Can Prawns Feel Pain?

As I mentioned in my post ”Do Salmon Feel Pain?”, I’ve heard many people attempt to justify eating ‘smaller fish’ by saying ”They probably can’t feel pain” or ”Their brains and nervous systems aren’t complex enough to even suffer”.

However, British biologist published a study suggesting that prawns suffer when harmed.

Professor Robert Elwood dabbed acetic acid, the main ingredient of vinegar, on to the antennae of 144 prawns.The prawns reacted by rubbing the affected parts of their bodies for up to five minutes.The reaction, he said, was exactly the same as that seen in mammals exposed to painful irritants.”The prolonged, specifically directed rubbing and grooming is consistent with an interpretation of pain experience,”

Many biologists believe that simple invertebrates – animals with no backbones and limited nervous systems- cannot feel pain or experience-suffering.  Professor Elwood, of Queen’s University, Belfast, rejects this argument on evolutionary grounds. The ability to suffer allows animals to learn from harmful experiences and avoid them in the future, he said.

The global food industry farms or catches billions of invertebrates (including prawns) every year. But unlike their vertebrate cousins, they have virtually no legal protection. “Early on in my career I realized that when the law speaks of animals, it does not mean invertebrates,” says Antoine Goetschel, an international animal law and ethics consultant based in Zurich. “As long as the common opinion is that invertebrates do not suffer, they are out of the game.”

There has been much debate over whether certain animals can feel pain. However, science is pointing towards the ability to experience pain by the animals tested on. If there is any doubt to whether an animal can suffer or feel pain then why do we believe that we have the right to take such risks? In my opinion, if there is any doubt to whether a prawn, salmon, lobster etc. can feel pain, then we should avoid contributing to this potential suffering.

Annette Pinner, of the Vegetarian Society stated: “The more information people have about the pain that animals feel and the way they are treated, the more likely they are to move to a vegetarian diet.”

-The Vegan Lily

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