The one thing you need to know before you buy a lobster this Christmas

Christmas Seafood / 1st Dec 2021

December is one of the most popular times of the year to buy lobsters, crabs and other crustaceans. For those who choose to do so, the RSPCA has one very important reminder: don’t buy them alive. Buy them frozen or fresh, but already dead, and make sure they’ve been killed humanely.

Why is this so important
Crustaceans have multiple nerve centres running through their bodies. Research has shown that killing without first stunning the animal and then quickly destroying the nerve centres means they will suffer.

In the UK, a new animal welfare bill now includes lobsters, crabs and octopuses. This came after an independent review found scientific evidence that decapod crustaceans (lobsters, crabs etc) and cephalopod molluscs (octopuses, squid etc) are capable of feeling and therefore should be considered sentient beings. In Australia, whether these animals are protected under State and Territory animal welfare legalisation depends on how that state or territory defines an ‘animal’.

The RSPCA accepts the strong evidence that indicates that crustaceans are capable of experiencing pain and suffering. This means that just like other animals who are slaughtered for food, stunning and killing crustaceans must be done by skilled people using specialised equipment and never done at home or in a restaurant.

How should it be done
Stunning of crustaceans must be reflective of the species, eg whether they are salt or freshwater animals. Getting this wrong means the animal will go into severe shock and die a painful death.

And most crucially, live crustaceans must NEVER be placed in the microwave or into hot or boiling water.

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

What you can do

1. Never buy your lobsters, crabs, crayfish, Moreton Bay bugs and yabbies alive.

2. Make sure your seafood retailer is killing their crustaceans humanely. Ask about their methods and let them know about the guide.

3. Remember, as a customer, your voice has a lot of influence. You can make a positive difference to how animals are treated with the choices you make and by asking the question and expressing your views to brands and retailers. They are listening, so now has never been a better time to make a point to support better animal welfare.

You might also be interested in Chef Tobie Puttock’s ah-ha moment and the most important farm animal welfare issue in Australia today and A story of change: the restaurants and cafes supporting better welfare for meat chickens


  1. Can you please advise of seafood retailers who do the right thing, so that we can buy from them? Especially in this busy season, shop owners and assistants don’t have time to explain how they kill the animal or may even lie just so that they can make a sale. Can you publish the names of the retailers who are already doing the right thing, so that way, we can be assured of knowing the animal didn’t suffer pain and was treated humanely, thank you 🙂

  2. Great suggestion and comments on shop owners and assistants not having the time to explain to customers the methods used to kill their stock or possibly fudging the truth when they do.

  3. Agree with the comments above
    How about a RSPCA Approved sticker.
    “This animal has been humanely killed”

    I shop at Sydney Fish Markets, almost all the retail staff are casuals, they wouldn’t
    have the faintest clue if I asked how WA Lobsters (cooked) on sale today were killed.
    nor would the De Costi manager or any other fish monger.

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