The United Kingdom has confirmed what everyone who cried uncontrollably while watching “My Octopus Teacher” already knew: Octopuses are sentient; they can experience emotions like pain and pleasure.
According to a press statement from the UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, the nation is amending its Animal Welfare Sentience Bill to recognize octopus, crabs, squids, and lobsters as well as “all other decapod crustaceans and cephalopod molluscs” as sentient beings. The measure seeks to ensure that animal sensibility is considered when creating governmental policy and, as such, may impact discussions of animal rights and dietary preferences.
“The science is now clear that decapods and cephalopods can feel pain and therefore, it is only right they are covered by this vital piece of legislation,” Animal Welfare Minister Lord Zac Goldsmith said in the release.
The information was updated following a thorough study from the London School of Economics and Political Science that revealed these organisms are capable of feeling “pain, pleasure, hunger, thirst, warmth, joy, comfort, and excitement.”
According to the press release, this is caused by the creatures’ “complex central nervous systems, one of the key hallmarks of sentience.”
“[Our] view is that the time has come to include cephalopod molluscs and decapod crustaceans in UK animal welfare law in an explicit way,” the report read, “and to take proportionate steps to regulate practices that are a source of reasonable and widespread animal welfare concerns.”
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It’s important to note that the press release emphasized that the law will not affect current marine industry operations and practices; rather, it will only have an impact on future government decisions. It’s nonetheless encouraging to see that a big international power is making a concerted effort to acknowledge the existence of the animals and the possibility that they may not love being cooked alive for delicious meat.