In Italy and in Europe there are no adequate and uniform laws protecting decapod crustaceans used in the food industry, but science has shown that these animals also suffer


  1. AMEND THE LAW in line with the scientific evidence currently available: decapod crustaceans must be recognised and treated as sentient beings and no longer as objects.
  2. INTRODUCE BINDING GUIDELINES to be followed during the capture, transport, and slaughter of these animals, to ensure that they are protected and treated in ways that minimise their suffering as much as possible. Specifically, regarding the slaughter phase, we ask that mandatory stunning and slaughter methods be implemented and regulated, following what is already afforded to terrestrial species, and that the needs of the individual species be considered.
  3. ENSURE AN EFFECTIVE AND UNIFORM APPLICATION OF THE RULES by the fishing industry, including traders and restaurateurs.

We ask for the adequate protection of decapod crustaceans in Italy

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Tutele adeguate per i crostacei decapodi

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Science, as well as various national regulations, have been recognising for years the sentience of decapod crustaceans and their ability to feel pain and suffering; in Italy, however, these animals are still not afforded legal protection.

Based on article 9 of the Constitution of the Italian Republic, the Parliament is assigned the duty to revise and apply animal protection laws. It is urgent to implement this provision, thus adopting regulations to protect decapod crustaceans that follow the most recent and reliable scientific evidence. In view of this, we make the following requests.

We ask that the practice of declawing, the removal of one claw from a live animal during the capture phase, be prohibited.

We ask that keeping live decapod crustaceans in direct contact with ice or in ice-slurry be forbidden.

We ask that the sale of live decapod crustaceans directly to the consumer be prohibited, considering that in such cases it cannot be ensured that the animals are kept, handled, and slaughtered according to suitable practices that respect their ethological needs and that minimise their suffering.

We ask that the practice of nicking, the cutting of the claw tendons, be prohibited.

We ask that the use of electrical stunning techniques be made mandatory, parameterised on the needs of the species involved, as to cause instant insensitivity (within 1 second) to pain before any slaughter method, and that the practices must be adopted by adequately trained personnel.

We ask that in the slaughter of lobsters, whole-body splitting be the only mechanical slaughter method permitted, that this method must be performed by suitably trained personnel, and that the process must not take more than 10 seconds.

We ask that for crabs the destruction of the two nerve centers in rapid succession using a pointed object (double spiking) be the only method of mechanical slaughter allowed, that this method must be performed by adequately trained personnel, and that the process must not take more than 10 seconds.

We ask that electrocution with adequate equipment and parameters based on the characteristics of the single species involved, leading to the death of the animal in less than 10 seconds, be the only non-mechanical method of slaughter allowed, and that it must be obligatorily practiced by adequately trained personnel.

We ask that the following stunning and slaughter methods be prohibited: cooling in water or air, boiling in water (including slowly raising the temperature of the water), any form of dismemberment, immersion in fresh water (for saline or brackish water species ), immersion in highly saline solution, use of anesthetics, exposure to high pressure, and suffocation with carbon dioxide.


GMVozd / iStock

Scientific evidence has revealed the capacity of decapod crustaceans (crustaceans belonging to the order Decapoda, literally meaning “ten-footed”) to feel pain and to suffer but many practices commonly adopted in the food industry (which include injuries, mutilations, sudden changes in temperature, and inadequate maintenance parameters) do not respect the welfare of these animals, and are in fact painful to them.

Whilst we do not support the use and consumption of decapod crustaceans as food, in the meantime it is urgent that the law adapts so that lobsters, crabs, and other decapod crustaceans can be adequately protected , and that the pain that they are forced to endure is minimised as much as possible.

With this project, we want to introduce laws for the protection of decapod crustaceans in Italy, thus reforming part of article 9 of the Constitution of the Italian Republic that states that ‘the law of the state regulates the ways and the forms of animal protection’.


oceane2508 / iStock

Inadequate slaughter techniques

There are several inappropriate slaughter practices commonly performed on these animals, such as dismemberment, immersion in boiling water, and freezing whilst still alive and conscious.

Although not all of these problems currently find a viable solution that can guarantee the effective protection of these animals, some of them have already been addressed by legislation in various countries around the world.


The global use of decapod crustaceans for human consumption keeps on growing, and the fishing of these animals globally is growing faster than that of any other animal group. However, with the exception of some countries, globally decapod crustaceans remain completely neglected regarding their protection during the various phases that lead to their production, despite the fact that science has provided plenty of evidence of the fact that they are sentient, meaning that they can experience sensations including pain and suffering.

Countries where action has been taken to introduce specific norms in favour of decapod crustaceans used in the food industry are: Italy, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Norway, Australia, New Zealand. These norms were implemented to safeguard decapod crustaceans during the many deleterious practices to which these animals are subjected to globally, which comprise all stages of production, namely capture or farming, storing, transport, and slaughter.

Switzerland and New Zealand are the two countries with the most stringent regulations for the protection of decapod crustaceans; these two countries contain targeted rules to minimise their suffering during the various stages of production. In Austria and Norway, there are several regulations that mention decapod crustaceans, however these appear to be mostly made of rules aimed at minimising the death or the injury of the animals, in most cases without specific or practical provisions for their protection.

Although the United Kingdom has effectively and explicitly declared the sentience of decapod crustaceans, in practice the animals are not afforded any protection in the various stages of production. In Italy the regulatory situation is fragmented and confusing. In fact, the regulatory system currently in place is completely inadequate to guarantee any uniform degree of protection for decapod crustaceans, as there is no unitary regulatory framework in place for the protection of these animals.

The analysis of the different regulations in place in different countries has made it possible to highlight how, especially in the case of Switzerland and New Zealand, the regulations that apply to the reduction of suffering in these animals at the various stages of production can in fact be formulated and implemented. However, taking into account recent studies that demonstrate the sentience and ability to feel pain of these animals, it is urgent and essential that the law establish binding guidelines, based on updated scientific parameters, to introduce minimum standards for the protection of these animals at the various stages of production.

SUMMARY OF THE REGULATION (click to enlarge)

The legal system of the European Union is one of the most advanced regarding the protection of animals used in food production. However, none of the animal welfare regulations and directives apply to decapod crustaceans, which include many of the crustaceans most commonly used in cooking, including lobsters, spiny lobsters, and most shrimp and crab species.

This means that the protections offered to other animals during the phases of transport, storage, and slaughter are not afforded to decapod crustaceans.

Although the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) itself has recognised that decapod crustaceans are sentient beings, to date these animals are devoid of any standard of protection by European law.

Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 sets the rules to be followed during animal slaughter operations, with the aim of minimising their suffering. However, the definition of ‘animal’ completely excludes aquatic animals other than fish, for which the afforded protections are in any case ineffective, insufficient, and inadequate. Therefore, rules such as those that impose preventive stunning prior to slaughter do not apply, and there is a complete lack of provisions that explain in detail which slaughter techniques to use to ensure that these animals suffer as little as possible.

Similarly, Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 sets the rules to be followed during the transport of live animals; however, according to the definition offered by the regulation, only vertebrates qualify as “animals”. This effectively excludes decapod crustaceans from the scope and protections offered by the regulation.

Decapod crustaceans are thus subjected to a total exclusion from the field of application of animal welfare regulations in Europe, remaining without any effective protection afforded to them. This means that they may be victims of practices that are highly detrimental to their health and wellbeing, such as wounding and mutilations during capture, confinement in small spaces and often out of the water, and at temperatures well below or above those tolerable to them, and at the end slaughtered in ways that cause them enormous suffering, such as being dismembered or boiled alive whilst still conscious.

roman023 / iStock

In Italy, the law does not set any minimum rules for the protection of these animals. Not only is a unitary national discipline missing, but several Municipalities have introduced Regulations which, in an attempt to introduce obligations on the local territory relating to the protection of these animals during their commercialisation and sale in restaurants, have resulted in fragmented, inadequate norms that are difficult to apply.

In Italy, the storing of decapod crustaceans in conditions that are incompatible with their nature and that produce serious suffering can be considered a crime. Although the law does not protect these animals, some judges have long recognised the need to protect them from practices that are incompatibile with their nature.

On 17 January 2017, the Supreme Court of Cassation (Cass. Pen., Sez. III, n. 27173/2016) rejected the appeal filed against a sentence of the Court of Florence, which had sentenced a restaurant manager to a fine of €5,000.00, in addition to €3,000.00 in compensation, for having kept live decapod crustaceans in a refrigerated cell with their claws tied, thus in conditions incompatible with their nature and that were causing them to suffer. This case constitutes an important precedent for the protection of decapod crustaceans in Italy, as it established that certain storage conditions of these animals do not fulfil their welfare needs, and could constitute a criminal offense.

The case of 2017 was not the only one of its kind. On 13 May 2019, following a report by some customers, the police arrived at a restaurant in the eastern suburbs of Milan, finding there a lobster that was still alive, with its claws tied, and placed on ice in a plastic tray, inside a refrigerator. Prosecutor Sara Arduini asked for a fine of €2,000.00, against which the restaurateur objected, requesting the application of the probation. The judge finally sentenced the restaurateur to three months of community work at one of the shelters of the City Angels, a group of street volunteers who help the homeless and people in need.

These two court cases show how, despite the Supreme Court of Cassation having already established that keeping decapod crustaceans on ice constitutes a crime, to date there is no national regulation in Italy that effectively protects these animals from practices incompatible with their nature.

roman023 / iStock


    According to a report by the London School of Economics and Political Science published in November 2021 – in which more than 300 studies on the subject matter were analysed – decapod crustaceans are sentient beings, thus capable of feeling pain and suffering. Due to the scientific evidence presented in the report, decapod crustaceans have been included in the United Kingdom among the animal species to which the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act of 2022 recognises the status of sentient beings. The British Veterinary Association also requires that only humane killing methods be employed for these animals. Several countries in the world, including Switzerland, Austria, Norway, New Zealand, and some Australian States and Territories, have so far implemented regulations for the protection of these animals.
    There is a high degree of consensus in the scientific community on the ability of decapod crustaceans to feel pain. Supporting this are several studies on the nervous system, behaviour, and responses to stress in these animals, which meet 14 out of the 17 criteria for pain proposed by the studyDefining and assessing animal pain by Sneddon and other authors. This finding is especially relevant, considering that the three unmet criteria have never been tested on decapod crustaceans. In view of this it can thus be assumed that these animals feel pain; this questions many of the practices they are routinely subjected to in the different phases of production.
    In Europe, only Switzerland, Austria, and Norway have specific rules on the treatment of decapod crustaceans at the national level. The adoption of a law that establishes parameters on the adequate capture, handling, transport, storage, and slaughter of these animals in Italy could bring about a big change in Europe, also inducing other nations to introduce adequate regulations for their treatment.



Delpixart / iStock

We are actively working on the following topics:

  • the dissemination of the report “Decapod crustaceans: between law and science, which compares the legal situation to protect decapod crustaceans worldwide in the different countries that have implemented regulations to protect these animals (Austria, Australia, Norway, New Zealand and Switzerland), with a specific focus on the situation in Italy and the European Union;
  • the production of a detailed market analysis document, aimed at investigating the treatment of decapod crustaceans in the fishing industry in Italy;
  • the production of guidelines for the protection of decapod crustaceans, approved by academics and experts in Italy;
  • the adoption of appropriate stunning and slaughter methods to reduce the suffering of these animals.


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La tutela offerta ai crostacei decapodi all’interno degli ordinamenti analizzati nel report di ALI “Crostacei Decapodi: tra diritto e scienza” (prossima pubblicazione) in Europa e Oceania.

*Livello Unione Europea: esclusione dal campo di applicazione della normativa a tutela degli animali impiegati nell’industria alimentare.


The protection offered to decapod crustaceans within the legal systems analyzed in our report “Decapod crustaceans: between law and science” (forthcoming publication) in Europe and Oceania.

* European Union level: exclusion from the scope of application of the legislation for the protection of animals used in the food industry.

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