Seafood processing involves a series of operations that pose welfare risks to decapods, from handling to slaughter.
In 2022, seafood processing plants contributed about £4.1bn to the UK economy (1). The UK seafood processing sector as a whole provides over 18,000 jobs, many supporting the coastal communities in which they are based.
This important sector has a number of opportunities to improve and protect decapod welfare outcomes. The processing of decapods crustaceans involves a range of operations that have welfare implications, including storage, handling, mutilation and slaughtering. At each stage of processing, decapods can be subjected to painful and inhumane practices which disregard the nature of their biological, physical and psychological needs.
However, in many cases processing can be modified and carried out in such a way that supports higher standards of welfare.
Decapod crustaceans are now included in the animal welfare legislation of several countries, including the UK. While mandatory rule changes for processing crustaceans are not yet introduced in many jurisdictions, the recognition of sentience in these animals puts the industry on a clear pathway towards increased regulation.
As consumer and industry awareness of decapod welfare grows, processors will face increasing pressure to provide decapod products that have been produced to the highest animal welfare standards. Crucially, there is a rapidly growing body of evidence that shows implementing better welfare practices in the care of crustaceans prior to and including their slaughter can result in improvements in the quality – and value – of crustacean stocks.