Internationally recognised for the quality of its seafood, the UK’s restaurant and food services industry is highly influential in the movement towards better decapod welfare standards.

Seafish data from March 2023 shows that the restaurant and food service sector sells about one third of all seafood sold in the UK each year, producing 959 million servings of seafood, generating over £4.5 billion annually (1).  

Following the legal recognition of decapod crustacean sentience in UK law, restaurants and food service businesses must pay close attention to evolving legal and cultural expectations around decapod welfare.

What does decapod sentience mean for restaurants and food service?

Like all businesses that feature decapod products in their supply chain, these companies must ensure that inhumane capture, handling, storage and slaughter methods are not used by their supply partners. In addition, restaurants and food service businesses have a responsibility to respect these animals’ sentience by checking that their own storage, handling and slaughter practices meet the highest welfare standards.  

  • The welfare challenges faced by decapods as they travel from sea to plate are numerous, with live holding and storage practices posing significant risks to their safety and wellbeing. If companies do not commit to providing correct species-specific conditions for holding and transportation – such as the right temperatures, water quality, stocking density and gentle handling – decapods can suffer many negative effects, from stress and hunger to injury, muscle depletion, disease and death.
  • It is common for live decapods, such as crabs, lobsters and langoustines, to be stored on restaurant and food service businesses’ premises, sometimes on public display. Brightly lit, overcrowded tanks that provide no shelter or opportunities for decapods to demonstrate natural behaviours are not humane and must be replaced with holding facilities that meet each species’ specific health and welfare needs.  
  • Decapod products that are produced as the result of mutilations, such as detached claws, are not humane or sustainable. Live decapods should not suffer mutilations for any purpose other than beneficial veterinary procedures.  
  • Sentient animals, including decapod crustaceans, must be effectively stunned prior to slaughter. 
  • Only methods that deliver an effective stun within one second, resulting in total insensibility to pain and distress, should be used. Insensibility must last until death occurs. According to current scientific evidence, electrical stunning followed by mechanical killing by a skilled, trained professional is the only humane method of slaughter for decapods. Electrical stunners are available on the market for food service settings.
  • Boiling alive while conscious is a common but inhumane practice that must be eliminated from all settings, including restaurants and food service. Other methods of stunning and slaughter that are not humane include chilling, high pressure processing, CO2 gassing, salt immersion and live dismemberment. 

Restaurants and food service companies have a significant role to play in improving decapod welfare standards – both in terms of the volume of animals handled in this sector and the potential cultural influence on diners and home cooks alike. This hub provides updates on new research within the industry as it emerges, technological developments, good welfare practices for food service businesses and guidance on how to embrace the highest standards of decapod welfare without compromising on product quality. 

(1) Watson, R. (2023). Seafood Consumption (2023 Update). Seafish 1-11.