13 April 2009

Guilty Pangs

In my quest to gain weight by consuming more food, especially quality protein, I hope I don't forget why I was once vegetarian-inclined: animals do feel pain when killed to become our food!

Lobsters and Crabs Feel Pain, Study Shows

Elwood and Appel gave small electric shocks to some of the crabs within their shells. When the researchers provided vacant shells, some crabs -- but only the ones that had been shocked -- left their old shells and entered the new ones, showing stress-related behaviors like grooming of the abdomen or rapping of the abdomen against the empty shell.

Grooming, as for a person licking a burnt finger, "is a protective motor reaction and viewed as a sign of pain in vertebrates," the researchers wrote.

It has been thought that the behavior of crustaceans is mostly reflexive, but the fact that they showed signs of physical distress at the same time they changed a behavior -- in this case, moving into another shell -- suggest they feel pain as well, according to the researchers.


In the past, some scientists reasoned that since pain and stress are associated with the neocortex in humans, all creatures must have this brain structure in order to experience such feelings. More recent studies, however, suggest that crustacean brains and nervous systems are configured differently. For example, fish, lobsters and octopi all have vision, Elwood said, despite lacking a visual cortex, which allows humans to see.

It was also thought that since many invertebrates cast off damaged appendages, it was not harmful for humans to remove legs, tails and other body parts from live crustaceans. Another study led by Patterson, however, found that when humans twisted off legs from crabs, the stress response was so profound that some individuals later died or could not regenerate the lost appendages.

Say a prayer for that delicious shrimp salad you're about to bite into, mm'kay?

Elsewhere: "Do fish feel pain?"

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