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Strict welfare rules will be extended to crabs and lobsters in science experiments

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Testing on non-human animals, also known as animal experimentation, has long contributed to scientific and biological studies and is also widely used to develop new drugs or test the safety of other products. However, these animals, especially mammals, have been given rights over the years.

In the UK, a bill protecting animal welfare (Sentience Bill), soon to be known as the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022, is awaiting royal consent after being approved by Parliament this month. Along with recognition of animal sentience in UK law, scientific experiments on crabs and lobsters are being curtailed, The Guardian reported.

While strict welfare laws have been observed with scientific experiments on mice and other mammals, there were only a few established restrictions on how crustaceans and decapods can be treated in studies. scientists. Commonly used in experiments to study ocean pollutants, these animals are barely recorded or counted, but that’s about to change.

Do crabs have feelings?

The Guardian has found that crabs and lobsters are known to be sentient beings and can experience pain, suffering or distress, calling for restrictions on scientific experiments, and has propelled defenders of the protection of animals to obtain more than 100,000 signatures in the campaign for a sensitivity bill in 2019. .

“Animals enrich and enhance our lives in so many ways, so it’s only right that we give them our full respect in law. From the smallest mouse to the largest whale, our decisions can have a huge impact on well-being. of animals, and I am thrilled that this new law now means that all government departments will have to show how they give animals the consideration and protection they deserve,” celebrity Alesha Dixon told Humane Society International.

Unlike mice, octopuses and various other animals, crabs and lobsters are not included in the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, meaning they can be experimented with without a license or training.

Robert Ellwood, Emeritus Professor at the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast, also found crabs and lobsters feel pain in their research and welcomed potential legislative development.

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A step forward towards the protection of crustaceans and decapods

Ellwood further recounts that the restriction must also apply to the commercial fishing industry and accept that these animals are sentient and in pain.

“I would see it as a problem if they still leave millions of animals in commercial practices that are treated the same as before,” Ellwood said. “Asking scientists to go through all sorts of regulations that affect their work but allowing these animals to be boiled alive at will would be unfair,” he added.

“It requires more rules, regulations and paperwork, it will take more time to run an experiment, but it’s a good thing, if it’s applied at all levels.”

Dr Penny Hawkins, head of the Department of Animals in Science at the RSPCA, also finds it unthinkable to experiment on animals without proper regulation and ethical review. Since evidence has been requested and already gathered, Dr. Hawkins believes the time has come to regulate the use of decapods.

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