat meat once they become aware of the inherent cruelty involved, we can do little. In the interim however, we should all do what we can to make the facts known, quietly, calmly and dispassionately, so that each in our own way can do whatever we can to stop the suffering of all these sentient creatures

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