Anyone who has ever been in the same room as a lobster boiling knows the distinctive sound of its scream as it's cooked alive.
The sound is not actually a scream -- lobsters do not have vocal cords -- but for many, the question about whether they feel pain remained a cause for concern.
If anyone remembers the PETA protest, complete with giant lobster costumes, in front of Linda Bean this fall, further research indicates that, yes, lobsters, crabs, and other invertebrates do feel pain -- contrary to popular belief.
In a recent Washington Post article, Tamar Stelling delves into recent scientific research attempting to decipher whether invertebrates do, in fact, feel pain.
Stelling discusses the matter with scientist Robert Elwood, who, with colleagues at Queen's University Belfast, is attempting to answer the question based on behavioral observations.
For Elwood, the evidence was unexpected and compelling:
He started with prawns. After so many years of working with them, he thought he knew what to expect, which was that he would see nothing more than reflex reactions. But to his surprise, when he brushed acetic acid on their antennae, they began grooming the treated antennae with complex, prolonged movements of both front legs. What's more, the grooming diminished when local anesthetic was applied beforehand.
Crabs -- and cephalopods such as squid and octopus -- behaved similarly.
As a result of the experiment, Elwood and his colleagues have changed their treatment of invertebrates in their lab study, now using as few animals as possible and, when they do, attempting to keep suffering to a minimum.
Lesson of the day: Treat animals with respect (regardless of whether popular belief asserts they don't feel pain).
Read the full article at washingtonpost.com.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.